Dustin Poirier put on a thriller against Justin Gaethje this past weekend at UFC on FOX 29, finishing ‘The Highlight’ in the fourth round to top off a Fight of the Night performance at Glendale’s Gila River Arena.
But was it a championship-level performance? According to Kevin Lee, no.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, per MMA Fighting’s Alexander K. lee, ‘The Motown Phenom’ said he enjoyed Poirier’s technical back and forth brawl with Gaethje but questions whether ‘The Diamond’ is championship caliber.
“I seen it,” Lee said of the Poirer-Gaethje matchup this past Saturday. “I know Poirier was calling for a title fight and all this but I don’t know, it just seems like those dudes are in a different category. Can you really look at it and say Poirier’s a championship-level fighter? I just don’t see it. He looked good. He did good versus Gaethje, it was an exciting fight, I think he should go out and look for more exciting fights, but it didn’t really seem like a championship-level fight to me to be honest.”
Poirier, who is expected to crack the top-four with his win over Gaethje, called for a title fight with newly-crowned champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in his post-fight interview on Saturday night. But Lee, 25, thinks Poirier suffers a similar fate as Khabib’s past opponents, all of whom failed to stop the Dagestani’s relentless takedowns and pressure grappling.
“Speaking as a fan, what are you really looking for?” Lee said. “He’s just going to go out there and get taken down by Khabib, he’s going to fight just like anybody else will fight Khabib or fight some of these top guys. I just don’t see too much from his style except exciting fights. I think him and Eddie (Alvarez), him and Gaethje again, something like that.
“He makes exciting fights, he should go out there and keep doing that, but leave the real fighting and the real championship-level s**t to the other guys.”
Lee, a surging lightweight contender, believes a win over Edson Barboza this weekend will catapult him into title contention. And from there, the Las Vegas-based talent believes he is destined to rule the throne for many years to come.
“I think that’s what’s gonna happen,” Lee said, when asked if he thought he’d be next for Nurmagomedov with against Barboza. “Even all that fiasco, everything shaking up last week with Khabib and Tony and all this, I apologized, I reached out to them and apologized to the UFC for letting that happen. If I would have shown up healthy against Tony Ferguson, that week in Brooklyn (at UFC 216) would have been completely different looking.
“So I apologize, but I’m a right my wrongs after this fight and then once I get that 12 pounds on me, I’ll right all this. I’ll clear up this whole division. It’s muddy right now and I feel like it’s my fault and I’m taking personal responsibility for it. Give me about a year’s time and it will all be etched out and they’ll know who the true king around here is.”
UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee takes place this Saturday, April 21 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.