Just like that show on MTV from the mid-2000s that I’m sure no one actually watched, the main event of the latest edition of UFC Fight Night has a whole new angle to it because someone allegedly insulted someone else’s mother.
Both Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee were a part of the awful press conference the UFC put on roughly a month or so ago to promote its summer slate of fights. Noticeably absent from the presser were Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre. Their own legendary press conference a few months prior saw Bisping act extremely intoxicated while he and GSP promoted their planned bout that was ultimately scrapped after St-Pierre said he would not be ready to fight until later this year because of an injury he sustained while training.
Regardless, the other fighters who showed up to that press conference recently were all doing their best Conor McGregor impression and hurling insults at one another in an effort to generate interest in their fights. Lee apparently made a comment directed at Chiesa’s mother, and the two engaged in fisticuffs and had to be separated. Before, this was just another nondescript Fight Night main event between two lightweights looking to take the next steps in their respective careers. Now, there’s a whole new buzz surrounding this fight, thanks to a joke right out of the schoolyard that would make Wilmer Valderrama proud.
But there’s more to the UFC Fight Night 112 card than just grade-school insults. Johny Hendricks looks to keep the momentum going in his new weight class when he faces Tim Boetsch in the co-headliner, and Felice Herrig continues her apparent career renaissance by going up against the undefeated Justine Kish in an intriguing strawweight bout. Oh, and B.J. Penn continues his ongoing quest to remain relevant when he faces Dennis Siver.
This latest edition of UFC Fight Night takes place in Oklahoma City on Sunday, June 25. The UFC Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the Fox Sports 2 prelim card starting at 7 p.m. ET and the main card starting on Fox Sports 1 at 9 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Chris Huntemann and Kevin Wilson are here to get you ready for the action.
Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee have quietly built pretty strong resumes under the UFC banner. Which fighter adds another win at this event, and will either Chiesa or Lee eventually build up enough wins to get a title shot?
Wilson: Chiesa and Lee are, without a doubt, the two most underrated fighters at lightweight. Since winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2012, Chiesa has slowly built a very impressive resume, going 7-2 inside the Octagon while only losing to Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal. Lee, meanwhile, joined the UFC in 2014 and has amassed an 8-2 record against some of the division’s best young talent.
Although Lee joined the UFC two years later and boasts a better record, he has not fought near the level of competition Chiesa has seen. Lee has had a relatively easy start to his career and has never beaten anyone in the top 30. Chiesa, on the other hand, has been thrown to the wolves for his entire UFC career. He has fought and finished some of the best in the division, including Beneil Dariush, Jim Miller and Al Iaquinta.
In the striking department, neither man is anything to write home about. Both fighters mainly use their striking to set up takedowns. Interestingly enough, Lee has the only knockout win between the two. Despite the fact that Lee is always bringing up his boxing background, his hands have looked sloppy in the past and he has the terrible tendency to run forward with his chin wide open while throwing telegraphed punches.
Chiesa is not much more impressive. He shares a lot of the same tendencies with Lee, too — the constant overextending of strikes and leaving the chin out when going for takedowns. With neither having the power to be a knockout threat and both having grappling-heavy game plans in the past, this one won’t stay on the feet for long.
Both of these men shine on the mat, but in very different ways. Lee is more of a power grappler, always looking to slam his opponent and drop relentless ground-and-pound from top control. Chiesa is more patient and willing to play guard with his opponents. From top position, Chiesa will look to slowly pass guard while throwing light strikes to open his opponent up for passes and submission attempts. He is content with sitting in half guard, striking just enough to not get stood up and waiting for his opponent to make a mistake before looking for his favorite submission, the rear-naked choke.
This fight is very interesting, considering both men have very similar styles. They are decent strikers with dominant ground games from the top and average defensive grappling from the bottom. This one will probably go down to who can end up on top in those grappling exchanges.
Lee is five years younger, but give him a few more years to hone his craft and get more experience against elite fighters, and he could be a serious contender. As of now, though, Chiesa is too experienced and too well rounded to lose to someone like Lee.
If Chiesa can get by Lee like I expect him to, I would like to see him fight either Eddie Alvarez or Edson Barboza to move him one step closer to a title shot. However, with the 155-pound roster being so stacked these days and Chiesa having no distinct advantage over anyone in the top 10, I don’t see him getting a title shot anytime soon.
Huntemann: It’s true that both Lee and Chiesa have cultivated impressive resumes in advance of this fight. Unfortunately, the only thing people know about this fight is the aforementioned jokes about mothers, and perhaps the ridiculous outfit Lee wore at the press conference to promote this fight. But since I’ve already made my feelings on that whole topic clear, let’s focus on the actual fight at hand.
