Two high profile matchups are 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 take on former UFC lightweight winner Rafael dos Anjos in 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 his previous bouts occurring at lightweight. After dropping a choice to Al Iaquinta in his last bout, Lee hinted that he would be moving up a weight class as at age 26 he’s grown from his lightweight framework. Although he will not have the size advantage he did down at 155lbs, with his caliber wrestling abilities and improved striking Lee should nevertheless be a good contender at 170lbs, an the UFC is throwing him into the fire in his divisional debut against a former title challenger in dos Anjos.
Dos Anjos (28-11) is 17-9 at the UFC and has proven to be both an 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 struggle was a blowout and it is possible all the damage has really taken it’s toll on him now. Still, I’d give RDA a fantastic chance to beat Lee in this battle. With Lee’s popularity and childhood advantage I expect him to be set as a decently-sized favored, making RDA a fascinating dog 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 takes place July 6 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto broke news of this bout.
Rockhold (16-4) is 6-3 overall from the UFC, together with all his past spells coming in middleweight. He hasn’t competed since a KO loss to Yoel Romero in UFC 221 in February 2018, along with his last victory was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Despite the lengthy layoff, Rockhold is still an extremely intriguing addition to the UFC light heavyweight division. It wasn’t that long ago when Rockhold was the best middleweight in the world when he won five straight struggles by finish from 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 at June 2016 will return as one of the sport’s greatest all-time upsets and Rockhold has struggled since then. However, the thought process is that his chin should be sturdier going up a weight class, though 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 this, Blachowicz had won four consecutive struggles by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The reduction to Santos reveals his true place in the division, as a luxury gatekeeper who is not quite ready to battle for the belt. That’s why this is fantastic matchmaking by the UFC. Blachowicz is highly ranked yet beatable, therefore there is a good opportunity Rockhold beats him takes his spot from the top-five, which makes him an instant competitor for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if that happens. Look for Rockhold to be a solid favorite heading into this bout.
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