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UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee - Apr 21


wandshogun09
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With everything going on surrounding UFC 223, this one's snuck up so quietly that I completely forgot about it. But on Saturday 21st April in Atlantic City, New Jersey we've got this little beauty...

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FOX SPORTS 1 MAIN CARD
Edson Barboza vs Kevin Lee 

Frankie Edgar vs Cub Swanson 

Chase Sherman vs Justin Willis

Thiago Santos vs David Branch

Aljamain Sterling vs Brett Johns

Jim Miller vs Dan Hooker

 

FOX SPORTS 1 PRELIMS
Ryan LaFlare vs Alex Garcia 

Merab Dvalishvili vs Ricky Simon 

Siyar Bahadurzada vs Luan Chagas

Corey Anderson vs Patrick Cummins

 

FIGHT PASS PRELIMS
Tony Martin vs Keita Nakamura 

 

Really like this, actually. Considering I forgot it was even happening and now it's less than two weeks away, it's a nice little bonus. 

 

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Barboza vs Lee is a great fight. Both guys have a lot of potential but they've also both kind of got a point to prove here. They're both coming off losses, albeit to elite lightweights, and this is their chance to make a statement that they're still in the mix.

Barboza lost to Khabib last time out, on December's UFC 219 PPV. He's had his losses before but even in defeat he usually had his moments. Khabib gave him nothing though. It was like those Sid vs Jobber matches on WCW TV in 1990. Before that loss he was on the best 3 fight win streak of his career with wins over Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and Beneil Dariush. He's still very much a player in the division and easily one of the best strikers in the UFC. 

Kevin Lee last fought in the UFC 216 main event in October, losing by submission to Tony Ferguson. I'd been critical of Lee going in because he was being hyped up as some next big MMA star type thing and I didn't think it was really warranted. Still don't, to be honest. But fair's fair, he surpassed my expectations against Fergie. He lost but he fought well and had Tony in trouble early on. And considering Lee had staph infection going in, you have to give credit where it's due. He's probably better than I gave him credit for. 

Interesting matchup between these two. I've seen signs of Lee making improvements in his striking but Barboza should still hold a significant advantage on the feet. Lee is probably going to want to make this a ground battle where he can work his ground and pound and submissions. And Barboza's going to attempt to kick his legs off before it gets there. Should be a good 'un. 

 

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Edgar vs Swanson 2 is a funny one. I'm not sure what to make of it really. Both guys' last fight saw them get finished by Brian Ortega. In Edgar's case it was the first time he'd ever been stopped and it was a brutal uppercut that literally lifted him off his feet. And that was only last month at UFC 222. I'm not sure turning right back around a 5/6 weeks later and jumping right back in is such a good idea but I guess only Frankie can 'answer' (see what I did there?) that. For Swanson this is a chance to avenge one of his most devastating losses. Edgar vs Swanson 1 took place back in November 2014. Edgar completely schooled him that night. Bossing every round and then submitting Cub at 4:56 of the 5th. Just total and utter domination. This time it's a 3 rounder and who knows what frame of mind Edgar is in coming off his first KO defeat? He's tough as old boots physically and mentally and both at their best I'd pick Frankie to beat Cub 10/10 times but this quick turnaround is a bit concerning. I get Frankie wanted to fight in NJ, but still. 

 

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Santos vs Branch is this card's ***WAND'S ONE TO WATCH***. Brazil vs Brownsville. Something about this pairing just does it for me. I've been a Thiago Santos fan for a while now. He's had his ups and downs but when he's on, like he has been of late, he's a scary cunt who, IMO, gives most of the division problems. He's currently on a run of 4 wins with 4 TKOs, all within 2 rounds or less. Overall he's 17-5 with 13 finishes and he's just generally a big, aggressive, powerful bastard. Branch is coming off that loss to Luke Rockhold in September but before that he was on an 11 fight win streak himself. He hasn't shown his best yet in the UFC but this could be the fight to bring it out because I think with a guy like Santos he's going to have to fight fire with fire right from the opening bell. Really looking forward to this one. 
 

