If Kevin Lee can get a handle on his weight-cut issues, he just might make a run at the UFC lightweight title.
Lee missed weight by a pound for his UFC Atlantic City main event against Edson Barboza on Saturday night. That came after he needed a second weigh-in attempt following a brutal cut before his UFC 216 loss to Tony Ferguson.
But there’s no denying what Lee did in the Octagon at Boardwalk Hall. Lee dominated Barboza with his wrestling and top game, and showed poised in surviving a shaky moment in the third round, before the doctor waved the bout off due to a nasty Barboza cut in the fifth round. The time of the finish was 2:18.
“Mental strength was going to be the thing to beat him,” Lee said. “I wanted to show I could go five rounds. I could go five more rounds. I’m the toughest fighter in the division and I can stand with the toughest striker in the division.”
Lee set the tone in the first round by taking Barboza to the mat and dishing out a beating from the top, landing a ruthless array of punches and elbows. The second was a repeat performance. Only Barboza’s incredible toughness got him through, as Lee’s game would have mentally broken many a fighter.
Then, it happened. Barboza landed a wicked spinning back kick to the head which left Lee looking like he was ice skating for the first time in his life. But before Barboza could finish the job, Lee managed to score a takedown and clear the cobwebs.
“I can push though the adversity,” Lee said. “That wheel kick hurt.”
In the fourth and fifth, Barboza did his best to land a walkoff finish early in the round, but both times, Lee took control, scoring the takedown in the fourth and finishing Barboza with his strikes in the fifth. A timeout was called due to Barboza’s eye swelling shut and the doctor called things off.
Lee improved to 17-3 with his nine career stoppage win. He’s won six of his past seven fights. Barboza dropped to 19-6 with his second straight loss.