Two high-profile matchups are announced for upcoming battle cards, and my first thoughts on the two are below.
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 winner Rafael dos Anjos at the primary 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 decision to Al Iaquinta in his final bout, Lee hinted he could be moving up a weight class as at age 26 he has grown out of his lightweight framework. Though he won’t have the size advantage he did down at 155lbs, with his quality wrestling abilities and improved striking Lee should still be a good competitor at 170lbs, an the UFC is throwing him into the flame in his divisional debut against a former title challenger in dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos (28-11) is 17-9 at 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 decrease with successive decision losses to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Losing to those fighters on newspaper is not a massive deal, but the Usman fight was a blowout and it’s possible all of the damage has actually taken it’s toll on him today. Still, I’d give RDA a good chance to beat Lee in this battle. With Lee’s fame and childhood benefit I expect him to be set as a decently-sized favored, making RDA an intriguing puppy play if that’s really the case.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz, UFC 239
The first bout added to UFC 239 is a great man, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will move 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 in the UFC, together with all of his previous bouts coming at middleweight. He hasn’t competed since a KO loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in February 2018, along with his final victory was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Regardless of the lengthy layoff, Rockhold remains an extremely 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 consecutive struggles by ending in the UFC over Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch. His shocking KO loss to Bisping in the pair’s rematch in June 2016 will return as one of the sport’s biggest all-time upsets and Rockhold has really struggled since then. On the other hand, the thought process is that his chin ought to be sturdier moving up a weight class, although that remains to be seen.
Blachowicz (23-8) is 6-5 from the UFC and and was pumped out by Thiago Santos at a potential light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to that, Blachowicz had won four consecutive fights 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 prepared to fight for the belt. That is why this is good matchmaking from the UFC. Blachowicz is highly ranked yet beatable, so there is a fantastic chance Rockhold defeats him and takes his place in the top-five, which makes him an instant competitor for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if this happens. Start looking for Rockhold to be a strong favorite heading into the bout.
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