TUF 23 Finale Breakdown: Jake Matthews vs Kevin Lee

Jake MatthewsPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the featured bout on the Fight Pass Prelims at TUF 23 Finale as Las Vegas resident Kevin Lee welcomes Australia’s Jake Matthews.   Kevin Lee (Record: 12-2, +125 Underdog, Fighter Grade: C) The 23-year old Detroit-born and raised lightweight has been fighting professionally for four years. He enters this bout during International Fight Week having won five of his last six fights. Despite his young age, Lee already has a wealth of experience in the Octagon beating the likes of Efrain Escudero, James Moontasri, and Michel Prazeres during his stint in the UFC. The Xtreme Couture fighter has really good size for the weight class at nearly 6 feet tall and a very long 77 inch reach. He’s a very athletic fighter who moves very well in the Octagon. Lee relies on his confidence to push him through fights. In watching him fight, it’s clear that he fights well when he’s confident he’s the better fighter. When he’s had some adversity, he tends to struggle fighting out of difficult situations.  On the feet, he’s certainly improved since his start in the UFC. He has a decent jab which he uses well from range. He combines that well with a high kick to show some nice variety in his game. Lee is hittable on the feet and doesn’t react too well to being hit. He’s been stunned by opponents in a few of his fights so that’s certainly a cause for concern. To counteract the striking, Lee does have a solid wrestling game securing 2.77 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. Furthermore, he lands takedowns at a solid 37% clip. Lee tends to get a little too focused on his striking when wrestling is his best skill for MMA.   Jake Matthews (Record: 10-1, -145 Favorite, Fighter Grade: C+) One of the youngest fighters in the UFC at just 21 years of age, Australian Jake Matthews has had a very good start to his UFC career. Matthews has won four of his five fights inside the Octagon. All four of those victories have come inside the distance. The only blemish on Matthews’ record is a submission defeat to James Vick in May 2015. An Aussie Rules Football player as a child, Matthews gravitated to MMA as a teenager and looks primed for a long run in the UFC. Given his background, Matthews is one of the more physically strong fighters in the weight class. That shows in his takedown defense where he holds an 87% takedown defense rate; one of the best rates in the entire division. Matthews lands 3.78 significant strikes a minute inside the Octagon, but where he really excels is in his defense. He absorbs only 1.83 significant strikes a minute. He does very well defensively because he’s constantly moving inside the cage. He has very good footwork and is able to dart out of range pretty quickly after rushing in to land strikes. On the feet, he does a very good of working shots to the body to slow his opponent down. His ability to slow opponents down allows him easier access to takedowns where he can work in ground and pound / submissions. Matthews still isn’t too technical on the feet, relying more on brute strength and aggression, but he’s made improvements in each of his fights.   Match-up The originally scheduled contest was to have Jake Matthews face off against Steven Ray. When Ray dropped out of the fight, a similar replacement was sought in Kevin Lee. This matchup pits two young fighters who have already had decent success in the UFC. Offensively they are very similar fighters with nearly identical striking stats on the feet. Both like to push forward with a combination of punches and leg kicks. The wrestling as well seems to be very even as both fighters average over two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. In a close statistical fight, I think this bout comes down to effective striking and conditioning. Matthews does a much better job at landing to the body slowing his opponents down. Lee is more of a head target type of striker. I think that favors Matthews as Lee is big for the weight class and can very much be slowed down with body strikes. As the fight progresses, I see Matthews having more success as he’ll be able to sustain volume throughout three rounds and get the better of Lee in route to a late stoppage or a decision win. With Lee fighting out of Las Vegas, this fight could see some interesting scorecards should it go to a decision, so taking Matthews straight or by decision is not the preferred method in this fight. The better value is on Matthews ITD (+244).

Written by Jay Primetown

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