On the two-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared as a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), MMA returns to its birthplace of Brazil for only the second time since the pandemic began with the LFA’s first card of March, highlighted by the LFA 126 main event.
LFA 126 Main Event Marks Two Years Since COVID-19 Pandemic Declaration
LFA 126 (Friday, 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT, UFC Fight Pass) in Rio de Janeiro"s Complexo Ribalta features a 12-fight card, capping with a battle for the LFA Vacant Featherweight Championship in the LFA 126 main event of the evening.
Featherweight Supremacy on the Line in LFA 126 Main Event Friday Night
The winner will become the seventh LFA Featherweight Champion all-time, counting interim reigns, succeeding former titleholder Bruno Souza (10-2 MMA, 5-0 LFA), who departed the LFA last fall upon joining the UFC"s active roster.
LFA 126 Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into Friday night"s main event, the returning Rafael Barbosa is the taller man, standing six feet even, compared to the 5-foot-11 frame of the debuting Jonas Bilharino.
What Jonas Bilharino lacks in height, he makes up for in reach, as he holds a 3 1/2-inch reach advantage (75 1/2 inches to 72 inches even) over Rafael Barbosa going into this LFA 126 main event.
Jonas Bilharino Looks to Make Good at Second Chance for UFC Deal in LFA 126 Main Event
Jonas Bilharino enters the fight on Friday night having posted a record of 4-1 in his last five fights and is a 2021 alum of Dana White"s Contender Series, having scored a third-round knockout due to a wheel kick against Canaan Kawaihae on the Nov. 2 episode of the program, though he did not receive a UFC contract from Dana White at night"s end.
A week after the bout, Bilharino spoke to mmafighting.com and he mentioned that he wasn"t slighted by White"s snub at all.
“The feedback has been even bigger because the contract didn"t come," Bilharino began. “I"m seeing everybody united as if I"ve become a cause, you know what I mean? When Dana White gives in, for regretting [his decision] and changing his mind or because I ran through my next opponent– and one of the two will happen– people will get together and celebrate."
So, although Jonas Bilharino was snubbed by White last time out, his lack of a deal to the UFC should add fuel to the fire for him and his camp going into the LFA 126 main event on Friday night.
Rafael Barbosa Returns to LFA Looking For Championship Gold in LFA 126 Main Event
In the other corner, Rafael Barbosa has posted a mark of 2-3 in his last five MMA appearances and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, scoring a unanimous decision victory last September against Tarcito Gomes Ribero during Future MMA 13.
Prior to the LFA 126 main event on Friday night, he last fought in the LFA in January of 2020, having lost to Jamall Emmers during LFA 81"s main event (third-round submission due to an arm-triangle choke.)
In the past, Barbosa has found himself at the center of controversy, as well, as back in 2018, he secured an arm-triangle choke in the third round against Melquizael Costa, one that rendered the latter fighter unconscious for a minute and a half before the referee even noticed that he was out cold.
25 months removed from the defeat to Emmers, Barbosa has fought his way back to the LFA and is now looking to make good on his return effort with a victory here in the LFA 126 main event, but can he emerge victorious with championship gold this time out?
Tune in on Friday night and find out.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the LFA 126 main event on Friday night seems to favor Rafael Barbosa, a karate fighter and submission specialist, compared to Jonas Bilharino"s Muay-Thai background.
Watch For Jonas Bilharino"s Kicking Game in LFA 126 Main Event on Friday
One aspect of Jonas Bilharino"s fighting acumen that jumps out right away on videotape is that of his kicking game and how he uses kicks to set up the knockout blow, something that could play a role here on Friday.
Just ask Junior Duarte, who Bilharino faced off against in 2019.
During the first round of a scheduled three, Bilharino opened things up by slipping after landing a leg kick to his opponent and getting into the clinch with Duarte, using stand-up grappling to try and improve his position, something which continued for several minutes with precious few attempts to move the action forward (despite some leg kicks inside the clinch by Bilharino), forcing the referee to break the clinch up.
Upon the restart of the fight, Bilharino faked Duarte out with a feint and followed it up with a leg kick to the body.
These leg kicks from Bilharino continued for the balance of the fight and he later scored with a punch to Duarte"s head to knock him down momentarily before getting back into the clinch.
From there, he continued to mix up his strikes and moved around the cage to try and keep Duarte guessing, adding a brief flurry of ground and pound shots for good measure and another leg kick to send him backwards, before finally landing the fatal blow, a flying knee against the cage fence to send Duarte down and out inside the opening round"s final minute.
If Jonas Bilharino is able to mix up his strikes and use his kicks and his movement to keep Rafael Barbosa on the alert, the LFA 126 main event on Friday night is going to be a short fight.
Look For Rafael Barbosa"s Punches to Tell the Tale
In the other corner, Rafael Barbosa"s gameplan could very well be predicated on his punches, as was the case in his 2019 fight versus Carlos Alexandre, the first fight for the Brazilian Future FC MMA promotion.
During the second round of this bout, Rafael Barbosa wasted little time knocking Carlos Alexandre down with a right-handed punch before unloading on him with a burst of ground and pound shots to score the knockout in just 32 seconds.
If Rafael Barbosa"s right-handed punches are on the button in the LFA 126 main event on Friday night, look out, because this fight could be a short one.
This could be a cracking affair on Friday night in the LFA 126 main event, so here"s one final word of advice:
If you choose to watch this fight (and yes, we are aware of conference tournament games in college basketball that you could be watching, it is the final weekend before March Madness, after all), you had better not blink– as you could be missing something amazing.
Prediction: Rafael Barbosa by Unanimous Decision.
Featured image credit to Legacy Fighting Alliance