UFC Fight Night is headlined by Edson Barboza vs Giga Chikadze, but the Kevin Lee vs Daniel Rodriquez fight should turn heads.
Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee hasn’t fought since 2019, but he’s confident of making a triumphant return to the welterweight division.
The former lightweight contender is eyeing tough opponents in this division, but first, he must get past Daniel Rodriguez, who took the fight on short notice.
The online sportsbook has Lee favored at -150 in what should be a gripping contest.
Lee Wants a Good Show
Lee hasn’t been one to dodge controversy throughout his career, but he’s focused on providing UFC fans with an exciting fight on Saturday.
He was supposed to fight Sean Brady, but after Brady pulled out due to surgery, Rodriguez stepped up to the plate. At first, Lee wasn’t all that enticed by the fight, but it has been hyped up, which has him ready to go.
“The fact that he’s going to show up and really put on a good fight is all I care about. I didn’t really care about the name. You know, really I’m the name and was gonna add that to Sean Brady if we ended up fighting, and I’ll give that to Daniel Rodriguez now,” Lee told SportsKeeda.
“I just cared that he was going to be able to show up and after they announced the fight, I got so many calls from people that I really know in my personal life. Throughout the streets… They like, oh you fighting D-Rod, that’s a good fight. So that got me a little more hyped.”
Kevin Lee GOAT (@ZoranMl48208821) August 23, 2021
UFC betting markets have Lee as the -150 favorite, which is fair given his pedigree. Lee owns wins over Edson Barboza, Michael Chiesa, and Jake Matthews, but he has suffered untimely losses to Tony Ferguson, Al Ianquinta and Rafael dos Anjos.
Those losses prevented Lee from realizing his dream of wearing the lightweight belt, but he is eyeing tough opponents in the welterweight division.
“It’s great to throw my name in these hats, finally, and kinda get a bunch of new names. You got Nick Diaz, you got Nate Diaz, which would really be a good one. Kamaru Usman, obviously, he’s the number one right now, pound for pound,” Lee said.
“So he gives me something to really go for. But then again, you’ve got Masvidal, you’ve got Colby Covington. It’s a lot of guys that could really make for a great fight.”
Rodriguez Can’t Be Overlooked
It’s hard to bet on someone taking the fight on short notice, especially against someone like Kevin Lee. However, Daniel Rodriguez is up for the challenge.
The 34-year-old is 15-2-0 following a knockout win over Preston Parsons. He has won four of his last fights, and with two fights already in 2021, he’s the fitter fighter.
He defeated the dangerous Mike Perry by decision in April, which followed a loss to Nicolas Dalby. Rodriguez looked good prior when scoring a KO win over Dwight Grant at UFC Fight Night: Munhoz vs Edgar.
The Californian also scored a submission win over Tim Means in February last year, which showcased his all-round skills.
UFC_AUSNZ (@UFC_AUSNZ) August 24, 2021
Rodriguez is the taller fighter at 6-foot, but he has a nearly three-inch reach disadvantage. The long arms of Lee could be a problem, as Lee is one of the best grapplers in the business.
However, he’s not worried about fighting a wrestler.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m a way better striker than him,” Rodriguez said. “He may have some challenges on the feet with the wrestling. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, man, he’s going to take you down,’ this and that – but, you know, I don’t care about that, bro. My whole career I’ve been training for dudes trying to take me down because my hands are so good, you know?”
It’s a huge opportunity for Rodriguez to show he belongs on the world stage. The +120 favorite has been specked at odds, so there is confidence and his UFC odds could shorten on fight night.
We can make a case for either fighter, but we’re going with the class factor.
Lee has fought much harder opponents throughout his career, and although he hasn’t always taken his opportunities, he should get the better of Rodriguez.
He will need to avoid the big punches, but with his grappling ability, getting D-Rod to the ground shouldn’t be too difficult.
His superior reach makes it easier and we’re prepared to take the -150 odds.