The UFC recently announced the initial batch of spells for the upcoming UFC 239 blockbuster card that takes place July 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In last week’s MMA Odds and Ends, I gave my initial thoughts on both title fights on peak of the invoice featuring Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos for the UFC light heavyweight title and Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm for your 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 would like to have a particular card for this season’s International Fight Week event, because according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two more exciting fights are booked for UFC 239. One is a welterweight matchup between 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 meet at UFC 239 with an expected title shot at stake. UFC president Dana White originally told reporters after UFC 235 the promotion proposed a rematch between Askren and Robbie Lawler, but after Lawler was reserved in a rematch against Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 4 it opened the door for Askren to fight a fresh 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 potential No. 1 contender’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an odd UFC debut against Lawler, but finally did wind up getting his hand raised. After surviving a hard slam and also an early onslaught of ground punches, Askren managed to put Lawler at a bulldog choke, coaxing a ghost tapout from referee Herb Dean. Fans didn’t wish to find a rematch, however, along with the UFC ultimately listed, giving”Funky” a fresh opponent. The prior Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion is undefeated in his career and is currently riding a five-fight win series that includes four victories via stoppage. With his ability to talk a big game, Askren has rapidly becoming fan popular amongst UFC fans, and the advertising has taken note.
Masvidal (33-13) is 10-6 overall from the UFC and is coming from arguably the biggest win of his career, a brutal KO victory over Darren Till in the main event of UFC London. Masvidal had become a gatekeeper in 170lbs and hadn’t any fought over a year after back-to-back decision losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. But we all understand MMA is a”what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” sport and the win over Till raised Masvidal’s stock to the highest degree it has his whole career. He was due for a huge fight, along with the UFC considers this matchup against Askren is your best fight possible.
I adore this matchup, and I’m glad the UFC decided to book it as it is an intriguing battle involving two veterans of the sport that are seeking to acquire a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record and his impressive wrestling pedigree, I think you need to give him the standing of gambling favorite heading into this bout. But with Masvidal having strong takedown defense and a superior striking attack, he will be a live puppy once again.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos, UFC 239
As well, a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos is slated for UFC 239, together with the winner likely stepping into the role 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 in the heavyweight division.
Dos Santos (21-5) is 15-4 in the UFC and is now riding a three-fight win series over Lewis, Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. The former UFC heavyweight champ is starting to look just like his old self once again, and at this point might be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame place.
Both men are on a roll right now, but given the reality Ngannou has taken much less damage in his career and gets the hype train behind him , I would venture to guess he’ll be a tiny favorite here.
Fantastic battle, also UFC 239 is beginning to shape up as the ideal card of the year even without Conor McGregor accessible to fight.
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