This bout is a tremendous opportunity for both fighters. They have steadily climbed the ranks while overcoming some of the toughest fighters along the way, including the aforementioned Miller and Dariush, as well as Francisco Trinaldo and Efrain Escudero. The winner of this fight can make his case in a still-crowded UFC lightweight division, and maybe have a stronger case among a logjam of title contenders while we figure out what exactly happens after Conor McGregor seals his early retirement by boxing Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
So who actually wins this fight? I’m going with Lee. His last three wins have all come by finish, including a submission of the hard-to-submit Trinaldo. Chiesa’s last two wins have also come via submission against a pair of tough hombres in Dariush and Miller. On paper, Chiesa and Lee are about as evenly matched as it gets. So why am I going with Lee? Well, he just comes across as a guy destined to be on top sooner or later.
Poor fashion choices aside, Lee is explosive, athletic, quick, dangerous and lightning fast with his striking. Chiesa will probably make Lee work for it like few of Lee’s previous opponents have, but I don’t see “Maverick” derailing Lee’s “Iceman,” if you will, to use a poorly-executed Top Gun analogy.
Since his forced move up to middleweight, Johny Hendricks has secured a victory over Hector Lombard. Now, he faces the inconsistent Tim Boetsch. Can Hendricks get past Boetsch? If so, what should be next for the former UFC welterweight champion?
Huntemann: Hendricks definitely looked like a fighter reborn against Lombard, after appearing like he had just run out of fucks to give while fighting at welterweight and looking like a guy who wasn’t even sure he wanted to fight anymore. Hendricks appears to have found a new home at middleweight. Perhaps it was just as easy as not having to cut as much weight anymore. Hendricks retains his power that can still be devastating and can focus on what got him to the welterweight title in the first place: beating dudes up.
Does he defeat Boetsch? Yes. The question itself probably sums up Boetsch the best: he’s inconsistent. Boetsch was finished in three straight fights, albeit against tough competition, before notching back-to-back knockout wins and looking like a guy on the comeback trail. Then, the least surprising thing ever happened, as he was submitted by probably the best grappler around in Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC 208. It’s hard to hold that loss too much against Boetsch, though, since the fight was a serious mismatch that favored Souza greatly.
Boetsch matches up well against guys who are similar in style to him, as do most fighters. Both Boetsch and Hendricks like to stand and trade, so Boetsch catching Hendricks with a shot and finishing him is definitely a possibility. However, middleweight looks like the weight class where Hendricks should have been fighting all along. Hendricks will defeat Boetsch and start to make his claim in a crowded middleweight division.
Wilson: Hendricks has had a steep decline since losing his welterweight title to Robbie Lawler in December 2014. After a three-fight skid at welterweight, he finally decided he would rather eat cheeseburgers and fight at 185 pounds rather than eat like an athlete and fight at 170. After his win over Lombard, everybody jumped back on the Hendricks bandwagon and said middleweight is where he should be, but this weekend is going to show everybody why he made a huge mistake.
Hendricks was one of the most dominant wrestlers at welterweight, and his boxing allowed him to be comfortable wherever the fight took place. A former NCAA Division I national champion and four-time All-American, Hendricks might be the most accomplished wrestler in the UFC. But when he does take his opponent down, he has the tendency to lay and pray en route to a boring decision victory. His boxing is not the most diverse, either. He mainly uses his lead hand to trap and parry his opponent’s lead to set up his brick of a left hand. His power has always been something to marvel over, but, coincidentally, it has seemed to vanish since the USADA testing came in.
With a record of 11-10 inside the UFC, Boetsch is as average a fighter as any. With 11 years as a pro, he is very well rounded and can finish the fight wherever it goes. He is also a former Division I wrestler, but he quit early in his career to focus on MMA. What is not average about Boetsch is his size for the division. He fought at 205 pounds for most of his career before switching between middleweight and light heavyweight for the last few years. Standing three inches taller and sporting a five-inch reach advantage, Boetsch should be the much bigger man on Sunday.
Hendricks always had a hard time making 170. Now, he makes a small cut to 185, where he looked flabby and out of shape in his only fight so far. With Boetsch’s wrestling experience and size, I don’t see Hendricks being able to get him to the mat where he usually has the advantage. Hendricks will most likely have to stand and box for three rounds in a contest where Boetsch will have the length advantage. If Boetsch can fight smart and stay away from Hendricks’ left hand, he’ll emerge with the upset.
Jared Gordon, Michael Quinones and Dominick Reyes — do we need to know these names?
Wilson: In short, no, no and maybe.
From the little footage I could find, Gordon is an aggressive wrestler who is willing to take a shot to get in range for a takedown. Once on the ground, he is dominant on top, but too often will lay and pray to take home boring decision victories. His striking — wild hooks while running at his opponent to go for a takedown — looked awful. This might work at the lower levels of the sport, but all it takes is a decent counter striker to time Gordon’s forward pressure and leave him looking up at the ceiling. At the age of 28, I don’t see him cleaning up his boxing, and grappling alone will rarely allow a fighter to crack the top 20.
Quinones is a fantastic striker when he wants to be, but has the bad habit of being too tentative. An odd mix of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Yair Rodriguez on the feet, Quinones could make a splash at 145 pounds if he steps up his takedown defense. But at the age of 32, Quinones, who only has nine fights and lacks grappling ability, will have a tough time beating anyone in the top 15.
