Two high profile matchups have been announced for upcoming fight cards, and my initial thoughts on the two are under.
Kevin Lee vs. Rafael dos Anjos, UFC Fight Night 151
Kevin Lee is done with lightweight as he will move up to welterweight and choose on former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Fight Night 151. The episode is set for May 18 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
Lee (17-4) is 10-4 at the UFC with all his previous bouts taking place at lightweight. After dropping a choice to Al Iaquinta in his last departure, Lee hinted that he would be moving up a weight class as at age 26 he has grown from his lightweight framework. Though he will not have the size advantage he’d down in 155lbs, with his caliber wrestling abilities and enhanced striking Lee should nevertheless be a solid contender at 170lbs, an the UFC is throwing him to the flame in his divisional introduction against a former title challenger in dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos (28-11) is 17-9 at the UFC and has turned out to be both a elite lightweight and welterweight. But at age 34, he is finally showing signs of a decline with consecutive decision losses to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Losing to these fighters on newspaper is not a huge deal, but the Usman struggle was a blowout and it is possible all the damage has actually taken it’s toll on him now. Still, I would give RDA a good opportunity to beat Lee in this battle. With Lee’s popularity and childhood benefit I expect him to be set as a decently-sized favored, making RDA an intriguing dog play if that’s really true.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz, UFC 239
The first bout added to UFC 239 is a good man, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will proceed up to light heavyweight to shoot on Jan Blachowicz. The card occurs July 6 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto broke news of the bout.
Rockhold (16-4) is 6-3 overall from the UFC, with all his previous bouts coming in middleweight. He has not competed since a KO loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221 at February 2018, and his last victory was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Despite the lengthy layoff, Rockhold remains a very interesting addition to the UFC light heavyweight division. It wasn’t that long ago when Rockhold was the best middleweight on the planet when he won five straight fights by ending in the UFC over Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch. His shocking KO loss to Bisping from the group rematch in June 2016 will return among the game’s greatest all-time upsets and Rockhold has struggled since then. However, the thought process is that his chin should be sturdier moving up a weight class, although that remains to be seen.
Blachowicz (23-8) is 6-5 in the UFC and also was recently knocked out by Thiago Santos in a potential light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to this, Blachowicz had won four straight struggles by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The loss to Santos reveals his true place in the branch, as a luxury gatekeeper who is not quite prepared to battle to the belt. That’s why this is fantastic matchmaking from the UFC. Blachowicz is highly rated yet beatable, so there is a good opportunity Rockhold beats him and takes his spot in the top-five, which makes him an immediate competitor for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if that happens. Start looking for Rockhold to be a solid favorite heading into this particular bout.
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