The UFC recently announced the first batch of bouts 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 top of the bill 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. I also gave my ideas onto an intriguing light heavyweight matchup involving Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz.
It seems the UFC would like to have a special card for this season’s International Fight Week occasion, because according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two more exciting fights 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 ideas on the fights
Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal, UFC 239
Welterweight contenders Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal fulfill at UFC 239 using an expected title shot on the line. UFC president Dana White initially told reporters after UFC 235 the promotion proposed a rematch between Askren and Robbie Lawler, but once Lawler was reserved at a rematch against Tyron Woodley in UFC on ESPN 4 it opened up the door for Askren to fight a fresh face. Many figured that the UFC could take the bait and book Masvidal against Leon Edwards following their backstage scuffle at UFC London, however, the promotion has instead decided to match Askren and Masvidal up at a potential No. 1 competitor’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an odd UFC debut against Lawler, but ultimately did end up getting his hand raised. After surviving a difficult slam and an early onslaught of floor punches, Askren was able to put Lawler in a bulldog choke, coaxing a phantom tapout from referee Herb Dean. Fans didn’t want to see a rematch, however, along with the UFC ultimately listed, giving»Funky» a new opponent. The former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion is undefeated in his career and is currently riding a five-fight win streak that includes four successes via stoppage. Together with his ability to talk a big game, Askren has rapidly becoming fan favorite amongst UFC fans, and the advertising has evidently 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 primary event of UFC London. Masvidal had become a gatekeeper at 170lbs and had no fought in over a year following back-to-back decision losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. But we all know MMA is a»what-have-you-done-for-me-lately» sport along with the triumph over Till raised Masvidal’s inventory to the highest level it’s his whole career. He was due for a huge fight, along with the UFC believes this matchup against Askren is the best fight possible.
I love this matchup, and I am thankful the UFC decided to book it as it is an intriguing fight between two veterans of the game that are looking to acquire a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record and his remarkable wrestling pedigree, I think you need to give him the standing of betting favorite going into this bout. However, with Masvidal having solid takedown defense and a superior striking attack, he’ll be a live dog once more.
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 role of No. 1 contender 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 awful 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 in the UFC and is now riding a three-fight win streak over Lewis, Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. The former UFC heavyweight champ is starting to look like his old self once more, and at this stage could be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame spot.
Both guys are on a roll at the moment, but given the fact Ngannou has taken far less harm 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 starting to form up as the best card of this year even without Conor McGregor accessible to fight.
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