Last Saturday, in the main event of the action-packed UFC 216, Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson stepped into the cage to battle for the interim lightweight title. Though Lee started strong, mounting and very nearly finishing Ferguson in the first-frame, his gas tank seemed to empty as the fight progressed. From there, Ferguson was able up the aggression, wear his foe down, and ultimately, lock up a choke for the win.
Three-time UFC title challenger and current Bellator light heavyweight star Chael Sonnen believes he knows why Lee’s energy diminished the way it did. His hunch, however, might surprise you. In Sonnen’s opinion, Lee’s cardio deficit can not be stacked up to a lack of preparation, or even the bout of staph he was dealing with during the fight. Instead, he believes Lee’s energy was sapped by mountainous quantities of stress. Sonnen shared this theory in a wonderfully articulated video posted to his YouTube channel.
Watch the video above, and see a transcription of his key argument below:
“Kevin Lee goes out there, he’s got so much on the line,” Sonnen said. “He’s dealing with a little staff infection – no excuse there whatsoever, but it is a reality – he’s getting zapped [by that] a little bit. He’s thinking about that. His adopted home city of Vegas, enough media went on about what happened out there. He’s got his family there, he’s in a title fight, he’s taking on one of the baddest dudes on the planet. That’s not to say Tony didn’t also have his levels of stress, but Tony had also made that walk before. This is where being a little bit older and a little bit more experienced really pays off. You’re able to deal with that stress.”
“This never gets talked about,” Sonnen continued. “Commentators never talk about it because it’s an intangible. When you’re on TV, you’re talking about things that people can see. You’re talking about their speed, their length, their size, their experience, you’re reading the tale of the tape, [talking about] who likes to jab, who likes to cross. The intangibles are too hard to explain, so nobody is going to share this with you, but Kevin Lee is under immense amounts of stress, and he didn’t have the experience that Tony had, of walking in and dealing with it, which just simply effected his conditioning. So I suggest to you he wasn’t tired because he didn’t work hard and he was out of shape, but because he was dealing with this new environment.”
What do you think of Chael Sonnen’s assessment of Kevin Lee’s performance at UFC 216?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 10/9/2017.