Looking Ahead — UFC Oklahoma City: Chiesa vs. Lee Main Card Preview

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B.J. Penn UFC Oklahoma City (UFC Fight Night 112)
B.J. Penn Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

The UFC rounds out a busy weekend in MMA in Oklahoma City, bringing a Fight Night card to the state capital with a pair of lightweights headlining.

UFC Fight Night 112: Chiesa vs. Lee, more commonly known as UFC Oklahoma City, goes down Sunday night, with lightweights Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee facing off in the main event. The Oklahoma City, OK card might be a little light in the star power department, but it does have notable names in former champion Johnny Hendricks taking on Tim Boetsch, and UFC legend B.J. Penn desperately looking for one more win against Dennis Siver.

With little to no more relevance than the Bellator NYC the night before, it’s a wonder the UFC didn’t avoid this particular weekend all together, but at the very least, there should be a few fun fights on the card, which kicks off at 5:30PM EST on Fight Pass with a trio of early prelim bouts.

It might not be a shootout at the OK Corral, but hopefully, those involved bring their A game — and the action.

Looking ahead, here’s a breakdown of Sunday’s main card.

6. B.J. Penn vs. Dennis Siver

Enough’s enough, already.

Watching the ghost of B.J. Penn shamble onward through the final days of his career has been anything but rewarding. It has, frankly, been hard to watch. Penn won’t admit it, because he’s that kind of fighter, but his glory days are well behind him, and he’s simply too far removed from his heyday to regain any semblance of relevance. That his camp continues to enable him is perhaps the biggest shame. Penn (16–11–2) is a Hall of Famer who should have been given one of those cushy post-retirement gigs with the UFC (sadly, those appear to have dried up). Instead, he mounts comeback after comeback, looking worse and worse each time out.

The third Frankie Edgar fight didn’t need to happen. Yair Rodriguez felt like a mercy killing. Against Dennis Siver (22–11 (1)), who hasn’t fought in two years or so, Penn has finally been given a favorable match-up, but there’s a serious question as to whether he can even pull this one off, despite the odds being in his favor.

That would never have been a question for prime B.J. Penn, and it’s exactly why, win or lose, this needs to be his last hurrah. Consider this: Penn hasn’t won a fight since 2010.

What’s worrisome is, it likely won’t be. Penn will probably stick around long enough for the UFC to finally make its way to Hawaii, with Max Holloway topping the card.

5. Tim Means vs. Alex Garcia

After a pair of bouts with Alex Oliveira (the first ending in a no contest due to illegal knees), welterweight Tim “the Dirty Bird” Means returns to face another Alex — Alex Garcia.

Means (26–8–1 (1)) has all the tools capable to put on exciting fights, and has had a solid run in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2012. A submission loss in the rematch with Oliveira may have lit a fire under him also, and this fight could get interesting given Garcia has indicated he’s willing to stand and trade with the American.

Garcia (14–3) has been trading wins and losses lately, but is coming into UFC Fight Night 112 off a KO of Mike Pyle. That marked Garcia’s first ever Performance of the Night bonus. He’ll be looking to keep the momentum going here, but whether standing and trading is really the game plan remains to be seen.

4. Joachim Christensen vs. Dominick Reyes

Christensen vs. Reyes is one of those fights that feels out of place on a main card, and seems to have been included here mainly because the promotion needs six fights to fill its allotted time. That, and light heavyweight is paper thin. That’s not to say this is a bad bout, it’s just sitting in strange position on the card, unless the UFC is banking on former NFL hopeful Reyes turning into a star.

Reyes (6-0) is set to make his UFC debut after a win over Jordan Powell at LFA 13 earlier this month. Against Christensen (14–5) he faces a fighter with considerably more experience, albeit one that is 1-2 to date in the promotion.

Realistically, the relevance of this fight boils down to the fact that the light heavyweight division is desperate for some fresh blood. A big win by Reyes in his debut could give the 205lb weight class a shot in the arm, and that’s really what we should be hoping for.

3. Felice Herrig vs. Justine Kish

Felice Herrig finally feels like she’s on a roll in the UFC, so it’s a little concerning when she claims that she doesn’t know what the promotion has in store for her. Herrig was once considered a potential star in the strawweight division, which has quickly become one of the most exciting lower weight classes among either gender. However, she struggled to stay consistent, and wound up in the middle of the pack.

At long last, however, Herrig (12–6) has put a couple of wins together, and a third consecutive victory could give her quite the boost. Especially considering she holds a recent win over “It” girl Alexa Grasso.

The difficulty? Despite a winning record, years in the sport, willingness to promote and interact with fans, Herrig lacks a standout, statement victory on her record. Feeding her to Joanna Jedrzejczyk feels like a mistake, at least until she gets that sort of statement win.

Justine Kish was expected to appear on The Ultimate Fighter 20, but a knee injury kept her from competing on the show. Ultimately, she made her way to the UFC anyway, and has been considered a fighter to watch for a while. Undefeated at 6-0, with two wins in the UFC in 2016, Kish could inch closer to a title shot with a big win over Herrig.

Either way, one of these fighters is moving to three straight wins in the company, and with Joanna Champion cleaning house, a title shot will inevitably be in the conversation for the winner.

2. Tim Boetsch vs. Johny Hendricks

A well fed Johny Hendricks is a happy Johny Hendricks, and a happy Johny Hendricks is a much better fighter in the cage. That is what we have learned from former welterweight champ Hendricks making the move at long last to 185lbs.

On Sunday he’ll face the durable Tim Boetsch in a fight that should allow us to see how Hendricks (18–6) will fare against one of the larger middleweights on the roster. If “Bigg Rigg” comes out on top, he could prove to be a player in the division.

It won’t be easy. Boetsch (20–11) has played spoiler before — just ask Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. He’ll pack some power, but Hendricks has his right hand, and superb wrestling to fall back on.

Update: Hendricks apparently missed weight for the bout. Yikes.

1. Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Lee

The UFC is essentially promoting Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee to the big time booking them into the headlining slot of UFC Oklahoma City. The hope is that one of them will make a run at lightweight, but you wouldn’t be alone if you questioned this fight as a headliner, even on a Sunday night Fox Sports 1 card.

Chiesa and Lee getting into a scuffle at the press conference might have been “promotion” for some, but really, it has done little to capture the imagination. Especially when the beef between them amounts to Lee mentioning Chiesa’s mother in passing. Thank goodness he didn’t insinutate she wore army boots.

TUF 15 winner Chiesa is on a three fight win streak, and Kevin Lee has won his last four, but the pair seem years removed from Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and the rest of the top of the 155lb division.

Still, this should turn out to be an entertaining affair. Chiesa is ranked 6th at lightweight, and Lee 11th, by the UFC’s official rankings. With the logjam at the top, this is really about inching towards the top five, with Chiesa (14–2) on the precipice. Lee (15–2) could jump comfortably into the top ten with a win. Both guys are capable of finishing, and it may all come down to who keeps their cool and sticks to the game plan.

UFC Oklahoma City, a.k.a. UFC Fight Night 112: Chiesa vs. Lee, takes place June 25 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK.

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