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UFC Vegas 35: Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez Fight Breakdown

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UFC Vegas 35 is action-packed from top to bottom. The main card features the long-awaited return of Kevin Lee, as he takes on Daniel Rodriguez, who accepted the fight on short notice. Join us as we preview this welterweight clash and the paths to victory for each fighter.

The UFC Vegas 35 main event showcases top-10 featherweights, Edson Barboza and Giga Chikadze go to war. Two new ultimate fighters will also be crowned, one in the middleweight division, with a fight between Bryan Battle and Gilbert Urbina. The other coming in the bantamweight division, with the two finalists being Ricky Turcios and Brady Heistand.

Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez: Meet the Fighters

Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee

Kevin Lee
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 02: Kevin Lee celebrates his KO victory over Gregor Gillespie in their lightweight bout during the UFC 244 event at Madison Square Garden on November 02, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After a 17-month hiatus that included double knee surgery, UFC veteran Kevin Lee will be making his return to action at UFC Vegas 35. The 28-year-old enters this fight with an 18-6 (11-6 in UFC) professional record. Once a serious contender in the lightweight division, having fought for an interim title against Tony Ferguson, Lee will be fighting at 170 pounds for his matchup with “D-Rod” this upcoming weekend. 

Lee’s only other UFC fight at welterweight came against Rafael Dos Anjos in a losing effort. With that said, this took place over two years ago, so it will be interesting to see how is second go-round will be at this weight class. Following that loss, Lee did venture back to the lightweight division where he would go 1-1 before his layoff. The win coming brutally against then-undefeated, Gregor Gillespie. The loss coming to current lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, last March. 

With such a long gap between fights and major surgery, there are a plethora of question marks surrounding the return of Kevin Lee. Many hardcore fans can see the true talent and potential of this young man, but it is just a matter of everything falling into place for him now. Lee has stated numerous times that he is rejuvenated and ready to prove to everyone his worth. However, Daniel Rodriguez is no tune-up fight to return to, so should Lee pass this test with flying colors, he is sure to bounce directly into top-15 contention next. 

Daniel “D-Rod” Rodriguez

Daniel Rodriguez
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 22: Daniel Rodriguez reacts after his knockout victory over Dwight Grant in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Daniel Rodriguez will enter UFC Vegas 35 with the chance to secure the biggest win of his career. The Dana White’s Contender Series alum has amassed a 15-2 (5-1 in UFC) record and has earned the shot at taking on a big name like Lee. Taking such a tough stylistic matchup like this on just three weeks’ notice lets everyone know just how game Rodriguez is. 

“D-Rod” is riding hot coming into this one, having won his last two fights, with the ladder being by way of TKO. The only time that Rodriguez has faltered in the UFC was against Nicolas Dalby in a war of attrition and would fall via unanimous decision. There may not be another fighter in this welterweight division who enters the octagon with such a stoic, calm presence, and when the bell sounds, instantly turns into a savage more than Rogriguez.

With a wrestler as high-caliber as Lee, Rodriguez will have his hands full here. But if he can use his range and technical striking to stay clear of the takedown, he could really make this one a toss-up. And with Rodriguez already racking up plenty of solid wins, he could easily be already competing within the rankings of this division, and should he defeat Lee, his stock could rise tremendously going into the remaining months of 2021.

Fight Breakdown

Many may see this matchup and immediately think it is the typical striker vs grappler. And while this may be true for the most part, fans have seen the evolution of Lee’s striking during his career in the UFC. His head kick knockout of Gillespie was one of the most well-timed you will ever see and that was something that Lee had never really shown before in his arsenal. 

Lee will need these tools and then some because Rodriguez is fantastic at finding his range and keeping it there for the duration of his fights. He is very long and lanky, which allows him to pick his shots and contains a very sharp jab. So it is not so much the one-shot power of Rodriguez that is dangerous, but more so his accuracy and ability to put together insane combinations that never seem to end at times.

The grappling of Lee will be a huge factor in this fight. Will he be able to close the distance and do what he does best? Or will Rodriguez show that he does hold the takedown defense in his game to keep the fight standing? Lee is a powerhouse and will do whatever it takes to get the fight on the mat and keep his opponents there. For Rodriguez, if he can shut down the grappling early, it should be very interesting to see how the standup will play out in this fight, especially throughout three rounds. 

Let us know your predictions for Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez in the comments below!


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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!