Courtesy: UFC on ESPN+

UFC Fight Night: Lee vs Oliveira


On a Saturday when the entire world of sports was at a standstill, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was the lone major sports league to hold an event during the global coronavirus outbreak.


It was meant to be a smaller fight card on the ESPN+ streaming service. It was supposed to be headlined by a lightweight bout between #8 ranked Kevin Lee and #13 Charles Oliveira. The event was eventually moved to the flagship ESPN channel since it was one of the only available live sports contests anywhere.  The fight card was held in an empty arena at the Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, to curtail the spread of the deadly virus

Still, the entire event had an air of wrongness to it. The fight week lead-up was flooded with concern about whether or not the fight card should continue to be held in the first place, given the UFC’s and the Brazilian commission’s lack of preparation to test any fighters for the COVID-19 virus before Saturday. 

Following the NBA’s decision to suspend the season indefinitely Wednesday night, the announcement caused a domino effect that saw nearly every other league in the country follow suit, with the UFC being one of the lone exceptions. Friday’s weigh-ins made matters worse for the event, when headliner Kevin Lee missed weight for the fourth time in his career, coming in 2.5 lbs over the lightweight limit at 158.5 pounds.


Nonetheless, the fight was allowed to continue. 


As the fights progressed throughout the card, there was a deafening silence in the arena, with no crowd present to witness the bouts. No one was cheering for their favorite fighters or booing for their countryman’s opponent. No one in the stands was chanting “uh vai morrer!”  Just pure, maddening silence in Brazil.  

As the main event rolled by, Lee and Oliveira met in the middle of the Octagon. They began to trade combinations, with Oliveira getting the better of the exchanges, using his unorthodox striking.  Oliveira then went for an awkward single-leg takedown, which ended with him on the bottom. Still, Lee was unable to take advantage of the position and soon found himself in an endless chain of leglock attempts from Oliveira. Lee eventually managed to escape Oliveira’s multiple submission attempts and ended the 1st round on top but without much offense. 

In the 2nd round, Lee again came out looking to stay in the pocket with Oliveira and trade strikes, before eventually scoring a takedown in the middle of the Octagon. Oliveira’s active guard soon took over, however, and Lee was quickly back in defense mode, nearly getting submitted by an armbar, followed by a triangle attempt. Lee then escaped and again spent most of the round on top, but with very little offense in his favor. 


Seconds into the 3rd round, Lee went for a desperate single-leg takedown on Oliveira, leaving his neck open for the Brazilian to wrap it up and sink in a guillotine choke at 28 seconds of round 3. 


The victory made it a UFC record 14 wins by submission for Oliveira, who is now on a 7-fight winning streak and making enough noise to put himself into the top-10 lightweights in the UFC.

As for Kevin Lee, who was at one point one of the most exciting prospects in the UFC and viewed as a potential future champion, the loss is a significant setback in his career. Following his knockout win against Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244 in November, the hope was that he had finally turned a corner with a new camp at Tristar Gym, and a patient, matured fight IQ. Saturday’s performance, however, left much to be desired, and Lee seemed to fall back into old habits that have kept him from the elusive UFC championship.


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Las Vegas! If you want another great place to watch the fights, head to Al’s Garage in Summerlin. There are multiple televisions to watch all the games. Al’s has “Happy Hour” starting at 9 AM and ending at 9 PM. Al’s Garage is located at 11760 W. Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada 89135. Tell them, “The Franchise sent you!!”


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