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The Great Debate: Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee

It has been a while but the Great Debate is finally back. Keith Shillan won the title by predicting that Chris Weidman would beat Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on Fox 25. Keith is finally ready to defend his title. Today, we will be debating the main event of UFC 216. Keith will be arguing for Tony Ferguson. The challenger, Nick Portella will be arguing for Kevin Lee. Let’s see which fighter will walk home with the UFC interim lightweight title, and which writer will claim the Great Debate title. 

Why Tony Ferguson Will Win

By Keith Shillan

Before this week, this fight has got very little buzz. I don’t know why.  This fight has everything that a promoter wants in a fight. It has elite talent and big personality. Tony Ferguson has the elite talent and Kevin Lee has a big personality!

Okay, I will admit that Lee has talent, but is not on Ferguson’s level yet. Since Ferguson has won the Ultimate Fighter show, we have seen a complete transformation. Ferguson was known as a scramble wrestler that could catch a submission due to his long arms and powerful top control. Now, he is known for having some of the best footwork and technical Muay Thai skills in the entire UFC.  These ever improving skills have led to an insane 9-fight winning streak for El Cucuy.

I think Ferguson has the advantage in every aspect of the game. The standup game is Ferguson in a landslide! I would like to know who started this narrative as Kevin Lee suddenly being an accomplished striker? Who has he outstruck? Lee is a pressure fighter that likes to work inside to get in range to setup up a takedown. Who is similar to that (but does it much better)? Rafael dos Anjos, Ferguson’s last victim in the UFC! Ferguson was able to avoid dos Anjos pressure game by cutting angles and popping him with jabs and leg kicks. He also kept the former lightweight champion guessing. He used faints to set up body punches. When dos Anjos got into range, it was Ferguson that initiated the clinch game to allow him to pepper the Brazilian with knees and elbows.

Lee is a very strong wrestler. He went to Grand Valley State University, where he was a national qualifier. Do you know who else wrestled at Grand Valley State University? Yep, Tony Ferguson. However, Ferguson was not just a national qualifier, he was a national champion! Lee’s takedown ability is also drastically exaggerated He has a 41% takedown accuracy, while Ferguson has stuffed 81% of all takedowns. If Lee gets Ferguson down, he won’t be able to keep him down. Ferguson is a great “funk” wrestler and uses it to create scrambles where he is great at catching a head with a submission. If Lee gets sloppy, Ferguson could catch him with a guillotine, anaconda, or D’Arce choke.

Ferguson has a granite chin. He was tagged many times in the Lando Vannata and Edson Barboza fight. Some would argue that this is a bad thing. I give him a pass on both. He got the matchup with Vannatta on very short notice and wasn’t prepared for the style change. Edson Barboza is simply just one of the greatest strikers in the UFC today. Ferguson kept getting thumbed by both fighters and still found a way to secure a victory. Does Lee have the same chin or heart? Let’s not forget that was knocked out less than 2 -year ago by Leonardo Santos. Santos has 1 knockout win in the UFC and only 2 knockout wins in his career.

Most importantly,  Ferguson has cardio and tempo that can’t be matched. Lee can say that he has the same cardio, but he has never fought a five round fight. Ferguson put out an insane pace against dos Anjos for 25 minutes while fighting in the high altitude of Mexico City.

I believe at 33 years old, Ferguson is in the prime of his career. At 25, I am not sure Lee has reached it. I expect a slow start from Ferguson. I expect him to stuff Lee’s takedowns while peppering Lee with the jab. As round two comes around, Ferguson will start to land more power shots and put an output on Lee that he can’t match. Finally, in the third round, I think Lee will be desperate to get the fight to the ground and will shoot a bad shot. I see Ferguson fully sprawling out on an exhausted Lee, and slowly slide his long arms around Lee’s neck. Tony Ferguson wins by 3rd round submission (D’Arce Choke)



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Why Kevin Lee Will Win

By Nick Portella

Welcome to another episode of the great debate. I will be attempting to dethrone Keith Shillan. The fight in question is is the UFC 216 main event Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson taking on “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight championship of the world. The odds and the majority are in favor of Ferguson winning this fight but I have a different thought.  Let’s take a look at why the “Motown Phenom” will leave with a UFC interim strap.

Tony Ferguson is and has been on a  hot streak. A 9- fight winning streak kind of hot streak. Kevin Lee is also on a run of his own and on a 5-fight win streak. Lee jumped onto the scene and has been working to get to this point. This will also be Lee’s third fight in 2017 while Ferguson has not fought since November of 2016. On a side note that long of a break was not due to him but his opponents. There is no doubt that Ferguson has been training and he was prepared for a fight that got dropped last minute, but nothing compares to the real thing. Lee will be sharper and more refined.

Let’s look at some basic stats to see how these guys measure up.  Ferguson is 33 years old with a record of 22-3. He is 71 in. tall with an arm reach of 76 in. and a leg reach of 40 in. Lee has a record of 16-2. He is 25 years old 69 in. tall with a 77 in. arm reach and a 39 in. leg reach. Lee is younger, has a longer arm reach, and has a slightly better win percentage.

Now comes the strategic part.  Ferguson has some great strong points.  He has good cardio and is able to go 5 rounds. Along with his knockout power and unorthodox attacks he also has a good ground game coming out of Eddie Bravo’s 10th. Planet Jiu Jitsu. All the attributes you may want to pick a winner.  I feel that Lee is the perfect kryptonite.  Lee has equally good if not better cardio because of his age and lack of wear and tear on his body. Lee has gone the distance 4 times while Ferguson has done it 5 times. He looked fresh after those fights as if he could go another 3 rounds. My opinion is that Lee is more strategic in his game plan also. He has a tough chin only being defeated on the feet once. It should be sufficient to neutralize Ferguson’s KO power.

While both also have an extensive grappling background I think the addition of Lee’s high-level wrestling added to his jiu-jitsu will play a part. While on paper, they should be equal in wrestling, Lee has displayed a better use of wrestling in MMA. He will use his takedowns to keep Ferguson working throughout the fight. With his previous history, I believe he can without a doubt stand and strike with Ferguson and also has a dominant ground game.

Ferguson has won 30% of his fights via submission.  Lee has won 50% of his fights via submission. 33% of Ferguson’s losses were due to submission.  Lee has yet to be submitted and was knocked out one time. I have no doubt that this will be an all-out war. Lee has been calling out everyone in the division and Ferguson’s ears have heard. While this strategy may be frowned upon by some it has put him in a position to rise to the top. There is also a good amount of bad blood between the two since Lee’s win over Michael Chiesa. Lee is a young superstar looking to get to the top. Ferguson is without question one of the best mixed martial artists in the game, but at 33 could be nearing the back part of his amazing career. With all the factors in play, I have to give the win to the younger and improving fighter. Knocking off the best in the division will solidify everything that Lee has been saying and all of the trash talking. I also believe that it is just Lee’s time. Everything has played out just right for him to be where he is. I have much respect for Ferguson but this will be an upset victory for the young buck.  My prediction is Kevin Lee wins in round 3 via submission.

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