Lee, the hometown favorite, was making his Octagon debut after wowing the crowd at the TUF 14 tryouts, notching the record for most submissions throughout the reality show talent search. He started strong with some stiff knees from the front headlock position and soon had Cariaso on his back while pelting elbows.
Cariaso escaped and they tangled in the clinch before Lee nailed another takedown. Cariaso defended that and yet another body-lock takedown well, getting back to his feet and returning fire in the clinch, but the momentum clearly belonged to Vaughan Lee in the first.
"Kamikaze" came out strong in the second, clipping Lee with a sharp combination. Lee responded with a spinning back kick and once again grounded the fight with strong clinch tactics. Back upright, Cariaso thwarted Lee with short elbows to set up a takedown of his own, immediately looking to pass guard and quickly scrambling to mount.
Lee stayed composed and retained his guard, but the sequence repeated with Cariaso methodically slicing through to the mount position again. Lee was able to shrimp out but Cariaso evened things out by closing the second with a flurry of ground and pound.
In the decisive final round, the duo battled in the over-under clinch position, both rifling short strikes. After a referee restart, Lee dropped levels for a single that Cariaso repelled with underhooks. Next it was a Cariaso single leg that had him working strikes from within Lee's guard and quickly transitioning to mount for the third time in the fight. This time, Lee tried to spin out and found himself in danger of the mata leao, opting to defend by settling for being mounted.
A succession of heavy elbows was delivered by Cariaso, again prompting Lee to give up his back and close the round eating strikes and fighting off the rear-naked choke.
The final scores were 29-28 twice for Cariaso and one of the same for Lee. Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso defeats Vaughan Lee by split decision, moving to 12-3 overall with a 2-1 Octagon clip.