Rising Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight contenders Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee will clash TONIGHT (June 25, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 112 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Chiesa’s grappling has proven to be a dominant force. He’s won five of his last six bouts, and his last pair of rear-naked choke victories were strong enough to rocket him into the Top 10. Lee has followed a similar path, losing twice, but ultimately rebounding far stronger as a result. Still just 24 years old, Lee has already proven himself a great athlete and fighter, but this is his chance to take a big step forward toward the title mix.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Beneil Dariush (UFC on FOX 19), Al Iaquinta (TUF 15 Finale), Franciso Trinaldo (UFC 173), Jim Miller (UFC Fight Night 80)
Key Losses: Jorge Masvidal (UFC on FOX 8), Joe Lauzon (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: Chiesa is one of the largest men in his division, and he puts that size to use by throwing his opponent to the mat, taking the back, and strangling him. It may sound simple, but it has worked more often than not.
In this bout, there’s no real reason for Chiesa to switch up his approach. Both men are wrestlers — it’s what they do. At some point, one of them will shoot, and that’s when the real fight begins.
Until that happens, Chiesa should push the pace on the feet. Neither man is a great striker, and often times that means the more active puncher will land more effectively. If Chiesa is making Lee uncomfortable with his punches, the chances of Lee taking a bad, easily reversed shot increased.
Aside from volume, Chiesa should look for his usual clinch takedowns. If he can land a single clean takedown and shut down the initial scramble, there’s a very good chance he can find his way to Lee’s back.
He has five rounds to do it.
Key Wins: Francisco Trinaldo (UFC Fight Night 106), Michele Prazeres (UFC Fight Night 60), Jake Matthews (TUF 23 Finale)
Key Losses: Leonardo Santos (UFC 194), Al Iaquinta (UFC 169)
Keys to Victory: Lee’s kickboxing is still a work in progress, but its aided by his tremendous athleticism. More important is Lee’s potent combination of wrestling and grappling, which has allowed him to dominate some tough opponents on the mat.
In this bout, Lee’s goal should be to fight more technically and thus more efficiently. Neither man is polished on the feet, but Lee sticks to the fundamentals more whereas Chiesa often wings it. On the other hand, both men are fantastic on the mat, but Lee’s style is more high percentage than Chiesa’s riskier submission-first approach.
Considering the length of the bout, Lee’s goal should be to punish Chiesa without expending energy. If he can make use of his long punches and kicks on the feet, Lee should be able to land the better shots. Additionally, takedown-for-takedown, Lee should have a slight advantage, meaning he can gather some points for control while forcing his foe to fight out of bad position.
If Lee can make things miserable for Chiesa will fighting smart, the fight will only get easier for him.
Bottom Line: Lightweight may be log jammed, but the stakes are high for these grapplers.
Chiesa scored the biggest win of his career in the form of a come-from-behind strangulation in his last bout, and it rose his stock significantly. If he loses this bout, however, that progress is erased, and he’ll have to work his way back inside the top 10 once more.
Not an easy task at 155 pounds.
A win, however, continues Chiesa on the path up the ladder and solidifies his ranking. It’s unclear if and when the Lightweight division will progress from its current state of limbo, but Chiesa helps guarantee he’ll be near the front of the line when it does.
This is a big increase in both competition level and exposure for Kevin Lee. He’s really hit his stride in the last year or so, and a big win here will push him even closer to the title mix. Alternatively, a loss pins him in the exact position he currently sits, but now he’ll have to rack up some more wins before receiving any similar opportunity.
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 112, Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee will face off in the main event. Which man will reign supreme in this grudge match?