UFC 216 was Kevin Lee’s first chance at securing a UFC championship, but it’s not likely that it will be his last. The young and hungry contender is only 25-years-old, and there’s no doubt he’s still improving in all aspects of MMA. Entering the title bout with a staph infection was detrimental to his performance the longer the fight went on. With an impressive first round Kevin Lee looked promising with good striking and hard ground and pound, but evidently slowed going into the second and third round before he was submitted.
Kevin Lee said himself that he underestimated Tony Ferguson’s ground game and that the damaging elbows from the bottom by Ferguson took their toll on him. But what was most impressive from Lee was his humbleness and respect after the fight, even though the pair displayed legitimate animosity towards one another leading up to the fight.
Even after a loss, there's no doubt Lee gained new fans who want to see him fight again. First Lee will have to recover from his staph infection, most likely using antibiotics which will be draining. Then with time off and time to find an opponent, we may not see Kevin Lee back inside the octagon this year. But that's not a bad thing, it's in the best interest for Lee to take the appropriate time off so he can come back better than ever, not just so he has a better chance at winning his next fight but also so he puts on a better performance for us, the fans.
When Lee returns what fights are available for him? Anybody above him in the division could be a potential fight for Lee, aside from Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson. Fights with Justin Gaethje or Eddie Alvarez could see Lee enter the top five with a win, but there's one that could most likely be the next step for Lee, Edson Barboza. Both men have already spoken about being willing to fight one another, Lee mentioning that Barboza was "already down the hill", with Barboza later replying:
I want to fight someone ahead of me. But if that doesn’t happen I’d fight him (Lee), no problem.
So it appears the groundwork and the tension may already be in place for this bout, but with it unclear when Lee will return, and Barboza hoping to return to the octagon after surgery by November, their timelines may be the only thing in the way.
Who would you like to see Kevin Lee fight next? Let us know below.
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