On June 25, 2017, UFC Fight Night 112 featured plenty of examples of fighters on the rise as well as those in free fall. Among the up-and-comers who entered the Octagon in Oklahoma City that night was a 6-0 Dominick Reyes, who made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut on short notice and crushed Joachim Christensen in under 30 seconds. (Sometimes a prospect is just ready.) The free-fall contingent included former two-division champion B.J. Penn, who lost to Dennis Siver in the fifth of what would be seven straight losses, and Johny Hendricks, who, on top of being punched out by Tim Boetsch, subjected us to the sight of a former 170-pound champion failing to make weight at middleweight.
The main attraction, however, was clearly the headliner. Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee were two red-hot contenders knocking on the lightweight Top 10, and represented a fascinating style matchup as well. Chiesa was a long-limbed, aggressive grappler with some of the most suffocating back control in the UFC, while Lee was an enormously powerful wrestler with underrated grappling, improving strikes and an occasionally suspect gas tank. It was a brilliant bit of matchmaking and seemed the perfect Fight Night main event.
Unfortunately, controversy cut short what was on its way to being a fantastic fight. A rollicking first round, including Chiesa zinging Lee with some thudding strikes and Lee responding with a double-leg slam, ended when referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout, as Lee had Chiesa in a rear-naked choke. While Lee was on Chiesa’s back and the choke had been a clear threat, Chiesa was not unconscious, had been actively fighting off Lee’s hands seconds before the stoppage and came up immediately protesting the call.
In the aftermath of the fight, fans were divided on whether Chiesa would have lost anyway, but most seemed to agree that the timing of the stoppage was inappropriate. Chiesa appealed to the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission, citing similar mistakes Yamasaki had made previously as well as other cases where results had been overturned to no-contests due to referee error. However, the appeal was denied and the result remains a submission win for Lee at 4:37 of Round 1. While the two have yet to meet in the Octagon again, it is certainly a possibility; the build-up to the first fight contained considerable animosity and while Chiesa subsequently moved to the welterweight division, Lee has fought at both lightweight and welterweight since then.