Promising lightweights will take center stage, as Michael Chiesa meets Kevin Lee in the UFC Fight Night 112 main event on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, two-time NCAA wrestling champion and former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Johny Hendricks takes on Tim Boetsch in the three-round co-headliner at 185 pounds.
The rest of the six-fight main draw features a women’s strawweight clash pairing Felice Herrig with Justine Kish, a light heavyweight tilt pitting Joachim Christensen against Dominick Reyes, a welterweight affair matching Tim Means with Alex Garcia and a featherweight battle slotting B.J. Penn opposite Dennis Siver.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Chiesa vs. Lee” matchup, with analysis and picks:
LightweightsMichael Chiesa (14-2) vs. Kevin Lee (15-2)
THE MATCHUP: As a prospect, the 24 year-old Lee seems to have everything a manager, matchmaker or diehard fan could ask for. He is a physical specimen, able to move lightly but throw serious weight around in the clinch. He is a skilled grappler with a knack for fighting in transitions, having earned seven wins by submission. His striking continues to develop with every outing, and he is settling into a stylistic groove as a fighter.
Unfortunately, Lee has lapses. What their cause is no one can say for certain, but in every fight Lee will experience one or two moments in which he is left standing around, waiting to get caught. Often this happens after Lee throws a combination of strikes -- in boxing, they call this “taking a picture” and it does look, for all the world, as if Lee is watching on in delight as his punches land, momentarily forgetting that a counter could be headed his way at any moment. Lee’s technique appears clean and he is certainly capable of fighting back if need be, but the fact of the matter is that from time to time he seems to forget what he is supposed to be doing.
In that respect, Chiesa could not be more different. Unlike Lee, he does not cut the picture of a perfect prospect. He is tall and gangly, sporting a caveman beard and a wild mop up top. Where Lee’s tactics are buttery smooth, Chiesa slings his ropey limbs around like the inflatable tube man outside your local used car dealership. Nonetheless, even lacking Lee’s obvious upside, Chiesa is likely to be the more effective fighter.
Comfort is the key. No matter how ugly some of Chiesa’s moves are, everything about him says “experienced fighter.” He fights with the confidence and know-how of someone who has spent countless hours in the gym and, more specifically, the sparring ring. Rick Little’s Sikjitsu Fighting Systems, the camp out of which Chiesa fights, is well known for a bit of a meathead atmosphere, but its training has prepared Chiesa to handle himself no matter what happens in a fight. Crazy exchanges, wild scrambles -- nothing gets to Chiesa, and he can find his patented rear-naked choke from almost any position.
THE ODDS: Lee (-135), Chiesa (+105)
THE PICK: Lee is not much of a power striker, but it hardly matters in this fight. Chiesa is renowned for his durability and his pace, and his craftiness in the midst of wild action means that every minute spent in the cage with him is one in which he is pondering how to get to the back. He is a surprisingly effective takedown artist, very difficult to control on the ground and a much better striker than you probably think simply by virtue of his comfort in the cage. Expect Chiesa to clip Lee or drag him to the ground during one of his momentary lapses. The pick is Chiesa by second-round submission.
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