A number of new UFC bouts were announced over the weekend. Here they are, along with my initial thoughts on them. But before I get to that, it’s worth mentioning the UFC made the bold move of moving this weekend’s UFC 232 card from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after a questionable drug test concerning Jon Jones. You can check out the full story hre at MMAjunkie.com.
John Lineker vs. Cory Sandhagen, UFC on ESPN+ 1
Bantamweights John Lineker and Cory Sandhagen will meet at UFC n ESPN+ 1, which takes place January 19 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the news. Lineker (31-8) is 12-3 overall in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back wins over Brian Kelleher and Marlon Vera. Sandhagen (9-1) is 2-0 in the UFC and is riding a four-fight win streak overall. Although I think Sandhagen is a great prospect, how can you go against Lineker against anyone not elite? I’d favor Lineker quite a bit in this fight, but love the matchmaking regardless as I expect both of these guys to throw down.
Cain Velasquez vs. Francis Ngannou, UFC on ESPN 1
Heavyweight sluggers Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou will headline UFC on ESPN 1, which takes place February 17 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported the bout, as well as announcing Velasquez has signed a new four-fight contract with the UFC. Velasquez (14-2) is 12-2 overall in the UFC and is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, but he hasn’t fought since a TKO win over Travis Browne back at UFC 200. Ngannou (12-3) is 7-2 overall in the UFC and recently got back into the win column with a TKO win over Curtis Blaydes. Tough fight to call here because of Velasquez’s injury history, but considering his huge wrestling advantage I’d still have to favor him to defeat Ngannou.
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Andrea Lee, UFC on ESPN 1
After Lauren Murphy pulled out due to injury, Ashlee Evans-Smith will now fight Andrea Lee at UFC on ESPN 1 in a women’s flyweight bout. MyMMANews.com broke the news. Smith (6-3) is 3-3 in the UFC and defeated Bec Rawlings in her flyweight debut. Lee (9-2) defeated Veronica Macedo in her UFC debut and is riding a five-fight win streak overall. I’d favor Lee quite heavily to win this bout.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Thiago Santos, UFC on ESPN+ 3
Light heavyweights Jan Blachowicz and Thiago Santos will meet at UFC on ESPN+ 3, which takes place February 23 at The O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. Blachowicz (23-7) is the best fighter out of the Czech Republic and has a 6-4 record in the UFC including his current four-fight win streak. Santos (20-6) is 12-5 in the UFC and has won both of his fights since moving up to light heavyweight. This is tremendous matchmaking as Blachowicz and Santos are both closing in on title shots. I’d expect close to an even line here with perhaps a slight lean to Santos just because Blachowicz never seems to get the respect he deserves from bettors.
Stefan Struve vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima, UFC on ESPN+ 3
Heavyweights Stefan Struve and Marcos Rogerio de Lima will also meet at UFC on ESPN+ 3. Struve (28-11) is 12-9 overall in the UFC and is currently riding a three-fight losing skid. De Lima (16-5-1) is 5-3 in the UFC and defeated Adam Wieczorek in his return to heavyweight in his last fight. I think this is another spot you have to fade Struve and I’d favor de Lima to knock him out.
Holly Holm vs. Aspen Ladd, UFC 235
And finally, women’s bantamweights Holly Holm and Aspen Ladd will meet at UFC 235, which takes place March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Holm (12-4) is 5-4 in the UFC and recently defeated Megan Anderson via decision. She will be moving back to bantamweight for this bout. Ladd (7-0) is 2-0 in the UFC and recently defeated Tonya Evinger by TKO. This is really good matchmaking as Ladd needed a step up and Holm is still a solid fighter. I expect Holm to be the favorite, but I’d take a look at Ladd here as a dog depending on what the odds are.