Two high profile matchups have been declared for upcoming battle cards, and my initial thoughts on the two are below.
Kevin Lee vs. Rafael dos Anjos, UFC Fight Night 151
Kevin Lee is done with lightweight as he’ll move up to welterweight and take on former UFC lightweight winner Rafael dos Anjos at the primary event of UFC Fight Night 151. The event is set for May 18 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
Lee (17-4) is 10-4 in the UFC with all of his previous bouts taking place in 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’s grown out of his lightweight frame. Though he will not have the size advantage he’d down in 155lbs, with his quality wrestling skills and enhanced striking Lee should still be a good contender at 170lbs, an the UFC is throwing him to the fire in his divisional introduction against a former title challenger in dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos (28-11) is 17-9 in the UFC and has turned out to be equally a elite lightweight and welterweight. However, at age 34, he’s finally showing signs of a decline with consecutive decision losses to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Losing to those fighters on newspaper is not a huge deal, but the Usman fight was a blowout and it is possible all the harm has actually taken it’s toll on him today. Still, I would give RDA a good opportunity to beat Lee in this battle. With Lee’s popularity and youth benefit I expect him to be put as a decently-sized favorite, making RDA an intriguing puppy play if that’s really true.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz, UFC 239
The very first bout added to UFC 239 is a great one, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will proceed up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz. The card takes place 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 in the UFC, with all of his previous bouts coming at middleweight. He has not competed because a KO loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in February 2018, along with his final success was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Despite the lengthy layoff, Rockhold remains an extremely intriguing addition to the UFC light heavyweight division. It was not that long ago when Rockhold was the best middleweight on the planet when he won five consecutive struggles by finish in the UFC over Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch. His shocking KO loss to Bisping from the pair’s rematch in June 2016 will return as one of the sport’s greatest all-time upsets and Rockhold has struggled since then. On the other hand, 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 and was pumped out by Thiago Santos at an expected light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to that, Blachowicz had won four consecutive struggles by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The reduction to Santos shows his true place in the branch, as a high-end gatekeeper who is not quite ready to battle to the belt. That’s why this is fantastic matchmaking from the UFC. Blachowicz is highly ranked yet beatable, so there’s a fantastic opportunity Rockhold beats him and takes his spot from the top-five, making him an instant competitor for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if that happens. Start looking for Rockhold for a strong favorite heading into the particular bout.
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