Two high-profile matchups are announced for upcoming fight cards, and my initial thoughts on the two are under.
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 champion Rafael dos Anjos at the main 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 in the UFC with all of his previous bouts occurring at lightweight. After dropping a decision to Al Iaquinta in his last bout, Lee hinted he could be moving up a weight class as at age 26 he has grown from his lightweight frame. Although he won’t have the size advantage he did down at 155lbs, together with his quality wrestling skills and improved striking Lee should still be a good competitor 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 in the UFC and has proven to be equally an elite lightweight and welterweight. However, at age 34, he is finally showing signs of a decline with successive decision losses to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Losing to those fighters on paper isn’t a massive deal, but the Usman struggle was a blowout and it is 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 youth advantage I expect him to be put as a decently-sized favored, making RDA an intriguing puppy play if that’s indeed true.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz, UFC 239
The first bout added to UFC 239 is a great one, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will move up to light heavyweight to shoot on Jan Blachowicz. The card occurs July 6 at 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 his previous bouts coming in middleweight. He has not competed since a KO loss to Yoel Romero at 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 a very 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 ending from the UFC over Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida, Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch. His shocking KO loss to Bisping from the group rematch in June 2016 will go down among the game’s biggest all-time upsets and Rockhold has struggled since then. However, 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 an expected light heavyweight title eliminator. Prior to this, Blachowicz had won four straight struggles by stoppage and was looking like a title contender. The loss to Santos reveals his true place in the branch, as a high-end gatekeeper who isn’t quite prepared to battle to the belt. That is why this is good matchmaking by the UFC. Blachowicz is highly ranked yet beatable, so there is a good opportunity Rockhold beats him and takes his place in the top-five, making him an instant contender for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if this occurs. Look for Rockhold for a strong favorite heading into this particular bout.
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