The UFC recently announced the initial batch of bouts for the upcoming UFC 239 blockbuster card that takes place July 6 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In last week’s MMA Odds and Ends, I gave my first thoughts on the two title fights at the peak of the bill containing Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos for the UFC light heavyweight title and Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm for the UFC women’s bantamweight title. Additionally, I gave my thoughts on a fascinating light heavyweight matchup involving Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz.
It appears the UFC wants to have a particular card for this year’s International Fight Week event, because according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two more exciting conflicts are booked for UFC 239. One is a welterweight matchup involving Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal, and the other is a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos. Below are my first thoughts on the fights
Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal, UFC 239
Welterweight contenders Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal fulfill at UFC 239 using a potential title shot on the line. UFC president Dana White initially told reporters following UFC 235 that the advertising planned a rematch between Askren and Robbie Lawler, but once Lawler was reserved at a rematch against Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 4 it opened the door for Askren to fight an original face. Many figured that the UFC would take the bait and publication Masvidal against Leon Edwards after their backstage scuffle in UFC London, but the promotion has instead decided to match Askren and Masvidal up in a prospective No. 1 competitor’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an unusual UFC debut against Lawler, but ultimately did wind up getting his hand raised. After living a hard slam and an early onslaught of ground punches, Askren was able to place Lawler at a bulldog choke, coaxing a ghost tapout out of referee Herb Dean. Fans did not want to see a rematch, however, and the UFC ultimately recorded, providing»Funky» a fresh opponent. The former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion is undefeated in his career and is now riding a five-fight win streak that includes four victories via stoppage. With his ability to speak a big game, Askren has quickly becoming fan popular amongst UFC fans, and the promotion has taken note.
Masvidal (33-13) is 10-6 overall from the UFC and is coming off of possibly the biggest win of his career, a brutal KO victory over Darren Till in the main event of UFC London. Masvidal had turned into a gatekeeper at 170lbs and hadn’t any fought over a year after back-to-back conclusion losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. But we all understand MMA is a»what-have-you-done-for-me-lately» sport along with the triumph over Till raised Masvidal’s inventory to the maximum level it’s his entire career. He had been due for a big struggle, and the UFC believes this matchup against Askren is your best fight possible.
I love this matchup, and I am thankful the UFC chose to book it since it’s an intriguing battle involving two veterans of the game who are looking to get a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record and his impressive wrestling pedigree, I think you need to give him the status of gambling favorite heading into this bout. However, with Masvidal having solid takedown defense along with a superior striking attack, he will be a live dog once again.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos, UFC 239
At the same time, a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos is famous for UFC 239, together with the winner probably stepping into the part of No. 1 rival to champion Daniel Cormier’s belt.
Ngannou (13-3) is 8-2 in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez. After two dreadful performances against Derrick Lewis and Stipe Miocic, it appears Ngannou has found his groove again in the heavyweight division.
Dos Santos (21-5) is 15-4 at the UFC and is currently riding a three-fight win streak over Lewis, Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. The former UFC heavyweight champ is beginning to look just like his old self once again, and at this point could be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame spot.
Both guys are on a roll right now, however given the reality Ngannou has taken far less harm in his profession and has the hype train behind him again, I would venture to guess he’ll be a tiny favorite here.
Fantastic fight, also UFC 239 is starting to shape up as the ideal card of this year without Conor McGregor available to battle.
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