UFC 239 will feature a host of top-tier talents including a number of rising prospects who are well worth getting to know ahead of time.
While the Jones’ and Askren’s of the sport will be the ones getting the vast majority of the shine in the lead-up to tonight’s event, the UFC have gone out of their way to make the show’s lineup stacked from top-to-bottom with fighters who could well find themselves in headlining spots before long.
With that in mind, we’ve selected four of them to keep on your radar if you plan on watching UFC 239 from start-to-finish.
One of the most promising talents to emerge from the English scene will take on the biggest test of his career tonight in the form of the legendary former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez just shy of a main-card slot. Allen has been on a quiet rampage through the featherweight division, going 5-0 in the UFC. With his US debut ahead of him, expect the Suffolk native to move closer to the top-15 if he can overcome El Nino in style.
Those who tuned in to see UFC 239 headliner Jon Jones’ last outing against Anthony Smith may or may not remember Shahbazyan’s brief but devastating cameo on the undercard as he scorched Charles Byrd in 38 seconds to earn him second UFC win in two fights. As an unbeaten 21-year-old, the sky is well and truly the limit for this middleweight and in a matchup against Jack Marshman, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to test his skills on the biggest stage of his life to date.
If it weren’t for his unfortunate withdrawal due to issues with USADA, Sean O’Malley would have been the one taking on the incredibly underrated ‘Chito’ Vera on the night’s undercard. Still, though, this guy is one of the most dangerous fighters coming out of South America fight now and his three-fight streak of finishes proves that he is knocking on the door of the division’s upper-echelons.
With three wins from three fights inside the octagon, the 21-year-old Song Yadong is among the most talented up-and-comers in the sport today. A fluid striker who boasts a mastery of technique beyond his years, this rising star of Chinese MMA has already fought 18 times as a pro and will need every tool in his arsenal at its sharpest if he is to overcome the challenge that Alejandro Perez will present.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena