Charles Oliveira took the fight to Kevin Lee last night.
He opened the fight with a jumping front kick, and his foot never left the gas pedal. Against a physically imposing wrestler coming off a massive knockout win, Oliveira walked — or jumped — into the pocket and traded. He put Lee on his back foot and landed big power shots. He absorbed some in the process as well, but it was abundantly clear which man was landing heavier shots to the jawline. That’s even true while discounting Oliveira’s powerful low kicks and painful snap kicks to the mid-section.
Lee attempted to turn to his great equalizer: takedowns. For the most part, Lee landed takedowns nearly at will, capitalizing on Oliveira’s tall Muay Thai stance to plant “Do Bronx” on his back. However, Oliveira’s offensive mindset did not shift when on his back. Instead, Oliveira went after limbs, swimming underneath the legs to threaten Lee’s joints and force “The MoTown Phenom” back on the defensive.
The first two rounds played out in similar fashion. Lee did better in the first than the second, but the general flow of the two rounds remained similar: Oliveira landed the better strikes, Lee scored a takedown, Lee defends submissions and stays on top until the bell.
To summarize, Oliveira was doing great! He was doing real damage and coming close to finishing the fight on the mat. In the third, when Oliveira countered a takedown with the fight-ending guillotine choke, it was not a shock nor a come-from-behind victory — because Oliveira was already kicking ass!
That’s why I was baffled to see fans and pundits online consistently scoring rounds for Lee on the strength of his top control. Luckily, the judges were more aware of what was actually happening in the silent arena.
All three judges had Oliveira up 20-18 going into the third. pic.twitter.com/asqFEHbjXk— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) March 15, 2020
Where does this disconnect come from? Why are fans and media awarding Lee rounds in which he was boxed up and nearly submitted? These are the same groups campaigning for judging reform, but they’re rewarding control over effectiveness. Not only does that go against current judging criteria, it goes against all common sense notions of fighting!
In truth, my theory is this: many are still plagued by the old days, when a single takedown in the final 10 seconds of a round routinely did overwhelm the four previous minutes. The number of lay-and-pray decision victories has dropped off tremendously in recent years, but folks are still haunted by ghosts of Jon Fitch and Jacob Volkmann. As a result, those in the MMA sphere are scoring fights based on how they expect judges to, rather than based on reality.
The current rules benefit and reward the effective fighter, and it’s important that viewers understand this as well. Otherwise, we risk a collective step backward ... even if it’s an unconscious one.
For complete UFC Fight Night 170: “Lee vs. Oliveira” results and play-by-play, click HERE!