On the surface, a matchup pitting UFC castoffs Kevin Lee vs Diego Sanchez seems like a fan-friendly booking of fighters with notable name value. However, legendary MMA referee turned broadcaster John McCarthy is not a fan of this piece of matchmaking.
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC promotion has made headlines over the last few weeks as they look to score immediate brand recognition in the MMA realm. They have scheduled their US debut for next month, and they’ve signed fighters familiar to long-time fans like Rashad Evans, Sergei Kharitonov, and Lee.
The organization also produced MMA news site content after MMAJunkie reported over the weekend that the promotion had an opponent for Lee’s debut. And that is was UFC Hall-of- Famer Sanchez. At first glance, the booking makes sense as a matchup of two well-known former Octagon talents who built their resumes competing at lightweight and welterweight. However, Bellator analyst, and co-host of the Weighing In podcast, McCarthy does not dig the matchmaking because he is not for seeing “The Nightmare” continue to be used as a sacrifice to build younger fighters.
John McCarthy not a fan of Eagle FC booking Kevin Lee vs Diego Sanchez
“Diego’s been just a warrior, he’s an incredible guy, I love him, but here comes the speed. Speed creates problems and in the standup, Diego has an unusual style. It will give Kevin some problems, but if Kevin gets a rhythm on him, it’s gonna be tough for Diego. It’s gonna be very tough for him to get Kevin down, and if he’s on the ground with Kevin, he’s gonna be great,” McCarthy said. “It’s when he’s on the feet with him absorbing damage, that’s not gonna be good, and it’s the speed factor that makes the big difference here.”
“Diego’s done a ton in the sport of MMA, and he’s had some great times [and] he’s had some hard times. I just don’t wanna see him going out with him being the guy — it was kind of that way with his last fights in the UFC. They were trying to use his name to get other guys over,” he added. “You know, get that victory against the guy who is the legend of the sport, the guy that’s been there forever, the guy who won The Ultimate Fighter 1. And I don’t know, I don’t think it’s a good fight.”
Sanchez (30-13) turned 40-years-old on Friday. He has been in the sport 10 more years than the 29-year-old Lee (18-7) and has 18 more fights worth of damage and training on his body. Sanchez was also recently hospitalized with COVID-19 related health issues last month.
While McCarthy is not in favor of what he considers an unfair booking, it doesn’t mean he won’t sit down in front of his TV to watch the fight when it’s expected to happen in March.
“I’ll watch it. I’m not saying I won’t,” he said. “I just don’t think that the matchup at this point in their careers is a fair matchup. I think Diego’s gotta get the fight down. If he gets the fight down, he can definitely win the fight. Other than that, he’s gonna have a hard time.”
Sanchez has not competed since September 2020 when he loss to Jake Matthews by unanimous decision at UFC 253. Before his release earlier this year due to health concerns he had split his last four bouts in the Octagon.
Lee was unceremoniously let go by the MMA world leader in November after losing four of his last five fights. He had not won consecutive bouts in the UFC since 2017.
Do you agree with McCarthy that Lee vs Sanchez is unfair matchmaking?