Kevin Lee talks a big game but lately he’s backed up every word coming out of his mouth.
Take for instance the matter of fact way Lee predicted that he was going to maul former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Michael Chiesa in his last fight despite coming into the matchup as an underdog who was also outside the top 10 rankings.
On paper, Chiesa was potentially a win or two at most away from a title shot and had looked better than ever in his most recent performances. Then Lee came along, told him how the fight would play out and then he executed his game plan to perfect before finishing Chiesa with a rear naked choke in the first round.
It was a stunning win for Lee, who was then placed into his interim title fight against Tony Ferguson this weekend at UFC 216 in Las Vegas.
Once again, Lee has been rather vocal about all the ways he plans on stopping Ferguson and putting an end to his recent nine fight win streak while capturing his first UFC title at just 25-years of age. Lee has complimented Ferguson at certain points in the lead up to their fight, but ultimately he says none of that matters once they step into the Octagon together because his opponent’s best still won’t be enough on the night.
Of course, Lee understands that some critics want to discredit his place in this title fight by saying he hasn’t faced enough top 10 competition. Others say that he got lucky against Chiesa thanks to an incompetent referee who stopped the fight before seeing a tap out from the choke. There are even more who say that Lee is just out matched by a superior opponent in Ferguson.
That’s part of the reason why Lee hopes that he gets to show all the tools at his disposal against Ferguson on Saturday night so there are no more excuses about how he got to this position or that he somehow didn’t deserve to become champion. After watching Lee dismantle Ferguson over 25 minutes, he feels like everyone’s questions will be answered.
“When I go out there and put my will on him…I think the skills early on will really shine through,” Lee told the Fight Society podcast. “If you look at Tony, he does make a lot of mistakes technically. I’m much more technical, much quicker, much stronger. Can Tony last? That’s what I’m kind of curious of. Even with the Mike Chiesa fight, people didn’t really get to see everything I trained for.
“So I’m kind of excited if Tony Ferguson can last. If he can handle the power. If he can weather the wrestling and hopefully he don’t b–ch out. I’m hoping it does go five rounds.”
While Lee has taken more than his fair share of pot shots at Ferguson in the lead up to the fight, he won’t discredit that the top ranked lightweight contender has earned his position in the rankings with an incredible winning streak.
Add to that, Ferguson has faced adversity during his run to the interim title including a near upset last year when he faced late replacement Lando Vannata and nearly got finished after engaging in a striking war with the UFC newcomer.
“Tony’s tough as f–k. I’ll give him that,” Lee added. “I’m expecting a dogfight. Even as I’m watching him, he does a lot of things wrong but he makes them right. Tony’s no b–ch.”
That being said, Lee has no doubt that he will control every position in this fight whether that means out striking Ferguson on the feet, out wrestling him on the mat or simply out grappling him if this turns into a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition on the mat.
He may applaud Ferguson’s toughness but the way Lee sees it, that just means he’ll be able to take more punishment over five rounds before he concedes the title in the end.
“I’m going to steam roll his ass,” Lee predicted. “I’m just going to show a different level. If he can keep up, if he can keep taking the shots, then even better for me.”
While Ferguson isn’t exactly seen as the old guard of fighters in the UFC, Lee believes that his time has already past and he represents the new generation of athletes who are taking over.
Last week during a media conference call ahead of the fight, Lee pointed out his youth compared to Ferguson numerous times and he believes this fight will serve as notice that it’s time for a new level of athlete to stand tall at the top of the UFC world.
“This is the new generation,” Lee said. “This is the 90’s babies era. I’m happy to pull that guard for the 155-pounders.”
Listen to the rest of Lee’s interview from the Fight Society podcast here or download and subscribe to the show via Apple Podcasts.