Two high profile matchups are declared 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 in 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 in the UFC with all of his previous bouts occurring in lightweight. After dropping a choice to Al Iaquinta in his last departure, Lee hinted he could be moving up a weight class as at age 26 he has grown out of his lightweight frame. Although he will not have the size advantage he’d down at 155lbs, together with his caliber wrestling skills and improved striking Lee should still be a good 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 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 decrease with successive decision losses to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Losing to these fighters on paper isn’t a massive deal, but the Usman fight was a blowout and it’s possible all of the harm has really taken it’s toll on him today. Still, I’d give RDA a good opportunity to beat Lee in this fight. With Lee’s fame and childhood benefit I expect him to be set as a decently-sized favored, making RDA a fascinating dog play if that’s indeed true.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz, UFC 239
The very first bout added to UFC 239 is a great man, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will proceed up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz. The card takes place 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 from the UFC, together with all his previous bouts coming in middleweight. He has not competed since a KO loss to Yoel Romero in UFC 221 in February 2018, along with his final success was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Regardless of the lengthy layoff, Rockhold is still an extremely interesting 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 fights by ending from 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 among 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 from the UFC and also was recently knocked out by Thiago Santos at a potential light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to this, Blachowicz had won four straight fights by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The reduction to Santos shows his true place in the division, as a high-end gatekeeper who is not quite ready to battle for the belt. That is why this is good matchmaking from the UFC. Blachowicz is highly rated yet beatable, therefore there is a good chance Rockhold beats him takes his place in the top-five, which makes him an instant contender for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if that happens. Start looking for Rockhold for a strong favorite heading into the bout.
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