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Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kevin Lee

Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby have done it again!  UFC Fight Night: dos Anjos vs. Lee will take place this Saturday May 18, 2019 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York @ 5 PM PDT on ESPN +.  RDA vs The Motown Phenom is the epitome of a pick em fight. There are so many factors that go into this fight that choosing a clear winner is seemingly impossible, as shown in the betting odds, Lee -120, dos Anjos -110.  This fight has major implication for both fighters. A win for Kevin Lee cements himself in title contention for the welterweight division and a win for RDA would redeem his last two losses and put him in a position to be considered for another title fight.  Regardless of the winner, this fight is guaranteed to be a barn burner, with Kevin Lee predicting a “blood bath”.

Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee

A post shared by Kevin Lee (@motownphenom) on May 17, 2019 at 8:15am PDT

Kevin Lee is 26 years old and was raised in Detroit, Michigan, hence his nickname. Lee wrestled at Grand Valley State University, which is 12 miles away from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the city where Lee was born. Grand Valley State University has a NCAA Division 2 wrestling program, where Lee was a national tournament qualifier and went 37–0 as a sophomore. Kevin started training for his MMA career shortly after his sophomore year and made his first UFC appearance at UFC 169 against Raging Al Iaquinta, where he lost via unanimous decision. Lee moved to Las Vegas shortly after and began to train at Xtreme Couture under to tutelage of the dearly departed, Robert Follis. Lee went on to win 10 out his next 13 fights, with 4 decisions, 4 submissions, and 2 TKO’s. One of Lee’s losses came via knockout at UFC 194 against Leonardo Santos in Brazil. That was Lee’s first fight since joining Xtreme Couture without his coach Robert Follis in his corner. Lee was quoted saying, “I called him the very next day, and I was like, ‘I made a huge mistake,” Lee said. “I’m never doing that again. I’m never fighting without you in my corner again.’”

A post shared by Kevin Lee (@motownphenom) on Apr 14, 2018 at 3:11pm PDT

Although Kevin Lee had an impressive string of wins and garners an impressive well-rounded MMA fights style, he really came onto the scene and gained notoriety for his viral UFC Summer kickoff press conference appearance. Lee was slated as the main event for UFC Fight Night 112: Chiesa vs. Lee, which took place on June 25, 2017, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Lee made headlines leading up to the fight for punching Chiesa in the face after Chiesa rushed Lee, screaming “don’t you ever talk about my mom”. Chiesa was gaining steam in the division after 2 impressive submission victories over Jim Miller and Beneil Dariush. Lee ended up winning the fight via rear naked choke in the first round, although somewhat controversial, since Chiesa immediately protested to referee Mario Yamasaki that he did not tap from the choke.

The win over Chiesa earned Lee an interim title fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 216. Although Lee ended up being submitted via triangle choke in round 3, there were a few circumstances that may have contributed to his loss. Lee made media headlines leading up to UFC 216 for the difficulty of his weight cut. Lee stated on the UFC Unfiltered podcast that he generally walks around at around 185 lbs. Lee stated in a pre-fight interview that he had to drop 19 pounds the day before the Ferguson fight. Lee said on multiple occasions that he “nearly killed himself” making weight, which ended up in Lee missing weight on his first attempt, but later making championship weight on his second attempt. Joe Rogan also reported on Lee’s obvious staph infection on his chest while walking to the cage. It was later noted that Lee did not take antibiotics before the fight because he didn’t want that to contribute to his conditioning. Another pertinent factor in that fight was that the horrific Las Vegas shooting happened just 7 days before the fight, and since Lee lives and trains out of Las Vegas, there is no doubt that that contributed to his mental state.

A post shared by Kevin Lee (@motownphenom) on May 1, 2018 at 9:01am PDT

After the loss to Ferguson, Kevin Lee went on to advocate for a fight against GSP or Conor McGregor on many occasions, but was eventually set up against famed striker, Edson Barbosa. There was talk of how Lee would show up to this fight since he had come off a loss with Ferguson and he would no longer have his coach Robert Follis in his corner. Lee arrived prepared for Barbosa and showed his resilience during the fight by being able to take Barbosa down after taking a spinning heel kick to the head in rd 3. Lee went on to dominate Barbosa, eventually stopping the fight via TKO in round 5. Lee controlled Barbosa with his wrestling in dominating fashion similar or better than Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat Barbosa in his prior fight via 3 rd decision. After this impressive win, Lee went back to advocating for a 165 lb. division, asking for a title fight against Conor or GSP, but ended up with the rematch against his first loss in the UFC, Raging Al Iaquinta.

