Eagle FC 46: Kuniev Wastes No Time Defending Heavyweight Title, Lee Guts Out Win With Compromised Leg

Kevin Lee Eagle FC 46
Kevin Lee weighs in ahead of Eagle FC 46. Photo: Courtesy of Eagle FC, download the FLXcast app and watch for free, available for Apple and Android.

With Junior dos Santos vs. Yorgan de Castro in May set as a heavyweight title eliminator, the question at Eagle FC 46 on Friday was, who would be champ by the time that fight rolled around?

The answer was given in short order, emphatically, by reigning Eagle FC champ Rizvan Kuniev. A spinning back kick and a flying knee were all thrown by the Russian heavyweight in under a minute, and it wasn’t long before challenger Anthony Hamilton, a UFC veteran, folded under the pressure.

Despite the flashy stuff, it was the clinch work that might have been the difference maker for Kuniev. After landing several knees in the clinch, he trapped the neck of his opponent, locking in the standing guillotine. Hamilton had no choice but to tap, the end coming 1:17 into the first round.

The main event at Eagle FC 46 saw the return of original Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Sanchez, facing fellow UFC veteran Kevin Lee in a super lightweight match-up. The 165lb weight class felt tailor made for Lee, but it was a calf kick by Sanchez that set the tone early. It seemed to have hampered Lee’s left leg, but Sanchez stayed cautious, covering up and circling out of range of Lee’s power.

Off a clean connection near the midway mark, Lee then went looking for a takedown. Despite a blatant fence grab by Sanchez, Lee would land the attempt, and very quickly moved to mount, with Sanchez trapped against the cage. Lee then took the back, getting one hook in, with just over a minute in the round. Lee would look for a choke, and even hook a leg, but Sanchez showed considerable flexibility and escaped, though he was under fire on the feet to end the round.

Sanchez went back to the calf kick early in round two. Lee walked him down, but Sanchez landed to the leg again. Lee would continue moving forward, landing with a fair amount of power, but Sanchez weathered the shots and went back to the lead leg, forcing Lee to switch stances.

On a takedown attempt, Lee ate a knee, but would finish the attempt with two minutes remaining in the round. Sanchez locked his hands, perhaps looking for a stand-up, then moved to an arm-bar, but Lee was hip to it. Lee would begin to drop elbows, but Sanchez survived the round.

Round three had the action paused early for a stray mouthpiece, after Sanchez lost his. Back underway, Lee was walking “The Nightmare” down again while still favoring his left leg. Sanchez landed a kick to the body, but for the most part, he was out-struck on the feet, circling and retreating as Lee brought the fight to him. With just over two minutes left in the round, Sanchez would land a couple of shots in a combo, and later add another left hand. A leg kick wobbled Lee, and suddenly, he was the one retreating. But a Lee counter would drop Sanchez, and Lee got on top!

While he had the upper hand, however, Kevin Lee couldn’t find the finish. He’d begin dropping some frantic ground n’ pound as the clock wore down, but they’d wind up going to the scorecards — with Lee winning a unanimous decision.

After the dust had settled, Sanchez stated that he wanted to fight out his Eagle FC contract— which has two more fights on it. Lee, meanwhile, said he believed he’d blown his ACL, or “something major.”

“The very first strike that he threw tore my knee,” Lee confirmed. That said, he’s hoping for a title fight in his return, in a weight class he appears perfectly suited for.