A number of UFC heavyweights have been booked for upcoming bouts, and I’ll give my thoughts on these new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Ben Rothwell vs. Blagoy Ivanov, UFC Event in March
Long-time heavvyweight contender Ben Rothwell will return to the Octagon when he takes on Blagoy Ivanov at a yet-to-be-determined UFC event in March. MMA.bg first broke the news of the bout and Rothwell’s return to the Octagon. Rothwell (36-10) is 6-4 overall in the UFC dating back to 2009. He has fought on average only once a year, owing in part due to injuries and also to drug suspensions. He has not fought since a decision loss to Junior dos Santos back in April 2016, after which he was suspended by USADA for two years after testing positive for banned substances. However, before the loss to JDS, Rothwell had won four fights in a row including a TKO win over Alistair Overeem. He should immediately jump back into the top-15 when he returns to the cage. Ivanov (16-2, 1 NC) also lost a decision to JDS in his last fight, which was his UFC debut. Prior to that he had won five straight fights in WSOF/PFL. I believe Ivanov will look better than how he did against JDS, but I’d still have to lean towards Rothwell here just due to his experience and success in the Octagon all these years.
Junior dos Santos vs. Derrick Lewis, UFC Fight Night 146
Heavyweight contenders Junior dos Santos and Derrick Lewis are set to clash at UFC Fight Night 146, which is set for March 9 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas. MMAjunkie.com broke the news. JDS (20-5) had a great comeback year in 2018 with clear victories over Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov. Lewis (21-6, 1 NC) is coming off of a submission loss to Daniel Cormier in his failed bid to win the UFC heavyweight title, but had beaten Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov before that. This should be a quality fight between two hard-hitting heavyweights, but JDS is the much more well-rounded fighter and I expect him to be the favorite here, though of course Lewis has a puncher’s chance. I’d still expect JDS to be a 2-to-1 favorite here.
Jeff Hughes vs. Daniel Spitz, UFC Fight Night 146
As well, top heavyweight prospect Jeff Hughes will make his Octagon debut against Daniel Spitz at UFC Fight Night 146. FloCombat’s Nolan King reported the news. Hughes (10-1) has won four straight fights including a KO win over Josh Appelt on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series to get him signed to the UFC. Prior to that he had been the LFA heavyweight champion, and his lone career loss was a TKO defeat to Dan Spohn. Spitz (6-2) is 1-2 in the UFC with losses to Walt Harris and Mark Godbeer and a TKO win to Anthony Hamilton. The UFC has booked Hughes a very winnable fight for his Octagon debut here against a guy like Spitz who doesn’t appear to be UFC-caliber by any means. I’d expect Hughes to be a giant favorite to win this fight.