Two high profile matchups have been declared for upcoming fight cards, and my initial thoughts on both are under.
Kevin Lee vs. Rafael dos Anjos, UFC Fight Night 151
Kevin Lee is done with lightweight as he’ll move up to welterweight and choose on former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos at the main 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 at the UFC with all of 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 did down at 155lbs, with his caliber wrestling abilities and enhanced striking Lee should still be a good competitor at 170lbs, an the UFC is throwing him to the fire in his divisional debut against a former title challenger in dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos (28-11) is 17-9 in the UFC and has proven to be equally an elite lightweight and welterweight. But 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 paper is not a huge deal, but the Usman struggle was a blowout and it is possible all the damage has really taken it’s toll on him now. However, I would give RDA a good opportunity to beat Lee in this fight. With Lee’s popularity and youth advantage I expect him to be set 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 good man, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will move up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz. The card occurs July 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto broke news of this bout.
Rockhold (16-4) is 6-3 overall in the UFC, with all his previous bouts coming at middleweight. He has not competed because 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. 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 group rematch in June 2016 will go down among the game’s biggest 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, though that remains to be seen.
Blachowicz (23-8) is 6-5 from the UFC and and was pumped out by Thiago Santos in a potential light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to that, Blachowicz had won four consecutive struggles by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The loss 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 is why this is fantastic matchmaking from the UFC. Blachowicz is highly rated yet beatable, so there’s a fantastic chance Rockhold defeats him and takes his place in the top-five, which makes him an immediate contender for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if this happens. Start looking for Rockhold to be a strong favorite heading into the particular bout.
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