Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov prediction | UFC on ESPN 48 1

Kevin Lee was once spoken of as a future champion, having mauled Edson Barboza en route to the top five in the lightweight division. During his ascension, Lee consistently claimed that he wanted to and would prove his wrestling against the then-rising wave of Russian grapplers in the UFC, Lee’s run came around the same time as Khabib Nurmagomedov’s, and after the two both defeated Barboza they were briefly compared by fans around the world.

Kevin Lee’s momentum would shift however, losing four of his last five with the outlier being a career-highlight KO over Gregor Gillespie. In an attempt to regain footing, Lee left the promotion in 2022, joining his former rival’s league in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s EAGLE FC. There he would defeat UFC veteran Diego Sanchez. Now coming off this win, Lee is returning to the UFC, finally with the opportunity to test his wrestling ability against the best of the East.

Rinat Fakhretdinov may not be familiar to every fan yet. With just two UFC fights under his belt, the majority of fans have seen just the tip of the iceberg. Fakhretdinov is on a 19-fight win streak, with just one loss in his pro career. The Russian “Gladiator” will look to continue his momentum into his highest-profile opponent to date, Kevin Lee represents Fakhretdinov’s potential coming out party as a true contender to keep tabs on.

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Betting Odds

Kevin Lee will see himself as the underdog in his UFC return. At +166, that is the amount you look to profit for each $100 wagered.

  • Rinat Fakhretdinov: -217 (BetUS)
  • Kevin Lee: +166 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Although both men are primarily known for their grappling ability, it’s very common for this to translate into the fight almost as if they cancel each other out. Expect some good striking exchanges but Kevin Lee should have a slight edge. Lee is very basic in his striking, but under the tutelage of Firs Zahabi, he has become more educated in his shot selection and setups. He stands conventional and does a good job of changing the lead hand start for his combos, sometimes favoring a stiff jab, and other times stepping in a with a long cross to set up the lead hook as the power shot.

Lee fought the majority of his UFC career at Lightweight, and you can see the additional weight at 170 lbs in his movement. He is a bit less quick on the mark, but he carries decent power and if he can gain his timing it works to offset some of that added weight. He also has good body kicks and mixes them up to the head well if he can get some forward momentum going in his combination, looking to shift step and land with the lead leg high.

Rinat Fakhretdinov is a hard puzzle to solve. He typically strikes just enough to set up his takedowns but has tremendous power in his right hand so he needs to be respected. He is very active with the lead hand and leg, chaining between his jab, lead inside low kick, and a check left hook. In Kevin Lee’s last two fights, he had trouble with low kicks. Daniel Rodriguez was consistently able to touch the leg, and Diego Sanchez who landed less frequently did tremendous damage with just a few strikes to the calf. Fakhretdinov does not commit so hard to his kicks to definitely damage Lee in the same way, as they are usually more used to set up something else, but if he does take this read and commit when Lee does not expect it, it could be a very dangerous tool.

Fakhretdinov fences with his lead weapons to set up two things, a big overhand right counter, and a driving double leg. He is extremely well versed in a body lock system in every area, but it hugging the hips and ripping them off the fence into a trip, or maintaining control on the mat from the waist until his opponents open their guard so he can pass. He is odd in his use of the very low waist look inside his opponent’s guard, he almost sprawls deep with his grip tight and head tucked but gives his opponent very few options he can’t capitalize on. He is also extremely active with his ground and pound once he does pass the guard, raining heavy shots and constantly repositioning himself so as the stay stuck on top like a blanket.

Kevin Lee is not so different in his wrestling prowess, he himself has a tremendous blast double, but what sets him even more apart is his ability to shoot and fail a single leg just to readjust, turn the corner and finish on an opponent who seemingly already won the exchange with their sprawl. Once Lee has a hold of one leg, he is relentless in pursuing the takedown’s finish. Lee’s game once in an established top position is much more Jiu Jitsu based than Fakhretdinov, where the Russian looks to smash down until his opponents give up the back, Lee uses more straight grappling tactics to force their back. From there he has great back control and one of the more dangerous rear naked chokes in the game.


Both men have tools to win on the feet and on the mat, but the transitionary area, who can actually land their takedown and maintain some level of control when they do get on top will probably win.

One of the other knocks on Lee’s career is he has been known to slow down in some fights, and against a wrestler who can maybe finally match his scrambling skills there’s a good chance he starts to fade first. This is why I do think that Fakhretdinov has the edge.

Fakhretdinov to win by decision is the smartest play for this matchup considering the generous +170 odds.

Pick: Fakhretdinov to win by decision (+170 at BetUS)

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