The UFC recently announced the first batch of bouts for the upcoming UFC 239 blockbuster card which 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 on peak of the bill containing 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 thoughts onto an intriguing 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, since according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, two more 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 meet at UFC 239 with an expected title shot at stake. UFC president Dana White originally told reporters following UFC 235 that the promotion proposed a rematch between Askren and Robbie Lawler, but once Lawler was reserved at 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 at UFC London, but the advertising has instead decided to match Askren and Masvidal up in a potential No. 1 contender’s bout.
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) had an unusual UFC debut against Lawler, but ultimately did end up getting his hand raised. After living a difficult slam and also an early onslaught of floor punches, Askren was able to put Lawler in a bulldog choke, coaxing a ghost tapout out of referee Herb Dean. Fans didn’t wish to see 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 profession and is now riding a five-fight win series that includes four successes via stoppage. Together with his ability to speak a big game, Askren has quickly becoming fan favorite amongst UFC fans, and the promotion has evidently taken notice.
Masvidal (33-13) is 10-6 overall from the UFC and is coming off of possibly 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 in 170lbs and hadn’t any fought in over a year after 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 win over Till raised Masvidal’s stock to the maximum level it has his entire career. He was due for a big fight, and the UFC considers this matchup against Askren is the best fight possible.
I love this matchup, and I am thankful the UFC chose to reserve it since it is an intriguing fight between two veterans of the sport that are looking to acquire a title shot. Given Askren’s undefeated record along with his remarkable wrestling pedigree, I believe you have to give him the standing of gambling favorite going into this particular bout. But with Masvidal having strong takedown defense along with a superior striking attack, he’ll 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 likely stepping into the part 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 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 streak over Lewis, Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. The former UFC heavyweight champ is beginning to look just like his old self once again, and at this point could be in contention for a UFC Hall of Fame spot.
Both guys are on a roll right now, however given the reality Ngannou has taken much less damage in his profession and gets the hype train behind him again, I’d venture to guess he’ll be a small favorite here.
Great fight, also UFC 239 is starting to shape up as the best card of this year even without Conor McGregor accessible to fight.
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