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Sterling vs Johns is another one that catches my eye. I've always liked Sterling and thought he had a ton of potential but he keeps hitting these roadblocks. Up until his last fight in December his only 2 losses were split decisions and he seemed to be improving with each fight. He scored his biggest win to date, beating Renan Barao at UFC 214 in July and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. Then he got viciously knocked out cold by a Marlon Moraes knee in about a minute. One of the nastiest knockouts of 2017 easy. The kind you wonder how a fighter will come back from. And he's got no easy rebound fight to come back to. Brett Johns is 15-0, 3-0 in the UFC and was the bantamweight champion in both the Cage Warriors and Titan FC promotions. In his last fight against Joe Soto, he pulled off a calf slicer for the submission in 30 seconds of the first round. He's a dangerous guy. Of the few Welsh fighters we've seen in the Octagon over the years, Johns is the most promising by far IMO. Still only 26 as well. I like this fight. For Sterling, a win over a young undefeated guy like Johns puts him right back on track. And for Johns, a W here over a Serra-Longo guy who's mixed it with the likes of Barao, would be the biggest so far in his career. 

 

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Miller vs Hooker could've easily been my one to watch. Proper under the radar gem. So under the radar that I had no idea it was even booked! Everyone knows about Jim Miller. Proper grizzled vet of the 155 division. He's been in many a lightweight war and seen pretty much everything. He's beat the likes of Thiago Alves, Takanori Gomi, Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon twice. The first Lauzon fight is still one of my favourite lightweight fights ever. But after a 12 plus year 40 fight career, inevitably he's slowing down now. He'll still bring it but he's 0-3 in his last 3 and he's got to win one back here. And in New Zealand's Dan Hooker he's fighting a man 6 years his junior who's on the rise. Hooker is 15-7, so not the best of records, but he's looked a bit of a handful of late. In his last 2 fights he's submitted Marc Diakiese and KO'd Ross Pearson. He also knocked out Hatsu Hioki at 145 back when Hioki was considered a contender. Hooker's a good fighter who doesn't have nearly the miles on him that Miller does. But the other way of looking at it is Miller has tons more experience and has operated at a much higher level than Hooker's used to. 

 

That's the meat and potatoes of this card. But elsewhere you've got LaFlare vs Garcia, which could be a good grappling fight with LaFlare's technique vs Garcia's brute force. Magomed Bibulatov is on the card. He could be one to keep an eye on at flyweight and was 14-0 before John Moraga KO'd him last time out. Siyar The Great is back. Always enjoy watching him, when he actually fights. Big hitter. I shuddered seeing Anderson vs Cummins listed, could be shades of Ryan Bader vs Phil Davis that one. But aside from that, plenty to like on this one. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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I really like the look of this main card for the chance of exciting fights. On top of that, I think the match making is pretty good here. Whilst I think it may be too soon for Edgar to return, and we've also seen how this fight goes before, it's got a new wrinkle. Both men are coming off of a loss where they were finished by the same guy, the new #1 contender at FW, Brian Ortega. It's a clear pecking order fight, with the winner slotting in or staying in place in the division right behind Holloway and Ortega. 

On top of that you have Barboza and Kevin Lee both coming off of losses, so one of them is getting rehabbed here. Barboza was thoroughly dominated by Khabib, and Lee impressed whilst losing to Ferguson. I'm not too sure how this fight will go or who will win it. Edson clearly will want to strike with Lee and Lee would be best served by imposing himself on top of Barboza as best he can and try to grind out rounds against him. I would say Barboza is the higher level fighter, however Lee, especially with that staph infections he had, really impressed me in his loss to Tony Ferguson. I'm struggling with this one. A good fight to put together. 

Branch Vs Santos is one I'm excited for as well. Santos is going places at middleweight, but Branch is no joke, and was a cunt hair away from finishing Luke Rockhold in his last fight. Three fights at the top of this card that really are important to the top of their divisions. Plus it's taking place at Boardwalk Hall in AC, which is a pretty unique looking building, which is always nice when a show could possibly have a bit of a different look to it. 

