- A welterweight fight between former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and former interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee headlines Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 152 fight card
- Will Kevin Lee’s wrestling ability transfer over to the heavier weight division?
- Can Rafael dos Anjos end his losing skid against talented wrestlers?
The UFC is in Rochester, New York this week for UFC Fight Night 152. The event, which streams live on ESPN+, takes place at Blue Cross Arena. This fight card marks the promotion’s first visit to the city.
In the main event, Kevin Lee, who has struggled to hit the lightweight limit of 155 pounds makes his first foray up to the welterweight limit of 170 pounds to face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Dos Anjos made the jump to welterweight in June 2017 on the heels of two consecutive defeats. He opened his run at 170 pounds with three straight wins, but he went 0-2 in the division in 2018.
Dos Anjos’ two losses at welterweight have come to the former interim champion Colby Covington and current welterweight titleholder Kamaru Usman. Both of those defeats came in five-round decisions. Dos Anjos has not fought since he lost to Usman in November. Lee is coming off a December five-round decision loss to former lightweight title challenger Al Iaquinta.
UFC Fight Night 152: Dos Anjos vs Lee Odds
|Fighter||Spread at Bovada|
|Rafael dos Anjos||-120|
*Odds taken 05/14/19
Lee is best known for his wrestling skills and that’s for a good reason as he was one of the most active lightweights in pursuing takedowns. The former Division II NCAA wrestler landed 35 takedowns on 80 attempts at 155 pounds. Lee was much more aggressive in his takedown pursuits earlier in his career, but he still relies heavily on getting the fight to the mat. He attempted 20 takedowns in his past three contests. On the defensive side of the ledger, Lee is tough to get to the mat. He’s stopped 80% of his opponent’s takedowns.
While Lee has relied on his wrestling skills, his striking has progressed from his earliest days in the UFC. However, Lee’s striking is best when he is on the ground, which is why his takedown game is so crucial to his success. Lee has outstruck his opponents on the ground by more than 200 significant strikes.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this fight when it comes to Lee is the extra 15 pounds he will carry. Without the burden of an excessive weight cut, he could be stronger and have a deeper gas tank as the fight progresses. Lee has faded late in some of his bouts, but that might have been due to him depleting himself to hit 155 pounds. Without that burden, I expect to see a crisper, more active and smarter Kevin Lee in Rochester.
Where Rafael dos Anjos once mixed up takedowns with his striking, at 170 pounds he relies mostly on his striking skills. Dos Anjos could have an advantage early in this fight. With Lee being unaccustomed to carrying an extra 15 pounds he might start out a little slower than usual until he gets the feel of the fight. That same advantage could play late if Lee misjudges his cardio. Dos Anjos has fought five rounds at 170 pounds against some of the best fighters in the division. He will be much more confident in his gas tank than Lee will be.
Dos Anjos has been known to land hard leg kicks. He could look to slow Lee’s takedown attempts by attacking the front leg. If he can slow Lee down, he might be able to defend Lee’s takedowns better. I would not be surprised at all to see Dos Anjos look to do anything he can to keep the fight standing. However, if the fight does go to the ground, Dos Anjos is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and he could use those skills to catch Lee in a submission, especially if Lee runs out of gas and gets a little lackadaisical.
The concern with the 34-year-old Dos Anjos is that he’s lost to two skilled wrestlers in his past two fights, so Lee does have a blueprint to work with heading into this fight. The other area of concern is that Dos Anjos has hit his ceiling and that he is starting his downward slide after 15 years in MMA.
Dos Anjos vs Lee Tale of the Tape
|Rafael dos Anjos||Category||Kevin Lee|
|170 pounds||Weight||155 pounds|
|3.62||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.06|
|3.32||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||3.18|
|1.96||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||3.10|
|0.7||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||1|
Even though he is a slight underdog and has never fought at 170 pounds, I am leaning toward Lee in this fight. I think the added weight will serve him well in all aspects of his game, but especially in the cardio department. The added hydration should also allow him to perform better mentally throughout the fight.
I expect Lee to rely heavily on his wrestling in this fight and that will allow him to get the win. It might not be the prettiest or most exciting contest, but I do see Lee walking away with the victory.
Pick: Kevin Lee (-120)