The UFC recently announced the first batch of spells 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 initial thoughts on both 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 ideas on an intriguing light heavyweight matchup between Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz.
It appears the UFC would like to have a special card for this year’s International Fight Week event, since according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two exciting conflicts 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 fulfill at UFC 239 using an expected title shot at stake. UFC president Dana White initially told reporters following UFC 235 that the advertising 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 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 at a prospective No. 1 contender’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an unusual UFC debut against Lawler, but ultimately did wind up getting his hands raised. After living a hard slam and an early onslaught of ground punches, Askren managed to put Lawler at a bulldog choke, coaxing a phantom tapout out of referee Herb Dean. Fans did not wish to find a rematch, however, and the UFC ultimately recorded, providing”Funky” a new competitor. The former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion is undefeated in his profession and is currently riding a five-fight win series that includes four victories via stoppage. Together with his ability to talk a big game, Askren has rapidly becoming fan favorite amongst UFC lovers, and the promotion has taken note.
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 primary event of UFC London. Masvidal had become a gatekeeper in 170lbs and hadn’t any fought in over a year after back-to-back decision losses to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. But all of us understand MMA is a”what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” sport along with the triumph over indefinitely increased Masvidal’s stock to the maximum degree it has his whole career. He had been due for a big fight, along with the UFC considers this matchup against Askren is your best fight possible.
I love this matchup, and I am thankful the UFC chose to book it as it is an intriguing battle involving two veterans of the game who are looking to acquire a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record along with his remarkable wrestling pedigree, I think you have to give him the standing of betting favorite going into this bout. However, with Masvidal having solid takedown defense and a superior striking assault, he will be a live dog once more.
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, 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 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 like his old self once again, and at this stage could be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame place.
Both men are on a roll right now, however given the fact Ngannou has taken much less harm in his profession and gets the hype train behind him again, I’d venture to guess he’ll be a tiny favorite here.
Great battle, also UFC 239 is beginning to shape up as the best card of the year even without Conor McGregor accessible to battle.
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