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Frankie Edgar is a bit like Dan Henderson for me. For years I appreciated his talent, but I have only recently been in his corner. It's not that I disliked him. I was just neutral to him as a personality, and that often led to me rooting for his opponent. For example, I wanted Aldo and Penn to beat him. 

Now, like with Hendo late in his career, there are few fighters on the roster that I would root for against Edgar. I guess both grew on me as time went on, and the realisation set in that I would miss them when they eventually retired. I'm not sure what the end-goal is for Edgar's career. Perhaps he is now just fighting for the money. Maybe he hopes to beat Swanson and put himself in line for shot at the winner of Max/Ortega (if it happens). Whatever the case, I hope he goes out on a high - like Hendo eventually did. 

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1 hour ago, Ghostface1982 said:

I'm surprised Edgar can fight again this soon after that KO. Thought it was usually a 90 medical suspension, or is that just for some cases?

His suspension was set as no contact at all until April 3rd. That's why he had to issue that statement via Twitter after he said in an interview that he'd been sparring before that date.

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I like Branch. Not sure how far he can go at this point, the UFC's 185 division is tougher than it's ever been right now. But Branch is at the very least a solid fighter and I actually liked him being more outspoken and showing more of his personality in the run up to the Rockhold fight. Seems like a decent enough guy to me. He's definitely got a bit of an attitude and a meanstreak to him but that's par for the course with a guy who came up from the mean streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn and makes his living fighting in cages. I don't get a dickhead vibe off him or anything. I am slightly rooting for Santos though, just because I've been enjoying watching him for a while now and I'd like to see him make a Rafael Dos Anjos-style unexpected rise up the ranks from also-ran to title picture. 

 

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Yeah, I could easily see something like a 165 or whatever division in the future. Another belt for GSP to collect there. 

Only thing is, people understandably think it'll be a good thing regarding weight cutting and I get that thinking because the guys who struggle to make 155 could then move up to 165 and have a much easier weight cut. That's definitely a positive. But I think what you'll also see is that some of the guys who are already boiling down to make 170 right now will think 'hang on, I'm making 170. If I cut 5lbs more I'll be a monster at 165'. And the stupid weight cuts will continue. As much as I think too many titles will be a bit crap, I do think it's definitely a good thing in that it gives fighters more options and will eliminate the dangerous cuts for at least some of them. But unfortunately there'll always be those who gamble with their health to get an edge. As long as this is a sport that has weight classes, which it will obviously always be, then there'll always be fighters killing themselves to have a size advantage even though the cost of that is worse and in most cases you lose more than you gain. It's mental but it's so ingrained now. 

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1 minute ago, wandshogun09 said:

Yeah, I could easily see something like a 165 or whatever division in the future. Another belt for GSP to collect there. 

Only thing is, people understandably think it'll be a good thing regarding weight cutting and I get that thinking because the guys who struggle to make 155 could then move up to 165 and have a much easier weight cut. That's definitely a positive. But I think what you'll also see is that some of the guys who are already boiling down to make 170 right now will think 'hang on, I'm making 170. If I cut 5lbs more I'll be a monster at 165'. And the stupid weight cuts will continue. As much as I think too many titles will be a bit crap, I do think it's definitely a good thing in that it gives fighters more options and will eliminate the dangerous cuts for at least some of them. But unfortunately there'll always be those who gamble with their health to get an edge. As long as this is a sport that has weight classes, which it will obviously always be, then there'll always be fighters killing themselves to have a size advantage even though the cost of that is worse and in most cases you lose more than you gain. It's mental but it's so ingrained now. 

There will always be dumb bastards who try to take it too far, but with the restrictions we're seeing nowadays, such as the one that stopped Max Holloway from fighting Khabib, those guys should face heavy penalties, as they'll really have no excuse for it.

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