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Spokane’s Michael Chiesa wants another shot at Kevin Lee after controversial loss

UPDATED: Sat., July 15, 2017, 11:41 p.m.

Michael Chiesa, right, spars with Chauncy Welliver at Boxfit in Spokane in July 2013. Chiesa has built a promising career in mixed martial arts and is a contender in the UFC lightweight division. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Chiesa, right, spars with Chauncy Welliver at Boxfit in Spokane in July 2013. Chiesa has built a promising career in mixed martial arts and is a contender in the UFC lightweight division. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Michael Chiesa found himself on the wrong end of a rear-naked choke at UFC Fight Night 112, the same submission that’s helped vault the Spokane native’s lightweight career.

Just over four minutes into last month’s headline bout in Oklahoma City, Kevin Lee, who appeared to be in control from the outset, worked his way behind the bearded Chiesa before applying a palm-to-palm choke.

Lee was locked around Chiesa’s neck for a good 10 seconds, the unrelenting pressure prompting referee Mario Yamasaki to call the fight.

Bloodied and distraught, the Shadle Park High graduate immediately jumped to his feet in protest, claiming he never tapped out and that the fight wasn’t over.

The controversial stoppage preceded Chiesa’s post-fight tirade against Yamasaki’s decision, calling for an appeal and a rematch.

“If a guy gets the best of you, that’s just sports,” Chiesa said in a phone interview with the Spokesman-Review on Wednesday. “But right now we got robbed of another opportunity.”

“That wasn’t world-class officiating that night. I do want a rematch. That’s the first priority for my team, to do everything in our power to get the rematch. In my world, I didn’t get beat that night.”

Even UFC President Dana White took to Instagram to chide Yamasaki’s premature stoppage.

A post shared by Dana White (@danawhite) on

“…This guy is more concerned with doing this dumb ass heart (expletive) then Ref’n the fight!!!,” read White’s post along with a picture of Yamasaki making a heart sign with his hands. “Steals a great moment from Lee or let Mike fight it or tap. Nobody gives a (expletive) that u can make a heart with ur hands like a 12 year old girl they want u to pay attention to what’s going on in the fight and do ur job.”

The 6-foot-1, 155-pound Chiesa’s career record dropped to 14-3. Lee, who improved to 16-2, didn’t think the stoppage mattered.

‘It was just going to be four more rounds of that,” Lee said in post-fight press conference. Interestingly, the 24-year-old Lee and Chiesa, 29, got into a pre-fight scrap when promoting the event last month, adding more tension to the main event.

Chiesa appealed the fight to the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission in late June. In his appeal, he wrote that he “did not tap, I did not verbally submit, I was not knocked unconscious, and at no point did I go unconscious.”

He didn’t stew about the loss for too long, though.

Chiesa, who lives in Colbert but also trains in Chicago, made the trek back to the Inland Northwest the following day to enjoy Lake Coeur d’Alene and attend a pair of weddings.

“You can’t dwell on it much” he said. “You have to have a short-term memory in this business.”

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Some pundits thought Chiesa might exhibit some rust against Lee, considering he hadn’t fought in over a year due to a ruptured disc.

He said he felt as good as ever in Oklahoma City, though, and is ready to work his way to a title shot in a deep weight class spearheaded by superstar Conor McGregor.

“I was in top form that night. I don’t want to let that go away,” said Chiesa, who has won seven fights by way of rear-naked choke. “Once wedding season is over, it’s time to get back on the horse. I have a chip on my shoulder.”