Headlining his first UFC event this Sunday night at 24-years-old, number 11 ranked UFC lightweight Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee is on the verge of superstardom or a giant setback depending on his performance against his toughest opponent to date, the number six ranked Michael Chiesa.
Lee is coming off a submission win over Francisco Trinaldo in March and has shown a knack for wrestling ability combined with solid quick hands and natural athleticism so far in his UFC career. The two blemishes on Lee’s record are a close split decision loss to Al Iaquinta in 2014 and a TKO loss to Leonardo Santos at UFC 194. Lee has shown a tendency of getting tagged during stand and bang time, but lately he’s been adamant on using his wrestling ability to secure a victory by any means necessary, even if it means the fans are left wanting more action.
Michael Chiesa has been vocal in the difference in ranking between the two competitors as being the reason why he won’t have much trouble dealing with Lee. Chiesa will not only be the higher ranked fighter on Sunday, he’ll also possess the size advantage and is entering the bout on a three fight win streak and a two submission win streak over Jim Miller and Beneil Dariush. Chiesa is no doubt riding high, but we’ve already seen him lose his cool at the UFC Summer Kickoff press conference and that could play an important factor in the fight.
Lee already holds the mental edge against Chiesa and now that Lee understands how quickly he can set Chiesa off, why shouldn’t Lee poke the bear in the fight to try and gain the advantage? Lee has been doing wonders playing the antagonist not only in the buildup to this fight, but overall.
Fans have not been shy in illustrating their disdain for “The Motown Phenom” and judging by MMA fans’ lack of forgetfulness, there really is nothing he can do to change their minds at this point. According to Lee, he’s always been a thorn in the UFC’s side behind the scenes regarding the lack of promotion he’s been receiving and now we are seeing it in full display. Lee was invited to his first press conference and he immediately made it the Kevin Lee show and immediately raised the stakes in press conference trash talk after he landed a right hand on a rushing in Chiesa.
Lee has the ball in his court and is already setting his sights on the number one ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov. While it’s unlikely we’ll see the fight booked this year like Lee suggested, it’s not farfetched to imagine the two squaring off in the near future. Lee’s take on Conor McGregor taking from black culture in his persona when faced with comparisons with McGregor, was interesting and more importantly he has people talking. Lee represents Detroit any opportunity he gets as he hopes for a September event in his hometown and it just might come to fruition should he come out victorious. Lee’s perspective on the UFC having a difficult time promoting black fighters brings up an essential topic of discussion and sure enough the first thing we see during the ads for Lee-Chiesa is the press conference brawl similar to the Jones-DC promotion.
Win or lose, Lee is making a name for himself and if fans make an effort in learning more about the guy, he just might gain a larger following. Chiesa on the other hand could benefit immensely if he takes out public enemy #1, but he is facing a 24-year-old number 11 ranked fighter in his hometown, meaning he is supposed to get his hand raised at the end of the night to complete the fairy tale. One thing that is certain is that the lightweight division just got more interesting in the form of some always welcomed, new blood.