When Kevin Lee made his UFC debut on three weeks notice against Al Iaquinta, he was a talented, but raw talent. Nearly five years later, Lee had an opportunity to avenge the loss with a full camp, higher ranking and as the favourite in the matchup.
Ultimately, while Lee had improved a lot since their first fight, so had Iaquinta and the New Yorker, who lost a short notice fight of his own against the current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov earlier this year for the vacant title, vaulted himself back into the title mix with a unanimous decision victory over Lee.
Following a five fight winning streak, Lee has now lost two of his last three and at age 26, will have to work his way back up the lightweight ladder.
Iaquinta has quietly been on a roll in recent years, with a 9-2 record since losing in The Ultimate Fighter 15 season finale against Michael Chiesa.
Attendance and Bonuses
UFC Fight Night at the Fiserv Forum drew 9,010 attendees for a gate of $616,633.91 (USD).
The Fight of the Night bonus was awarded to Joaquim Silva and Jared Gordon for their back and forth battle that resulted in a third round knockout victory for Silva.
Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Iaquinta and Charles Oliveira, who secured a submission win over Jim Miller without landing a single strike.
All four athletes earn an additional $50,000 (USD)
Usman posts contract for Woodley fight
After a win over Rafael dos Anjos in late November cemented him as a welterweight championship contender, Kamaru Usman posted a photo on Twitter of a proposed fight contract to face champion Tyron Woodley.
With Colby Covington holding the interim title earlier this year, many assumed that he would be the next title challenger, but after Usman’s win, UFC President Dana White may have thrown a wrench in those plans.
Following Usman’s win, White said that he wanted to see a matchup between Woodley and Usman in the future.
A welterweight title fight was rumoured for UFC 233 in Anaheim next month, but when the matchup did not come into fruition, the card was cancelled altogether.
No main event has been named for UFC 235 in March and there is a good chance that the welterweights headline that particular card.
UFC 233 cancelled, matchups moved
With no champions available to headline the event, the UFC has cancelled UFC 233, which was slated to take place on January 26 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The event will be rescheduled to a later date this year, but officially, there will be no UFC 233 event.
Five of the matchups booked for UFC 233 have been moved to the UFC’s first card on the linear ESPN network, which takes place on February 17 in Phoenix. Those matchups are Cortney Casey versus Cynthia Calvillo, James Vick vs. Paul Felder, Alexandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire, Kron Gracie vs. Alex Caceres and Manny Bermudez vs. Benito Lopez.
The much-anticipated debut of Ben Askren, who was scheduled to face former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler moves to UFC 235 in Las Vegas this March.
Joseph Benavidez was scheduled to face Deiveson Figueiredo, but after that fight was moved to the UFC’s first ESPN+ card in Brooklyn on January 17, Figueredo was forced to withdraw and was replaced by Dustin Ortiz, who Benavidez has previously defeated. Benavidez is expected to serve as the backup competitor in the event that anything happens that would preclude champion Henry Cejudo or TJ Dillashaw from competing in the flyweight championship main event of that card.
Markus Perez versus Anthony Hernandez and Marion Reneau versus Yana Kunitskaya were also moved to cards at a later date.
St-Pierre still uncertain about future
Former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre appeared this past week on The Luke Thomas Show on SiriusXM Fight Nation.
St-Pierre told Thomas that he is still unsure about his fighting future and only wants to compete in a matchup where he would have more to gain than lose. While that sounds simple, very few fights that fit that description, at least in St-Pierre’s mind, exist.
St-Pierre mostly has his eye on lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but UFC President Dana White has been reluctant to allow St-Pierre to jump a very long queue in the division.
At UFC 231, St-Pierre’s coach Firas Zahabi told TSN that Ben Askren could be a potential opponent if Askren was able to beat some of the top welterweights and establish more star power.
With St-Pierre turning 38 next year, a decision regarding his future in the UFC is likely to be determined in the coming months.