“The Motown Phenom” is headed up a weight class.
Kevin Lee is set to make his welterweight debut against Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 9, which takes place May 18th in Rochester, New York. Promotion officials confirmed the news to the Democrat and Chronicle on Wednesday.
Dos Anjos, a former UFC lightweight champion, has lost two straight at 170 pounds. Most recently, the Brazilian fell to current welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, who dethroned Tyron Woodley earlier this month. Prior to that, dos Anjos fought Colby Covington for the interim title, but lost a decision.
After a title reign at 155 pounds that lasted a little over a year, dos Anjos made the move to welterweight, where he went 3-0 in his first three bouts. His biggest win in the division is a December 2017 decision over former champ Robbie Lawler.
Lee is coming off a decision loss to Al Iaquinta last December in the main event of UFC on FOX 31, the final show on big FOX. Before that, he dominated Edson Barboza last April, recording a doctor’s stoppage TKO win in the fourth round. Lee competed for the interim lightweight title in October 2017, but was submitted by Tony Ferguson.
Lee has talked about moving up in weight for a while. He has been a major advocate for the addition of a potential 165-pound division to the promotion, but UFC president Dana White has shut the idea of that down plenty of times. He said after the Iaquinta loss that he would consider moving up to welterweight should the UFC not add the 165-pound weight class anytime soon.
Lee missed weight for the Barboza fight, and struggled ahead of the Ferguson interim title fight. He made weight in his last outing, but has consistently had a difficult cut to 155 pounds — and as the 26-year-old ages, it just gets worse.
UFC Rochester takes place at Blue Cross Arena.