The UFC is back stateside on ESPN+ after a trip to Brazil that saw a new Women’s strawweight champion crowned in controversial fashion (see the Tweet below). Tonight’s fights are a mixture of number-one contenders’ matches and showcase bouts for lesser-known fighters. Also, we get a rare rubber match that is not past its expiry date. Let’s get on to the prizefights.
This fight is between two former lightweights who struggled to make the division limit and were forced to climb the ladder into the heavier weight limit. Dos Anjos made the jump almost two years ago and has beaten several high-profile welterweight contenders, including former champion Robbie Lawler and former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine. Lee is fighting in the welterweight division in the UFC for the first time and is coming off a loss against Al Iaquinta.
Rafael Dos Anjos is a former UFC lightweight champion and has been in the UFC for over 10 years. He has built a resume of wins over the top of the UFC rankings, including wins over Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis and the aforementioned Robbie Lawler. His only recent losses have come against current UFC champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington in an interim title bout. He has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt but is more comfortable keeping the fight standing and trying to knock his opponent out. He struggles against wrestlers, including the two recent losses, but also against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and lightweight contender Tony Ferguson. Those fighters were able to use their wrestling to keep Dos Anjos guessing and not allow him to get into a rhythm with his striking and Muay Thai skills.
Kevin Lee is a former UFC lightweight title challenger. He earned his shot at the title by stringing together five wins in a span of 14 months. He lost his bid for the interim championship against Tony Ferguson in a fight in which he looked outclassed, eventually succumbing to a triangle choke in the third round. In the two fights since, he alternated a TKO win against top contender Edson Barboza with a unanimous decision loss against Al Iaquinta. This inconsistency and the trouble making the weight limit forced Kevin Lee to ply his trade in a new, heavier division.
Kevin Lee is an NCAA Division II wrestler who uses his base to keep the fight standing and occasionally tries to take his opponents down and cause some damage. Recently, he has fallen in love with his striking and is determined to win every fight by knockout. Although Lee shows signs of improving striking ability, he has been outmatched in that department by Iaquinta and Ferguson. In the Iaquinta fight, Lee slowed down significantly after the second round. In the Ferguson fight, he was keeping up with the awkward striking of his opponent until he caught a few flush punches and timely elbows. After those strikes, things went downhill, and it looked like he was looking for a way out of the fight.
I see Dos Anjos’s experience, doggedness, and power winning out over Lee’s striking and sometimes wrestling. Dos Anjos by decision.
Antonio Carlos Junior won the heavyweight bracket of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 while fighting two weight classes above his current division. He is on a five-fight win streak against incrementally (however small) tougher competition. In his last bout in April of 2014, he choked out veteran Tim Boetsch with a rear naked choke. It’s no secret what Carlos Junior wants to do to his opponents: take them down and submit them. He has eight submission victories against two decision wins. He is not known for his striking ability and would love nothing more than to strangle his opponent early in the fight.
Ian Heinisch is a relative newcomer to the UFC, making his lackluster debut in November of 2018 against another Brazilian, Cezar Ferreira. In that bout, Heinisch was taken down repeatedly but managed to somehow get up and began to walk Ferreira down later in the bout. He is an opportunist: he will strike if he feels he has an advantage or take his opponent down if that is the path to victory. He has power in his hands and elbows and will need to keep this fight standing to give himself a chance at victory.
I see Antonio Carlos Junior taking down Heinisch and submitting him in the second round. Carlos Junior by submission.
This is my second most anticipated fight of the night behind the main event. These two women are both former Invicta featherweight champions and head into this bout with immense pressure. The Women’s featherweight division is on the ropes and doesn’t even have an official top 15 in the UFC rankings page.
Anderson’s last fight was a controversial win over perennial contender Cat Zingano. Anderson kicked Zingano in the eye and caused a laceration of the eye that forced her to withdraw. The kick was legal, and the stoppage was just; but it is a rare way to end a fight, and the fans did not get the fight they expected. Anderson is 6 feet tall and towers over most women in the featherweight division. She will carry a 6-inch height advantage and assuredly a massive reach advantage as well. Her last seven wins have come by stoppage (5 TKOs and 2 submissions).
Felicia Spencer is undefeated in her mixed martial arts career. She went 6–0 in Invicta and won their version of the featherweight title in November of last year. She has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do as well. She is well-rounded and submitted her last two opponents. She will try to take the fight to the ground and look to use leverage on Anderson’s long limbs to earn a submission.
I see UFC debut jitters as well as a tough opponent being too much for Spencer to overcome. Megan Anderson by TKO in the third round.
What: UFC Fight Night 152: Dos Anjos vs Lee
Where to watch: Preliminary card – ESPN+; main card – ESPN+
When: Saturday, May 18, 2019
Time: Preliminary Card – 7:00 p.m. CST; Main Card – 9:00 p.m. CST