UFC Brasilia: Lee vs. Oliveira Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Brasilia, Brazil.

Updated: March 12, 2020 • 12:00 PM ET

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Kevin Lee is looking to get one step closer to a title shot.

Update: UFC Brasilia will be held without any fans in the arena due to COVID-19

A lightweight fight between No. 8 Kevin Lee and No. 12 Charles Oliveira will headline UFC Brasilia this Saturday in Brazil.

Producing one of the best knockouts of 2019, Lee is coming off a brutal head-kick knockout victory over Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244 in November. The win was much-needed after Lee had lost three of his previous four fights, including a failed attempt at welterweight. The losses were nothing to scoff at, as they came to top-level guys Rafael Dos Anjos, Al Iaquinta and Tony Ferguson.

Lee (18-5, 11-5 UFC), who challenged Ferguson for the interim lightweight title in 2017, is trying to make his way back into the title picture. A fixture in the top 10 for the last two years, he has key victories

over Edson Barboza, Michael Chiesa and Francisco Trinaldo. A win in a risky situation in Oliveira’s home country of Brazil would put Lee in a better position to fight a top 5 opponent in one of the toughest divisions in the UFC.

The Detroit native is still just 27 years old and knows that a win over Oliveira would be great for his resume. Nevertheless, Lee is already looking ahead to another possible fight with a different opponent.

Lee has experienced a not-so-friendly, back-and-forth spat on social media with surging prospect Islam Makhachev, which has caused Lee to ask for the fight.

“That was one of the stipulations behind me taking this fight against Oliveira, is I for sure get Islam,” Lee told MMA Junkie. “They (the UFC) can’t hide him from me no more. They were talking about, ‘Oh hey, he ain’t experienced enough yet to fight you, he needs a little bit more time to get ready.’ …If I do this one against Charles, I for sure – one of my bonuses for this is to get Islam.”

Lee, however, cannot look past Oliveira, a fighter who is on a six-fight winning streak and will have the added benefit of fighting at home (although no fans will be in attendance due to the Coronavirus). Lee has fought in Brazil before, claiming a submission victory over Trinaldo in 2017. He’ll need to bring that same energy to Saturday’s fight.

“I do like to play spoiler,” Lee said. “I’m going to make sure I shut up all them Brazilians, and that arena gonna be real, real quiet at the end of the night, and sometimes that’s what I like to do. I like to steal a little bit of thunder.

“I feel like I shut down Madison Square Garden in my last fight. This one, I’m going to shut down this arena, too.”

Oliveira (28-8, 16-8-1 in UFC) most recently defeated Jared Gordon by first-round knockout in November. Having made his UFC debut in 2010, it’s hard to believe he’s just 30 years old. In his pro career, Oliveira has accumulated key victories over Nik Lentz (twice), David Teymur, Jim Miller, Clay Guida, Myles Jury, Jeremy Stephens and Darren Elkins.

While Oliveira has experienced tough losses, they have come against some of the UFC’s best, including Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas and Paul Felder. There aren’t many fighters in the UFC that can say they’ve gained experience against a list of fighters such as that, which includes three former champions and two title challengers.

The Brazilian is the UFC’s all-time submission win record holder with 13, and he has won Performance of the Night bonuses nine times. Oliveira feels many fighters in the division do not want to fight him, but he wasn’t surprised that Lee was up to the task.

“Nobody wants to fight me, especially knowing how good I’m looking now,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “When Kevin Lee’s name was brought up, I told everyone I thought this fight would happen. This is a good fight for me.”

Oliveira understands the importance of making a statement against Lee in Brazil.

“It surprised me because nobody wants to fight in Brazil,” Oliveira said. “They know what it’s like, but he’s a tough fighter and knows this is a big opportunity in the UFC. He knows I’m on a six-fight winning streak, and he would move up in the rankings with a win.

“But I’m on a roll now. I asked for a main event, and my time has finally come. I want to become champion, and I’ll definitely beat Kevin Lee.”


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a welterweight fight between Brazilian legend Demian Maia and fellow Brazilian Gilbert Burns.

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The No. 5 ranked Maia will ride three straight wins into Saturday after losing three straight to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, title challenger Colby Covington and former champion Tyron Woodley. The 42-year-old’s most recent victory came in October by third-round submission over Ben Askren.

Maia (28-9, 22-9 in UFC) made his UFC debut in 2007 and has fought some the best fighters in the world, a long list that includes Chael Sonnen, Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story, Jon Fitch, Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson, Matt Brown, Carlos Condit and Jorge Masvidal. He’s considered one of the best submission fighters in UFC history, but will have a game opponent in Burns, who has the experience needed to defend Maia’s submission attempts.

The No. 12 ranked Burns (17-3, 10-3 in UFC) is on a four-fight winning streak, most recently defeating Gunnar Nelson by unanimous decision in September. He could be one of the best challengers to Maia’s submission game, as he’s a three-time world Jiu Jitsu champion. The 33-year-old has eight wins by submission in his MMA career with two of those winning Performance of the Night honors.


The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - No. 7 Renato Moicano vs. Damir Hadzovic

Light heavyweight bout - No. 10 Johnny Walker vs. No. 12 Nikita Krylov

Lightweight bout - Francisco Trinaldo vs. John Makdessi


ESPN+ Prelims at 3 p.m. EST

Flyweight bout - No. 3 Jussier Formiga vs. No. 5 Brandon Moreno

Women’s strawweight bout - Amanda Ribas vs. Randa Markos

Welterweight bout - Elizeu dos Santos vs. Aleksei Kunchenko

Bantamweight bout - Rani Yahya vs. Enrique Barzola

Women’s flyweight bout - Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Maryna Moroz

Flyweight bout - Bruno Silva vs. David Dvorak

Women’s bantamweight bout - Veronica Macedo vs. Bea Malecki