Kevin Lee. The Motown Phenom is bidding to become the interim Lightweight champion of the UFC this weekend at the T-Mobile arena. In his way stands the ‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson who is one of the meanest and arguably the best lightweight contender in the UFC with a 9 fight winning streak to his name. Both fighters are fighting for the undisputed lightweight title that is currently held by Conor McGregor. The Notorious one has suggested any fight at defending his belt would be post Floyd Mayweather, making it a priority for the UFC to setup a real number one contender for the Irish superstar.
During the summer press conference Lee sparked controversy after getting into an altercation with his opponent Michael Chiesa scheduled for UFC Fight Night 112; the Fight Night was nothing special at the time but this altercation casted a spotlight on the fight that had seemingly slipped under the radar. Fans suddenly notice of the fighters and took interest in their fight on June 25th where Kevin Lee came up with the win.
You could argue that the Lee-Ferguson fight was sparked by Lee’s post-fight comments during an interview with UFC Tonight which Ferguson was a part of. That started a feud between the two lightweight stars. I’d say the main reason for this fight coming about was more on the lack of contenders for Tony Ferguson. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been on hold since his Tiramisu debacle earlier this year when he was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson, a fight that was every MMA fan’s fantasy. He supposedly turned down a fight again Ferguson because he needed more time. He’s had a year off…how much more time does he need? Eddie Alvarez is next but Conor McGregor defeated him at UFC 205 which makes Alvarez-McGregor 2 quite pointless so soon. Edson Barboza sits at number 4 with a 3 fight winning streak but was submitted by the Mexican in December 2015 and hasn’t warranted for another fight. The UFC has canvased the Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje fight through ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ as coaches on season 26. Nate Diaz at 6 has no interest in fighting anyone other than McGregor and thus leaving us with Kevin Lee. Talk about luck.
Looking past all of those reasons and we have Ferguson – Lee booked for the interim lightweight championship at UFC 216. The buildup hasn’t been as exciting as it could have been; both fighters have had a few words to say this week but I think as we move closer to the weigh ins and fight night it will pick up.
So who is Kevin Lee? Born and raised in Detroit, Kevin Lee began his fight career as a wrestler in his junior year at Southfield High School and was good enough to take his talents to Grand Valley State University where he competed in national tournaments. He eventually moved to concentrate on his MMA career due to the short time he had to be eligible as a state university wrestler. Lee turned professional in March 2012 after a stellar, undefeated amateur career and won his first 7 bouts before singing for the UFC. He holds a record of 11 wins and 2 losses in the UFC with 4 submissions and two knockouts. Pretty impressive for Lee who’s made his way up relatively unnoticed.
The guy is a real talent with the mic. He just knows how to hype up fights. Lee could be the potential star the UFC is looking for once McGregor hangs up his gloves. The promotion lacks stars now with Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones making their exits. Kevin Lee along with Cody Garbrandt (current UFC Bantamweight Champion) have the makings of UFC stars and it’s up to the fighters to put on a performance and use their charm, style and charm to help themselves to the top. kevin Lee’s outburst at the summer press conference has definitely helped his own brand and given the UFC a platform to work of off. If he wins and plays his cards right and calls out McGregor, the fight could come to fruition quicker. At the moment, McGregor holds all the cards when it comes to his next fight. He could choose to move up to welterweight, box or test himself against Nurmanogedov who remains undefeated with a record of 25-0. If Conor thinks a fight is worth pursuing then he will push for it and help promote the fight with his infamous pre match antics and hype. There is no one better on the mic than Conor McGregor, he plays the game on different levels, setting up moves before we’ve even thought of them.
If I have to give my prediction for the fight then I think Kevin Lee can cause an upset. Tony Ferguson is the heavy favorite being the number one contender and every fiber of my being says it should be a victory for Tony Ferguson but Lee has shown his grit and determination in his other fights and i’ll back the underdog. His submission and grappling is a key asset which he’ll need due to Tony Ferguson’s superior Jui-Jitsu and competent striking. Ferguson’s known for his outlandish fighting style; he’s not afraid of throwing in a flying knee or barrel rolling across the mat to create space.
Kevin Lee has a star quality vibe about him. From way the he speaks, dresses and handles himself. He’s talked and proven his qualities in the octagon; ultimately it’ll come down to his performance at UFC 216, a spectacular win and it peaks McGregor’s interest in the match up otherwise he heads to the back of the queue fighting for his chance again.