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7 min read

Fight Preview: Can Edson Barboza Reinvent Himself at Featherweight?

After two impressive events in Jacksonville, we will be spoiled with a third one in the same week. Just under the co-main event, scheduled to fight are Edson Barboza and Dan Ige. Let’s take a closer look at what is it that these athletes are fighting for and what is at stake here.

Edson Barboza (MMA Record: 20-8, 14-8 in the UFC)

The Brazilian is a huge fan favorite, thanks to his flashy striking style that we all love to watch. Edson is the only fighter (man or woman) to have finishes with leg, body and head kick. A truly remarkable achievement!

Unfortunately, ever since Khabib Nurmagamedov “wrote the book” on how to beat Edson Barboza, he has struggled to get back on track, losing 4 of his last 5 fights. His striking style is pleasing on the eye and dangerous for his opponents. Sadly, just like a fire can’t exist without oxygen, Barboza’s kick based style can be “suffocated” with pressure. As soon as Edson finds himself on his back foot or with his back against the cage, he struggles. His Hail Mary is the spinning heel kick, which can make anyone “lose” their legs from underneath them.

Exhibit A – Edson Barboza landing a spinning heel kick on Kevin Lee.

Evidently, Edson lands that kick at the beginning of the 3rd round. Keeping in mind, that the first 2 rounds were an absolute domination from Kevin. This comes to show that Edson can always catch you and put you away.

Lee somehow recovered from the kick and won the fight via doctor stoppage in the 5th round. Regrettably, kicks are very fatiguing and if you see him miss two or three of these, Edson is exhausted. Needless to say, you do not want to be running on empty, whilst locked in a cage with the “beasts” of the UFC roster. So far, he hasn’t shown to have a plan B. At the highest level of Mixed Martial Arts you kind of need to have one.

Can the Brazilian show us another side of his game? Will he be even faster at 145 lbs? How does the weight cut influence his cardio? There are so many questions and that is why this bout is so interesting!

Dan “Dynamite” Ige (MMA record: 13-2, 5-1 in the UFC)

Dan Ige UFC grappling
Dan Ige exhibiting his grappling and ground and pound skills vs Mike Santiago, at UFC225.

When it comes to matchups, I don’t know if Barboza could have picked a worse one. Dan’s game is heavily revolving around putting the pressure on early, clinching people against the cage, and getting the fight to the ground from a top position. The Hawaiian-born Ige reminds me of Khabib, but at 145 lbs. The resemblance in style could be a result of Dan spending quite a lot of time in the AKA. Learning from master wrestlers like DC, Khabib, and people of that stature in the wrestling world is something that separates him from the pack. He is also a Judo brown belt. Therefore, he has no issue getting takedowns in the middle of the cage if he needs to. Put that together with his BJJ black belt and you will see why people don’t want to fight him.

How Will the Fight Play Out on May 16th?

It”s the vintage striker vs grappler contest. Will Edson be able to keep the fight standing? Will Ige manage to secure a takedown? The answer to both these questions is – it depends. Barboza has a relatively good takedown defense if he is not severely fatigued. The new weight class, for him, might play a role here. One might argue, that opponents at 155 lbs are just too big and too strong for him to keep off.

Moreover, at Featherweight, I expect Edson to be much faster, with almost the same amount of power. Meaning that the “fire” one has to go through to get a hold of him will be extra spicy!

Dan will have to bite down on his mouthpiece and put the pressure early. Barboza comes as explosive as a greyhound from the gate. However, if Ige gets over 3 minutes of top control in the first round, things will go well for him. This will slow down Barboza and take the ‘oomph’ out of his strikes.

What Happens Next?

Whoever wins will want to fight a top 10 featherweight contender next. If Barboza (#11 LW) wins, I reckon he will stay at 145, where there are a lot better matchups for him. Especially compared to the wrestling-stacked Lightweight division. Edson matches up well against most in the top 15 at Featherweight. Should Ige (#15 FW) win and decide to ignore his humble nature, I can see him calling out someone like Jeremy Stephens (#8 FW) or Yair Rodriguez (#5 FW).

One thing is certain, these two men have something to prove. Dan Ige is fighting for his first as a ranked contender and he will want to assert himself as one. While Edson Barboza will want to show everyone that he is not done and that he is not a one-trick pony!

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