A fighter on the rise if there ever was one, Kevin Lee now stands on the precipice of the breakthrough he has long desired.
Lee will face “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner Tony Ferguson for the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title in the UFC 216 main event this Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Xtreme Couture representative has made the transition from prospect to contender, as he will carry a five-fight winning streak into the cage. Lee, 25, last appeared at UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25, when he submitted Michael Chiesa with a first-round rear-naked choke, improved his record to 9-2 inside the Octagon and proved he could handle the pressures that come with headlining an event. Wins over Francisco Trinaldo, Michel Prazeres, Magomed Mustafaev and Efrain Escudero buoy his resume. “The Motown Phenom” wrestled collegiately at Grand Valley State University in his native Michigan prior to his turn to mixed martial arts.
Ahead of his five-round clash with Ferguson, here are some of the numbers that have come to define Lee -- one of those unique competitors in which talent and charisma intersect:
1: Win by knockout. Jake Matthews was the victim, as he succumbed to first-round punches from Lee at “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale on July 8, 2016.
1.5: Submission attempts per 15 minutes in UFC competition, according to FightMetric figures. That number ranks 10th among active UFC lightweights behind Charles Oliveira (3.8), Joe Lauzon (2.2), Andrew Holbrook (2.1), Jim Miller (2.0), Nik Lentz (1.9), Joe Proctor (1.9), Matt Wiman (1.8), Nate Diaz (1.7) and Ferguson (1.6).
2: Post-fight performance bonuses earned. Lee pocketed an additional $50,000 in his victories over Chiesa and Mustafaev.
3.48: Takedowns attempted per 15 minutes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Lee has executed at least one takedown -- he delivered seven against Mustafaev -- in 10 of his 11 UFC appearances. Leonardo Santos remains the only opponent Lee failed to take down.
4: Consecutive finishes. Lee has put away each of his last four opponents inside two rounds, stopping Matthews, Mustafaev, Trinaldo and Chiesa in succession. Those four men own a cumulative .819 winning percentage.
8: Wins by submission. Lee has recorded five victories by rear-naked choke, two by guillotine choke and one by armbar.
25: Years of age. Lee does not turn 26 until Sept. 4.
73: Percentage of takedowns Lee has successfully defended in the UFC. Only Santos, Escudero, Prazeres and Jesse Ronson managed to get Lee to the ground against his will, and only Prazeres did so more than once.
77: Inches in reach. He will have a modest one-inch advantage against Ferguson.
197: Total strikes by which Lee has outlanded his opponents in his nine UFC wins.