There was a lot of trash talk leading up to the fight against Raging Al. Lee had mentioned that he has become a more complete fighter since their first encounter and that Iaquinta had not developed in the same way, taking long periods of time off, training while selling real estate, and basically being the “same Al” since the first fight. Iaquinta won the fight via unanimous decision, winning rounds three, four, and five according to the judge’s scorecards. Lee insisted at the end of the fight that the judges “took the fight” from him and that he had won the first three rounds and let off the gas in the final two. Iaquinta showed clear domination in round 5, ending the fight with several significant strikes to Lee’s body and head, screaming “same Al” in Lee’s face, a sequence that had the fans on their feet and most likely swayed the judges towards a unanimous decision win over Lee. Iaquinta’s dominant 5th round against Lee and Ferguson’s submission in rd 3 over Lee has led to the narrative that Lee struggles with his cardio, which may be a factor in his upcoming fight against RDA. Lee has stated that he has made changes in his corner and feels that they are on the same page and prepared for RDA. Coach Dewey Cooper of Xtreme Couture will be in Lee’s corner this Saturday.

A post shared by Dewey Cooper (@dcblackkobra) on Oct 11, 2018 at 5:28pm PDT

Rafael dos Anjos

A post shared by Rafael Dos Anjos (@rdosanjosmma) on May 17, 2019 at 3:55am PDT

Rafael dos Anjos has become a sort of gatekeeper for the welterweight division in the past few years.  RDA is currently ranked number 3 in the welterweight division and has a record of 28-11. RDA won the lightweight title against Anthony Pettis at UFC 185 and successfully defended his title against Cowboy Cerrone at UFC on Fox 17, defeating Cowboy via TKO in the first round.  RDA lost his title to Eddie Alvarez via TKO in the first round and then lost his next bout to Tony Ferguson via 5 round unanimous decision. RDA decided to move up weight classes because of the difficulty he was having cutting weight. He went on to win three straight times, with dominating wins over Neil Magny and former champion Robbie Lawler.  RDA fell short in his next fight, which was for the interim title against Colby Covington in a demoralizing 5 round unanimous decision for Covington. This fight may have had some mental implications for RDA, since a majority of the MMA community was looking for RDA to put a beating on Covington for referring to the Brazilian fans as “filthy animals” after his victory over Demian Maia.  RDA may have carried the pressure of Brazil on his shoulders and looked utterly frustrated against Covington’s relentless pressure and takedowns. Rafael’s following fight was against current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, which unfortunately ended in a similar manner, a 5 round fight with a unanimous decision for Usman.

A post shared by Rafael Dos Anjos (@rdosanjosmma) on Nov 6, 2018 at 12:57pm PST

This is where it gets interesting, because it would be easy for fans to remember RDA losing his last two fights in dominating fashion by two strong wrestlers.  This might sway you to believe that RDA cannot compete with wrestlers and that Kevin Lee’s obvious game plan would be to take RDA down and control him for 5 rounds, but there is one major difference between Covington and Usman, vs Lee, and that is cardio.  Covington and Usman have some of the best wrestling and conditioning in the UFC, and Lee is more of an explosive wrestler. RDA is a long time black belt in BJJ and won’t be submitted easily, so Lee’s path to victory will most likely have to come in round one or two via ground and pound or submission, or RDA will take over and dominate in rounds three, four, and five.  RDA was quoted in an interview with ESPN + saying, I watched a few Kevin Lee fights and he struggles when he goes the distance, he’s going to struggle, he’s gonna come strong the first two rounds and will break by the end of the fight. It’s going to be a redemption for me”. RDA also mentioned, “I see myself putting pressure, imposing my game there”. “I know he will come strong and explosive early on, but I see many possibilities, I see myself knocking him out, submitting him.  I don’t think it goes to the fifth round. I’m well-trained. I’ll dictate the rhythm and not let it go the distance.”

A post shared by Jason Parillo (@parilloboxing) on Mar 1, 2019 at 11:51am PST

Dana White has been quoted on several occasions saying, “RDA is always my gauge on how good a guy really is”. RDA is a litmus test for Dana, and Lee will definitely be tested this Saturday. The UFC embedded video showed Lee living out of a trailer and doing conditioning with a group of teammates in a garage. RDA was also shown doing a lot of wrestling drills during his preparation which will inevitable be a huge factor in the fight. Lee is committed to getting back to “what makes him, him” and expects to “run over” RDA. Dana White awarded Usman with a title fight over Covington for his performance over RDA, so a convincing win over RDA might have Lee within a few fights of the title shot.

A post shared by Kevin Lee (@motownphenom) on May 14, 2019 at 6:55am PDT

Kevin Lee reported on the UFC Unfiltered podcast that RDA walks around at about 200 and he walks around at 185.  Lee has also tried to get RDA to concede weighing in at 165 lbs. to “prove a point” in his efforts to gain traction for a 165 lb. weight class and mentioned that he just wants both fighters to come in with similar body types.  This leads me to believe that Lee may not be too confident about the weight and power differential going up a weight class, even though RDA used to compete at 155.

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on May 17, 2019 at 8:32am PDT

We will have to tune in on Saturday to see if RDA can use his experience and mental toughness to win in the later rounds or via decision, or if Kevin Lee’s wrestling and position control can dominate RDA early.  It all comes down to each fighter’s mental game. Can Lee show up prepared and focused and line up his mental and physical game, an issue he has referenced in the past, or will RDA show up with his champion mindset and reverse the clock on his last two losses and make another run for the title? We will have to tune in to find out. This is definitely a fight you’re not going to want to miss!

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