Reyes took this fight on three weeks’ notice. He just fought on the second of this month. He only has six fights, but he has won five by first-round knockout and one by decision. His technique looks very good, but he, like a lot of young fighters, has the habit of coming forward too aggressively while leaving himself open to counters. With a total fight time of under 30 minutes, there is too much unknown about Reyes to really say if he has what it takes to be a contender. With what we have seen, his kickboxing is good and he has the power to knock anyone out, but his defense is horrid. If he can learn to use his length and stay defensively responsible, I could see him upsetting his way into the top 15.
Huntemann: Gordon is someone fight fans need to start paying attention to, at least a little. I’m a little familiar with his background, and his story is one of inspiration and redemption. He began his pro career on a four-year unbeaten streak and had future stardom written all over him. Gordon has since battled and emerged from a debilitating addiction to drugs. He is in the process of turning his life around. Making his UFC debut can do wonders for Gordon as he gets his career and life back on track. He’s someone with whom you, me and everyone else should begin to acquaint ourselves.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Huntemann: My colleague is new here, so let me give him a piece of advice: Don’t mention the fight between B.J. Penn and Dennis Siver here. Just don’t. Save yourself the heartache from discussing another fighter who’s sticking around way longer than he should.
Moving on, I’m intrigued by the prelim strawweight bout between Carla Esparza and Maryna Moroz. This fight is Esparza’s last chance to work her way back to title contention. She looked to be back on the right track after taking an extended hiatus following her title loss to Joanna Jędrzejczyk in 2015. Esparza did indeed look impressive in beating Juliana Lima. Then, she took another long layoff and came back to lose a close fight to journeywoman fighter and old The Ultimate Fighter rival Randa Markos. Despite Jędrzejczyk’s dominance as UFC strawweight champion, the division is still deep and talented. Esparza has gone from the division’s inaugural champ to basically an afterthought.
Moroz has only lost once in her career and could use a name like Esparza on her resume. With five submission victories out of her eight overall wins, Moroz makes this another striker vs. grappler match-up. Esparza has to use her boxing to keep Moroz at bay and prevent being tied up.
Wilson: Multiple fights on this card are screaming for potential performance bonuses, but if I had to pick one I’m most excited for, it would be the welterweight fight between Tim Means and Alex Garcia.
Means, who stands 6-foot-2 with a 75-inch reach, is huge for welterweight, but oddly he doesn’t use his reach to his advantage and often gets stuck trading in the pocket. His clinch work is some of the best in the division. He mixes up knees and punches to the head and body from his favorite Thai plum position. Since he is so tall and long, he has a huge advantage in the clinch against smaller opponents like Garcia. However, he has a bad habit of constantly moving forward too aggressively and getting caught in a firefight.
Garcia is the last person you want to face in the pocket. Despite only two knockout wins in the UFC, Garcia has the speed and power to quickly end anyone’s night — just ask Mike Pyle. Garcia’s striking is a bit elementary. He only throws wild overhand rights and the occasional body kick, but his aggression and willingness to get hit usually makes for a fantastic fight.
Garcia has relied on his wrestling game and lay-and-pray in the past. Means has fantastic takedown defense and sprawling ability, though, so this one won’t be on the ground for too long. Means is an aggressive Muay Thai specialist who is always looking for the knockout, and Garcia is a wild striker who is not afraid to eat a punch to give a punch. Everything is pointing towards “Fight of the Night” contention. Means will take it by second-round knockout after a wild first round.
Pair this card with…
Wilson: Since I will be attending this event live, I plan on pairing this card with copious amounts of beer and ridiculously priced stadium food — along with the inevitable argument with a fellow drunken fan about Mayweather vs. McGregor. Considering this card is on a Sunday, fans watching at home should invite some friends over, fire up the grill and have a good ol’ fashioned BBQ and enjoy this stellar night of fights with friends and family.
Huntemann: Welp, I’ll be at the beach during this fight card (Spoiler alert to my Combat Press editors: I’m taking the next two weeks off!), so why don’t I share a little bit of that with you, dear readers? You should match this card with some snacks that define the beachgoing experience: Caramel kettle corn and saltwater taffy. It’s that time of year, folks. Summer is here. So wrangle up some treats that remind you of having the ocean breeze blowing through your hair and the sand between your toes while you enjoy a rare Sunday night slate of fights.
Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET)
LW: Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Lee
MW: Johny Hendricks vs. Tim Boetsch
Women’s StrawW: Felice Herrig vs. Justine Kish
LHW: Joachim Christensen vs. Dominick Reyes
WW: Tim Means vs. Alex Garcia
FW: B.J. Penn vs. Dennis Siver
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 2, 7 p.m. ET)
LW: Clay Guida vs. Erik Koch
Women’s StrawW: Carla Esparza vs. Maryna Moroz
LW: Devin Powell vs. Darrell Horcher
MW: Vitor Miranda vs. Marvin Vettori
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 5:30 p.m. ET)
FW: Jared Gordon vs. Michel Quinones
LHW: Josh Stansbury vs. Jeremy Kimball
LW: Johnny Case vs. Tony Martin
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