The UFC recently announced the initial batch of bouts for the upcoming UFC 239 blockbuster card which 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 the two title fights at the top of the invoice featuring Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos for the UFC light heavyweight title and Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm for the UFC women’s bantamweight title. I also gave my ideas onto an intriguing light heavyweight matchup between Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz.
It seems the UFC wants to truly have a special card for this season’s International Fight Week occasion, because based on ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two more exciting conflicts are reserved 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 initial thoughts 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 at stake. UFC president Dana White originally told reporters after UFC 235 that the promotion planned a rematch between Askren and Robbie Lawler, but after Lawler was booked at a rematch against Tyron Woodley in UFC on ESPN 4 it opened up the door for Askren to combat an original face. Many figured the UFC would take the bait and book Masvidal against Leon Edwards following their backstage scuffle at UFC London, however, the advertising has instead decided to match Askren and Masvidal up at a prospective No. 1 contender’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an odd UFC debut against Lawler, but finally did wind up getting his hands raised. After surviving a difficult slam and also an early onslaught of floor punches, Askren managed to put Lawler at a bulldog choke, coaxing a phantom tapout out of referee Herb Dean. Fans did not want to find a rematch, however, and the UFC ultimately listed, providing”Funky” a new competitor. 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. Together with his ability to talk a big game, Askren has quickly become fan popular amongst UFC fans, and the promotion has evidently taken notice.
Masvidal (33-13) is 10-6 overall in 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 turned into a gatekeeper at 170lbs and had no fought over a year after back-to-back decision losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. However, all of us understand MMA is a”what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” sport and the triumph over indefinitely increased Masvidal’s stock to the highest degree it has his whole career. He had been due for a huge struggle, along with the UFC considers this matchup against Askren is the best fight possible.
I adore this matchup, and I am thankful the UFC decided to book it as it’s an intriguing fight between two veterans of the game who are looking to acquire a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record and his impressive wrestling pedigree, I believe you have to give him the status of gambling favorite heading into this particular bout. However, with Masvidal having strong takedown defense and a superior striking assault, 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 likely stepping into the role of No. 1 contender to champion Daniel Cormier’s belt.
Ngannou (13-3) is 8-2 at 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 in the heavyweight division.
Dos Santos (21-5) is 15-4 at 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 seem just like his old self once more, and at this point could be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame spot.
Both men are on a roll at the moment, but given the fact Ngannou has taken much less harm in his career and has the hype train behind him , I’d venture to guess he will be a small favorite here.
Great fight, and UFC 239 is beginning to form up as the best card of this year without Conor McGregor available to fight.
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