Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business tonight (Sat., Dec. 15, 2018) as it ends its seven-year deal with FOX with the UFC on FOX 31: “Lee vs. Iaquinta 2” mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card that will be taking place inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In the headlining act, Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee will tango for the second time in a pivotal Lightweight scrap, while Edson Barboza and Dan Hooker engage in another interesting 155-pound matchup in the co-main event.
Kevin Lee made his official UFC debut four years ago, taking on Al Iaquinta in a tough first test. After three rounds of action, Al walked away with a clear-cut unanimous decision, handing Lee his first-ever loss in mixed martial arts (MMA). Since then, however, Lee has gone 10-2 inside the Octagon, earning wins over the likes of Michael Chiesa and Edson Barboza, among others. In short, “The Motown Phenom” has only gotten better with time and experience against the best-of-the best. That’s why a rematch against Iaquinta is intriguing to say the least, as he looks to show he isn’t the same UFC rookie “Ragin Al’” dominated in 2014.
Iaquinta, meanwhile, has been as steady as they come, winning seven of his last nine, even going five full rounds with the most dominant force the 155-pound division has ever seen in Khabib Nurmagomedov (see it here). Aside from getting revenge, Lee hopes to get back to a title shot with a victory over Iaquinta. He may also accomplish this goal, too. For Al, it gets him closer to another shot at the 155-pound strap; one which won’t come on just a 24 hours notice.
Sergio Pettis will make the jump back up to Bantamweight after coming up short against Jussier Formiga in his last Flyweight bout. Pettis is just 1-2 in his last three outings after reeling off four-straight wins. Getting in the championship mix will be a lot tougher for Pettis now since it will have to happen in a much deeper division, but a win over Rob Font would be one heck of a start.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Zak Ottow stepped in to face off against Dwight Grant after Erik Koch was forced out of the event. Also, the card suffered a blow after a fight between Andrea Lee and Jessica Rose-Clark was cancelled after Clark suffered complications during the weight-cutting process and was hospitalized.
Aside from Koch and Clark’s unfortunate setbacks, no other fighter suffered a fight-related injury leading up to the event.
How The Prelims Look:
The underbelly of the event features a couple of interesting matchups, such as Bobby Green and Drakkar Klose. Green is another 155-pounder who hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he had when crossing over from Strikeforce. While he did jump out of the gate with four straight UFC wins, Green has only managed to go 1-3-1 since then. Up next is Klose, who is 3-1 inside the Octagon and was last seen taking out Lando Vannata at UFC 226.
Also, Jared Gordon will look to get back in the win column when he takes on Joaquim Silva, who suffered his first-ever loss in MMA in his previous outing to Vinc Pichel.
Dwight Grant will make his official UFC debut after earning his stripes on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” when he takes on Zak Ottow. Zak stepped in to face Grant after Erik Koch was forced out of the bout with an injury. Dwight is riding high with a seven-fight win streak.
Jordan Griffith — another “DWTNCS” alum — will make his Octagon debut against Dan Ige. Jordan packs power in his 145-pound frame, but his last four wins have come via submission.
An all-around dangerous threat. Juan Adams rounds out the trio of newcomers, as he puts his 4-0 record on the line against Chris de la Rocha on the “Prelims.”
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Edson Barboza was once considered a legit contender who could one day fight for the UFC lightweight strap. But after scoring three consecutive and impressive victories over Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and Beniel Dariush, the Brazilian bomber was dominated in back-to-back defeats. And they weren’t pretty, as current Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov worked Barboza over for 15 minutes, beating him up from pillar to post (see it again here).
Four months later, Edson jumped back into the cage against Kevin Lee, only to get dominated once again, this time for nearly five rounds before the doctor put a stoppage to the beatdown. Edson is still as exciting as they come, and against Hooker, he doesn’t have to worry about the wrestling threat that Khabib and Lee offered. Three straight losses won’t earn Edson his walking papers, but it puts him further down the 155-pound ladder.
Interest Level: 5/10
It will be interesting to see how much Kevin Lee has improved over the last four years in his attempt to get revenge on Al Iaquinta. Both men are still major players in the division, so a win is pivotal for their respective championship dreams.
Also, longtime staple Jim Miller will be fighting for the promotion for a record-breaking 31st time against Charles Oliveira, who is on a two-fight win streak. Edson Barboza and Dan Hooker, though, could be the Fight of the Night as they engage in what is sure to be a high-octane showdown. Barboza needs a win in the worst way, so he has extra incentive to put it all on the line. There are several interesting story lines, so we should be in for an interesting night of fights.
Full UFC on FOX 31 Fight Card:
UFC On FOX 31 Main Event:
155 lbs.: Kevin Lee vs. Al Iaquinta
UFC On FOX 31 Main Card (8 p.m. ET)
155 lbs.: Edson Barboza vs. Dan Hooker
135 lbs.: Rob Font vs. Sergio Pettis
155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
UFC On FOX 31 Prelims On FOX Sports 1 (5 p.m. ET)
170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Zak Ottow
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Drakkar Klose
155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Joaquim Silva
185 lbs.: Zak Cummings vs. Trevor Smith
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Gerald Meerschaert
145 lbs.: Jordan Griffin vs. Dan Ige
UFC On FOX 31 Prelims On Fight Pass (4:00 p.m. ET)
205 lbs.: Adam Milstead vs. Mike Rodriguez
265 lbs.: Juan Adams vs. Chris De La Rocha
To see the entire UFC schedule for 2018 click here.