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 the two title fights at the 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. I also gave my ideas onto a fascinating light heavyweight matchup between Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz.
Well, it seems the UFC wants to truly have a special card for this season’s International Fight Week occasion, because according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two exciting conflicts have been 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 first ideas on the fights
Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal, UFC 239
Welterweight contenders Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal fulfill at UFC 239 with a potential title shot at stake. UFC president Dana White initially told reporters following UFC 235 the promotion planned 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 up the door for Askren to combat an original face. Many figured the UFC could take the bait and book Masvidal against Leon Edwards following their backstage scuffle in UFC London, however, the promotion has instead decided to match Askren and Masvidal up in a potential No. 1 competitor’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 ground punches, Askren managed to place Lawler at a bulldog choke, coaxing a ghost tapout out of referee Herb Dean. Fans didn’t want to see a rematch, however, and the UFC ultimately listed, providing”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 series that includes four successes via stoppage. Together with his ability to speak a big game, Askren has rapidly becoming fan popular amongst UFC lovers, and the promotion has evidently taken notice.
Masvidal (33-13) is 10-6 overall in the UFC and is coming off of arguably the biggest win of his career, a brutal KO victory over Darren Until in the primary event of UFC London. Masvidal had turned into a gatekeeper in 170lbs and had no fought over a year after back-to-back decision losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. However, we all understand MMA is a”what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” sport and the win over Till raised Masvidal’s inventory to the maximum level it has his whole career. He had been due for a big fight, and the UFC believes this matchup against Askren is the best fight possible.
I adore this matchup, and I am glad the UFC decided to reserve it since it’s an intriguing battle involving two veterans of the game who are seeking to get a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record along with his impressive wrestling pedigree, I think you have to give him the standing of betting favorite heading into this particular bout. However, with Masvidal having strong takedown defense and a superior striking attack, he will be a live dog once again.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos, UFC 239
As well, a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos is famous for UFC 239, with the winner probably stepping into the part 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 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 more, and at this point might be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame place.
Both guys are on a roll right now, but given the fact Ngannou has taken much less damage in his profession and has the hype train behind him again, I would venture to guess he will be a small favorite here.
Fantastic fight, also UFC 239 is beginning to shape up as the ideal card of this year without Conor McGregor available to fight.
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