UFC 244: Underrated and Overlooked — Lee vs. Gillespie

This weekend we finally get to find out who the “BMF” is in the UFC, will it be Nate Diaz or Jorge Masvidal? We’ll find out Saturday night when UFC 244 goes down at Madison Square Garden in New York. A fitting venue, for what might turn out to be one of the best MMA fights ever.

If that fight doesn’t tickle your taste buds, the co-main event will see the middleweight debut of Darren Till, who is going up against perennial contender, Kelvin Gastelum, in what is sure to be another stand up war for the two. This again has the potential to be a classic. Both fighters love a stand up war and both fighters are tough as nails. Neither will want to give up an inch.

Going further down the card however, there is a criminally underrated fight kicking off the main card. So underrated, that I haven’t seen much excitement online or when talking to people about this card. Kevin Lee (17-5), a once touted megastar of the UFC, goes up against an up and coming killer in Gregor Gillespie (13-0) in a lightweight fight.

A couple of years ago, you would have seen many MMA fans telling you that Kevin Lee was on the cusp of something brilliant. His striking was improving with each fight, his wrestling was more accomplished, and he was starting to show signs of a personality that would polarise the MMA world. He then ran into Tony Ferguson, who rallied from behind to sink in a triangle and get the submission victory. Lee looked exhausted going into the third round and since that fight, his cardio has often been questioned.

Lee has lost two of his last three, including a failed test at Welterweight against Rafael Dos Anjos. Lee’s stock has fallen and the MMA community has almost written him off. But while Lee has had his troubles, he is still only 27 years old. He is really only about to hit his athletic prime and he will without a doubt be looking to display all his attributes against Gillespie. Most likely, Lee will be looking to keep this fight on the feet and try and out-strike his foe, because whilst Lee has great wrestling for MMA, Gillespie’s wrestling is outstanding.

Gregor Gillespie has been on a tear since entering the UFC. Coming in with a record of 6-0, he has now added a further seven wins to his resume, and only one has come by decision in his debut. Since then, he has finished all his fights in the first or second round and looked spectacular in his last outing against Yancy Medeiros. Gregor controlled the fight in the stand up, wrestling, and grappling to secure a ground and pound victory with one second to go in the second round.

Gillespie is a pressure fighter. He will put you on the back foot from the word go. He will look to get on the inside with his striking, get his opponent against the fence and take him down from there. Gillespie will then look to rain down strikes until his opponents either give up a submission or succumb to his strikes.

I am most interested in this match up because the fighters are so similar stylistically. Their game plans usually look exactly the same going in. Lee however, has not looked as dominant recently. That being said, Lee’s opponents have been a much higher calibre than Gillespie’s. Lee may have lost 3 out of the last 4, but they have been against Tony Ferguson, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Al Iaquinta. Gillespie’s biggest test was the aforementioned Medeiros.

While they are so similar, I believe Gillespie is just better in all aspects. His striking is more crisp and snappy, and his takedowns are almost unstoppable. Lee is no slouch, but he just seems a little behind. That being said, will Lee have made the improvements he needed? Lee lost his long time coach and friend Robert Follis in 2017 who passed away, and has not looked the same since then. He has a new home at Tristar, home of coach Firas Zahabi and UFC legend Georges St. Pierre. If any gym could improve his game, it is Tristar.

There are so many elements to this fight, it is crazy that it isn’t more talked about. Can Lee beat his demons and put an end to the impressive 13-0 streak of Gillespie? Or will Gillespie also be more improved himself and use his tough mentality to fight through any adversity that he may face?

For the record, I see Gillespie winning by ground and pound in the third round. I can’t see how Lee’s cardio will have improved as much as he needs it to in such a short amount of time. Either way, we get to see a fantastic fight, that will be filled with beautiful technique and gritty toughness. It is a perfect mixture to excite anyone and I can’t wait to see it.


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