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UFC 216 fight card primer: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

UFC 216’s main event will crown a new interim Lightweight champion when Tony Ferguson takes on Kevin Lee. Get the details here.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC 216 takes place this weekend, as it headlined by an interim Lightweight title fight, as Tony Ferguson (22-3 MMA; 12-1 UFC) faces Kevin Lee (16-2 MMA; 9-2 UFC). The UFC rankings have Ferguson as the division’s #2 contender; Lee at #7. UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee airs live from Las Vegas this Saturday night, October 7. The main card airs on PPV with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on FX and 6:15 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

There are really two selling points for this fight. First is the interim title. Since Conor McGregor’s title win over Eddie Alvarez in November 2016, the UFC Lightweight title has been on lockdown. Now, with no clear timeline when (if?) McGregor will return and defend the belt, the UFC looks to crown a new champion. Adding extra intrigue is the genuinely bad blood between these two, which has been brewing for awhile.

How do these two stack up?

Ferguson: 33 years old | 5’11" | 76.5" reach
Lee: 25 years old | 5’9" | 77" reach

What have these two done recently?

Ferguson: W - Rafael dos Anjos (UD) | W - Lando Vannata (Sub) | W - Edson Barboza (Sub)
Lee: W - Michael Chiesa (Sub) | W - Francisco Trinaldo (Sub) | W - Magomed Mustafaev (Sub)

How did these two get here?

Tony Ferguson came to the UFC by winning season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, but he’s come so far from such a relatively inauspicious beginning. It’s been over 5 years and 9 fights since El Cucuy last tasted defeat. In that time, he’s just looked better and better, beating increasingly tough competition in increasingly impressive fashion. Ferguson has established himself as an action fighter, but one who brings a high level of skill as well. You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find a Ferguson fight that did not win either Fight of the Night or Performance of the Night (or both). This is his first fight in nearly a year, as he had yet another planned fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov fall through earlier this year.

The Motown Phenom Kevin Lee definitely feels like the young hotshot here. Lee is just a 5 year pro, who came to the UFC in 2014 (two years into his pro career). He’s currently riding a 5 fight win streak, and coming in off his best win - a submission over Michael Chiesa where Chiesa has been very vocal about his criticism of the stoppage. Lee is a dynamic fighter with a strong wrestling pedigree. He’s also big for the division, and came very close to missing weight for this fight yesterday, ultimately needing a second try and an extra hour to hit the 155 pound limit.

Why should you care?

As a main event, I’m not sure it’s the BIGGEST fight out there, but it should be a very entertaining battle. And maybe now we can start to move past the McGregor freeze in division #2.