Saturday’s UFC Battle Night time essential occasion has been a very long time coming for 26-year-old Kevin Lee.
A light-weight for his whole profession up to now, Lee (17-Four) will make his welterweight debut towards Rafael dos Anjos (28-11) inside Blue Cross Area in Rochester, New York. The transfer to 170 kilos may have occurred even sooner for Lee as a result of he has struggled to make the minimize to 155 in recent times.
It is attention-grabbing that this new begin at welterweight will come towards Dos Anjos, who in some ways is within the precise spot Lee hopes to keep away from.
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Dos Anjos, 34, can be a former light-weight, a one-time champion in that division. He recorded three wins in a row after making the leap in 2017 however has since misplaced back-to-back fights, convincingly, to the highest of the division, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.
One has to think about Lee is cautious of the identical destiny — proficient sufficient to rise via the division however undersized for the bodily wrestlers who wait on the prime. The excellent news for Lee is he comes from a wrestling base, and arguably his biggest weak spot at light-weight (a suspect gasoline tank) ought to enhance now that he isn’t reducing as a lot weight.
It is an intriguing matchup on either side, however a little bit extra so for Lee. As a result of “How will Kevin Lee carry out as a welterweight?” is a query we have been ready some time to have answered.
ESPN Stats & Info
By the numbers
17: UFC victories for dos Anjos, tied with Anderson Silva for second most amongst Brazilian fighters, behind Demian Maia’s 20.
1: Battle wherein Lee has not secured a takedown amongst his 14 Octagon appearances. Since making his debut in 2014, Lee has had at the least one takedown in additional fights than anybody else on the UFC roster.
5:44:24: Octagon time (in hours, minutes and seconds) for dos Anjos, the seventh most in UFC historical past. If Saturday’s battle goes the total 25 minutes, he’ll transfer into second place, behind Frankie Edgar (6:47:33).
10: Light-weight wins for Lee since his 2014 debut within the UFC. That ties him with Tony Ferguson, Francisco Trinaldo and Beneil Dariush for many throughout that span. (He can not take over the lead on Saturday, after all, as it’s a welterweight battle.)
10: Unanimous choices received by dos Anjos, tied with Edgar and Georges St-Pierre for many in UFC historical past.
Supply: ESPN Stats & Info
A glance again
Rafael dos Anjos will get his belt in 2015. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Photos
Issues are trying up … earlier than the transfer up: Rafael dos Anjos will get the light-weight belt put round his waist by UFC president Dana White after his surprisingly dominant win over Anthony Pettis, who got here into the March 2015 title bout off 4 straight finishes. For dos Anjos, it’s his ninth victory in his previous 10 fights, with the lone defeat coming towards unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Brazilian will go on to efficiently defend his strap as soon as, in a fast TKO of Donald Cerrone, earlier than dropping the title through TKO to Eddie Alvarez. Two fights later, dos Anjos will transfer as much as welterweight.
5 vs. 5
Dos Anjos’ most up-to-date outcomes
Lee’s most up-to-date outcomes
OpponentResultDateAl IaquintaLoss (UD)Dec. 15, 2018Edson BarbozaWin (TKO5)April 21, 2018Tony FergusonLoss (SUB3)Oct. 7, 2017Michael ChiesaWin (TechSUB1)June 25, 2017Francisco TrinaldoWin (SUB2)March 11, 2017
“Every staredown is a little bit completely different, every man’s a little bit completely different. However I may see one thing in his eyes a little bit bit. He is nonetheless sort of bought that fireplace, and although lots of people could be taking a look at it and say I am the extra expert fighter or RDA is sort of on a downslope a little bit bit, I feel he’ll present up and I feel he’ll give me a battle. I may see the little twitch in his eyes. I feel he is aware of he is in for one. I am in for one, too.”
–Lee, talking to ESPN about his first staredown with dos Anjos
Kevin Lee affords an inside have a look at the coaching he’s present process for his battle vs. Rafael Dos Anjos. Watch UFC Destined on ESPN+.
And the winner is …
The blueprint is there for Lee. Dos Anjos’ current losses to Usman and Covington weren’t precisely the identical, however the overriding theme is that he struggled with lively, bodily wrestlers. The million-dollar query is whether or not Lee’s endurance will maintain up if the five-round battle goes late. I may see a uncommon end of dos Anjos, although.
Brett Okamoto’s choose: Lee through second-round TKO.
Ready within the wings
Hmm, who’s the No. 1 contender at 165 kilos? (Joking.)
What to observe for (past the principle occasion)
Three of a sort
Charles Oliveira and Nik Lentz have historical past. They first met in 2011 in a back-and-forth battle in Pittsburgh that earned every of them a Battle of the Night time bonus. Oliveira bought his hand raised after securing a choke, however that wasn’t the tip of the story. He had arrange his submission with an unlawful knee to Lentz’s head, and whereas it had gone unnoticed by the referee, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Fee stepped in three days later and declared the bout a no contest.
Oliveira and Lentz went at it once more in 2015, and “Do Bronx” bought one other submission — this time with out controversy. It was once more Battle of the Night time, and Oliveira additionally earned a Efficiency of the Night time bonus.
When these two step into the cage collectively for the third time Saturday, it would full the 11th trilogy in UFC historical past — simply the third with not one of the fights being for a title. Does not that, in itself, deserve a pair of bonus checks?
Nickname of the evening
The face of Antonio Carlos Junior most undoubtedly doesn’t scream out “shoe.” Jason Silva/USA In the present day Sports activities
“Cara de Sapato” (Portuguese for “Shoe Face”) is sort of the moniker for a fighter. Drawback is, it does not actually match Antonio Carlos Junior, who together with being a jiu-jitsu ace can be a handsome man. There are some shoe-evoking faces in MMA — not naming names right here — however the Brazilian middleweight’s is just not one.
You desire a nickname that matches to a tee? Strive “The Carny.” Cannot you simply see Nik Lentz manning a weight-guessing sales space on the halfway, strong-arming the entire passing marks to spend their cash at his carnival attraction?
Ex-champ vs. ex-champ
Megan Anderson (9-Three) turned Invicta FC’s featherweight champion in 2017 shortly after Cris “Cyborg” Justino vacated the belt to hitch the UFC. However earlier than the Aussie may defend the strap even as soon as, the UFC got here calling for her, too. So she moved on to the massive present, the place she has fought Holly Holm (choice loss) and Cat Zingano (KO win).
In Anderson’s absence, the Invicta title was vacant as soon as extra, and Felicia Spencer stepped into the void, successful the belt final November.
However now Spencer (6-Zero) is shifting on, too. On Saturday she makes her UFC debut … towards Megan Anderson.