UFC lightweights Kevin Lee and Charles Oliveira occupy a similar kind of in-between space on the MMA spectrum. They have all the skills and potential in the world, but neither has ever made the leap over the line that separates good fighters from great ones. There’s an intangible something, some spirit, beyond talent and hard work and luck that fills the best fighters and transports them. For whatever reason, Lee and Oliveira—who will face each other on UFC Fight Night Brasilia on Saturday night in a bout you can stream on ESPN+—could never summon it.
A former standout college wrestler who dropped out of school after two years to pursue a career in mixed martial arts, Lee (18-5) has been a classic underachiever during his six years in the UFC. He has consistently steamrolled everyone he should beat but has fallen short every time he’s approached the top of the rankings. Had he beaten Tony Ferguson instead of collapsing two rounds into their fight in 2017, it may have been him and not Ferguson fighting for the lightweight belt against champion Khabib Nurmagomedov next month.
Had he kept his emotions in check against Al laquinta in December 2018 he could have won their grudge match and secured himself a spot in the upper echelon of the lightweight division. Then, maybe he wouldn’t have made his emotional, ill-fated move up to the welterweight division last year, a move that lasted exactly one loss to Rafael dos Anjos. To be Kevin Lee is to know the cruelty of limitations.
At the same time, this is the same Kevin Lee who mauled Edson Barboza so badly in April 2018 that a doctor was forced to step in and stop things halfway through the fifth round. And it’s the same Kevin Lee who returned to the lightweight division last November with a beautiful head-kick knockout of Gregor Gillespie that made all the doubters start talking about Lee’s rebirth, his renaissance, his long-awaited fulfillment of all that promise.
We’ll know tonight how meaningful those assessments really are.
Like Lee, Charles “do Bronx’ 0liveira (28-8-1) is a brilliant talent who has always managed to underachieve at just the wrong moments, shrinking under the lights of his biggest fights and halting numerous bursts of forward momentum in the process. But unlike Lee, Oliveira’s recent good fortune has been a sustained affair this time.
Since getting knocked out by Paul Felder in December 2017, the Brazilian has won six straight fights, each by stoppage in either the first or second round. But like Lee, all of those wins came against opponents he was expected to beat. Poor Oliveira has collapsed against the best six times during his UFC career, causing some to wonder about the true extent of his potential. With both men, the question has always been what will happen when they face true adversity.
Both men will have another chance at redemption, but achieving it will mean confronting and conquering a very particular and sinister kind of adversity, something murky and psychological, something inside themselves. Pundits can talk all they want about Lee’s wrestling and Oliveira’s grappling, but the truth is that to move forward on Friday, each man will have to face someone cursed with the exact same affliction they already have.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch Lee vs. Oliveira.
Kevin Lee vs. Charles Oliveira
- When: Saturday, March 14 at 6Depm ET
- Where: Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia, Brazil
- Streaming: ESPN+
- Cost: $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year
How to watch Benavidez vs. Figueiredo without cable
UFC Fight Night 170 in Brasilia is being broadcast on ESPN+—the streaming service which, as of March 2019, signed a seven-year deal with the MMA organization to be the exclusive home of UFC PPV telecasts and a plethora of UFC Fight Night shows each year.
- Cost: $4.99 per month or $49.99 for 12 months
- Devices: Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku players and TV, Oculus Go, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsung smart TVs, and iOS and Android devices
ESPN+ is a stupendous way to stream all kinds of combat sports content. ESPN+ doesn’t have a free one-month trial anymore, but the service only costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 for the entire year. Given how much content you receive, that’s a really good deal (you can also cancel at any time).
Subscribers can watch the entire 30 for 30 catalog on demand, for example, along with Top Rank boxing cards, daily MLB games, every out-of-market MLS game, international soccer contests, Grand Slam tennis, and thousands of college sporting events. ESPN+ works as an extension of the main ESPN app. The ESPN+ exclusive content is designated by the “E+” logo in the corner of the preview tile.
Lee vs. Oliveira live stream schedule
All times ET
Main Event | 6pm on ESPN+
- Kevin Lee vs. Charles Oliveira
- Demian Maia vs. Gilbert Burns
- Renato Moicano vs. Damir Hadzovic
- Johnny Walker vs. Nikita Krylov
- Francisco Trinaldo vs. John Makdessi
Prelims |3pm on ESPN+
- Jussier Formiga vs. Brandon Moreno
- Amanda Ribas vs. Randa Markos
- Elizeu Dos Santos vs. Aleksei Kunchenko
- Rani Yahya vs. Enrique Barzola
- Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Maryna Moroz
- Bruno Silva vs. David Dvorak
- Veronica Macedo vs. Bea Malecki
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