The UFC’s final event under the Fox banner sees the octagon travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for UFC on Fox 31, as lightweight contenders Kevin Lee and Al Iaquinta go head to head in an intriguing main event on Saturday night.
With the show being aired on the main Fox channel in the States, the main card features just four bouts, with a two outstanding matchups in particular at the top of the card.
#️⃣4️⃣ vs. #️⃣8️⃣
Who advances in the STACKED LW division?
— UFC (@ufc) December 14, 2018
Kevin Lee vs Al Iaquinta
Two lightweight contenders face off in the main event, with New York’s Al Iaquinta looking to propel himself into the upper echelons of the UFC’s lightweight division at the expense of Kevin Lee, who has looked like a serious contender for the past 12 months or so.
Lee’s shot at interim lightweight gold fell short due to a staph infection and a submission loss to Tony Ferguson, but he came back strongly to defeat dangerous striker Edson Barboza in April.
Iaquinta, meanwhile, stepped into the breach and faced Khabib Nurmagomedov for the vacant 155lb title after Ferguson’s lightweight title shot went by the wayside due to injury.
Iaquinta acquitted himself much better than many people imagined he would, as he took “The Eagle” the distance in a losing effort in Brooklyn at UFC 223.
The fight has added significance as it’s a rematch of their UFC 169 clash in February 2014. Iaquinta took home a unanimous decision victory in that first bout, as “Ragin’ Al” handed Lee the first defeat of his professional career.
But Lee has evolved significantly since that fight and now looks the more well-rounded fighter heading into this one – skills-wise he appears to have the higher ceiling of the two. He’s as few as two wins away from a legitimate chance of a title shot in the talent-stacked UFC lightweight division, and I’m expecting him to deliver a statement victory on Saturday night.
He’ll have to be wary of Iaquinta’s legitimate KO power, but if he can avoid getting clipped, he has all the tools to take Iaquinta off his feet and grind his way to either a submission win or a decision victory. I’m going with submission @ 15/8
Edson Barboza vs Dan Hooker
Edson Barboza is a one-man wrecking machine, and on Saturday night he’s acting in the role of gatekeeper as he welcomes Kiwi contender Dan Hooker to the top of the UFC lightweight division. Before we get into it, let’s take a look at why we love him so much:
That Terry Etim knockout never gets old!
Barboza has been there or thereabouts for years without ever quite making it as far as a title shot, but Hooker is a man going places. The New Zealander is on a superb run of form having won four in a row since moving back up to lightweight and has back to back knockout victories over seasoned veteran Jim Miller and hevy-handed BJJ ace Gilbert Burns.
It’s a crucial bout for Hooker, who looks to have the game to take him closer to the top men in the division. But to get there he’s going to have to run the gauntlet of Barboza’s spectacular strikes. It should be a cracker of a contest but I’m backing Barboza to show his class and take the win @Evens.
Kevin Lee to beat Al Iaquinta by submission @ 15/8
Edson Barboza to beat Dan Hooker @ Evens
*All prices correct at time of posting