It didn’t start out this way, but the UFC’s event in Brasilia, Brazil on Saturday will be pretty much the only show going.
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has shut down major sporting events among North American-based entities, but the UFC is persisting in putting on shows, and the card has been bumped up from the ESPN+ streaming service to linear cable ESPN to help fill gaps on the programming schedule.
Detroit’s Kevin Lee (18-5) will take on Brazil’s Charles Oliveira (28-8) in the evening’s feature fight. The bout was scheduled for lightweight, but Lee missed the non-championship weight limit by 2.5 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, making the bout a 158.5-pound catchweight.
The card is also continuing in spite of a ban on mass gatherings instituted in Brazil’s capital; the UFC is proceeding with the event without fans in attendance.
Lee vs Oliveira odds
Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN (Time subject to change)
UFC said it plans to test all fighters before they compete Saturday.
“We're gonna make sure that two healthy athletes are competing and these guys are good to go,” UFC commissioner Dana White said.
Fortunately for both fight fans and those who are simply bored this weekend without their regular sports and are willing to give something new a try, this card happens to be a higher-quality-than-usual event for a cable fight night, up to and including the main event.
Lee’s weight issues are crucial, as it’s stymied a very talented competitor from getting over the hump and reaching the top.
Lee looked like death warmed over during his weight cut before a loss to Tony Ferguson in an interim title fight in 2017. His loss in that fight kicked off a 1-3 stretch in which he lost to Ferguson, missed weight in his next fight, went up to welterweight and back down to lightweight.
In Oliveira, Lee will face one of the sport’s most interesting competitors. Oliveira, for his part, attempted to fight at featherweight but missed weight several times. He finally gave up and went to lightweight, and that’s where he’s thrived. He’s won six consecutive fights, all via finish, and along the way broke one of MMA’s most hallowed records, as he surpassed the legendary Royce Gracie’s mark for most UFC submissions, a number now at 13.
This fight is likely to come down to whether Lee’s wrestling base — he was a collegiate standout at Michigan State — is enough to elude Oliveira’s slick submission game.
Even after the weight miss, Lee is a -156 favorite and Oliveira a +132 underdog on FanDuel's Lee vs Oliveira odds.
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The co-feature bout is one to watch, as well. Ageless Brazilian wonder Demian Maia (28-9), a 42-year-old who has been with the UFC since 2007, gotten title shots in two weight classes, and never flunked a drug test, meets Gilbert Burns (17-3), of South Florida by way of Brazil in a welterweight fight.
Maia, another submission whiz, is a +156 underdog and Burns is a -186 favorite, per FanDuel. With a victory, Maia, who is on a three-fight win streak, would tie Donald Cerrone’s UFC wins record at 23. Burns is on a four-fight win streak.