The pair met in the main event of a Brazil-held UFC Fight Night in March 2020. It was the final card before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the UFC to shut down for a number of weeks.
Heading into the clash, Lee was riding high off the back of a memorable knockout of Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244 four months prior. Oliveira, meanwhile, carried a six-fight win streak into the headline bout.
While he didn’t have the support of a home crowd behind him, Oliveira secured a submission victory that would have had the fans on their feet inside the Nilson Nelson Gymnasium, had it not been empty.
Despite a strong opening two rounds for Lee, the Brazilian’s ability on the ground was too much. “The Motown Phenom” tapped to a guillotine choke in the third frame.
Lee Envisions Future Revenge Against Oliveira
After that fight, Oliveira went on to dominate Tony Ferguson and win the vacant lightweight gold with a TKO victory over Michael Chandler soon after. Last month he defended the title against Dustin Poirier, whom many considered to be the best lightweight on the plant, cementing his spot on the 155-pound throne.
Meanwhile, Lee took an extended break from the sport. Upon his return in August 2021, he fell to a fourth defeat in five fights against top welterweight striker Daniel Rodriguez. That loss was followed by a six-month USADA suspensions and his release from the UFC.
While he’ll be focusing on returning to form when he debuts for Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s Eagle FC promotion this year, Lee still has one eye on the past. During an appearance on The Schmozone Podcast, “The Motown Phenom” admitted he wants to get his loss to Oliveira back.
“There’s a lot of things surrounding that fight. I want that fight back. We’ll see. We’ll make that happen in the future, at some point. I gotta prove I’m the best at ’65 first. And then, at some point, maybe we make that fight.”
Discussing what he’d have changed leading up to his defeat to “Do Bronx,” Lee suggested he should have taken more time after his KO win against Gillespie. According to the former interim title challenger, he was “talked” into returning so soon.
“(I’d have) took more time. Took more time, for sure. After I fought Gillespie, I needed some time off. I needed some time to let it sink in. Instead, I just rode the wave, and I was talked into riding the wave and going into the next fight.”
Lee went on to describe what went wrong prior to UFC Brasilia. As well as the quick turnaround, the 28-year-old cited his first winter in Canada at the Tristar gym, travel, and the fact he underestimated Oliveira as reasons behind the devastating loss.
“That moment (the Gillespie KO) was so big, that I knew I had to let it sink in. It was my first real camp with Firas (Zahabi). So I felt like we learned a lot about each other. I was just trying to get my feet underneath me in Canada and in Montreal, but then I had to go back home to kinda handle some stuff here in Vegas. Then I took that fight and it was right back into it. It was right back to Canada, in the middle of winter; it had been six or seven years since I had dealt with the winter. That’s another layer on top of it.
“It was a lot to deal with. On top of that, they flew me to Brazil on one day, and then back; all this happened within a five-week span of getting ready to fight someone like Oliveira. I think part of it was I underestimated Oliveira until mid-way through the second round. Then I was like, ‘This dude’s legit, fuck.'”
If he’s to make his way back to a clash with the reigning 155-pound UFC titleholder, Lee will have to make a splash in the rising Eagle FC promotion. Having finally been given the chance to show his talents at 165 pounds, “The Motown Phenom” must prove his claim to be the best at that weight to be true.
If he can find success in the coming months and years, starting with his likely debut against Diego Sanchez in March, perhaps we’ll see Lee get the chance for redemption against Oliveira before his career is done.
How do you think Kevin Lee would fare in a rematch against UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira?