UFC ANNOUNCES KEVIN LEE VS. RAFAEL DOS ANJOS, LUKE ROCKHOLD VS. JAN BLACHOWICZ
Two high-profile matchups have been declared for upcoming fight cards, and my first thoughts on the two 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 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 in 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. Although he will not have the size advantage he’d down at 155lbs, together with his caliber wrestling abilities and enhanced 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 both a elite lightweight and welterweight. But at age 34, he’s 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 fight was a blowout and it is possible all of the damage has actually taken it’s toll on him now. However, I’d give RDA a good chance to beat Lee in this battle. With Lee’s fame and youth 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 one, as former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will move up to light heavyweight to shoot 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 in the UFC, together with all 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 success was a TKO win over David Branch in September 2017. Regardless of the long layoff, Rockhold is still an extremely intriguing addition to the UFC light heavyweight division. It was not 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 at June 2016 will go down among the sport’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 going up a weight class, though that remains to be seen.
Blachowicz (23-8) is 6-5 from the UFC and also was recently knocked out by Thiago Santos in 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 reveals his true place in the branch, as a luxury gatekeeper who isn’t 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 is a good opportunity Rockhold defeats him takes his place in the top-five, which makes him an instant contender for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones if this happens. Start looking for Rockhold for a strong favorite heading into the bout.
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