Kevin Lee's controversial win over Michael Chiesa leaves plenty of questions

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Kevin Lee (R) submitted Michael Chiesa during their fight on Sunday night. (Getty)

Michael Chiesa has made a career in the UFC of submitting opponents with the rear-naked choke. Five of his seven victories in the promotion came via the submission.

Chiesa had the tables turned on him by Kevin Lee in their grudge match Sunday at UFC Fight Night in Oklahoma City, though it wasn’t without controversy.

Lee dominated Chiesa and submitted him at 4:37 of the first round in their grudge match, though it came via a mistake by referee Mario Yamasaki.

Chiesa had not tapped and was still awake, trying to figure a way to escape from the submission. Yamasaki stopped it though it was clear that Chiesa did not tap and he was not out.

Chiesa immediately got up and protested, but the verdict stood. It robbed Chiesa of a potentially dramatic comeback, but Yamasaki’s call also took away from Lee’s outstanding performance.

Lee, though, hardly seemed bothered.

“I did whatever I wanted,” Lee said. “I was never in any danger. It was going to be four more rounds of that. I just stop when the ref tells me. The ref told me to stop and I stopped. If he wants to do it again, we can, but it was going to be four more rounds of that.”

Lee said he wants to fight on a planned card in Detroit in December, and said his preferred opponent would be Khabib Nurmagomedov. But he said if Nurmagomedov can’t take it, he’d give Chiesa a rematch.

Chiesa said he wanted a rematch but was angry that Yamasaki, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt himself, called it so quickly.

“I was just trying to gut it out, scramble out,” Chiesa said.

The fighters embraced after the bout, ending a heated rivalry that began when they got into a verbal altercation at a kick-off news conference that turned physical.

Chiesa got angry when Lee mentioned his mother, and left his seat and walked toward Lee. As security and UFC officials attempted to separate them, Lee got in a hard punch.

Over the last several months, the two talked quite a bit of trash to each other in what was a significant fight in the division. Chiesa entered ranked sixth and on a three-fight winning streak.

Lee, who was rated 11th, had won four in a row and eight of his last nine entering the match

The win will shoot him higher in the ranks and put a title shot within reach.

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