Explosive lightweight strikers Edson Barboza and Anthony Njokuani will go toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow at UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones" this Saturday night (March 19, 2011) live on the Spike TV "Prelims" special at 9 p.m. ET.
When two devastating strikers square off that means one of two things: We'll see both men feel each other out for three rounds and not really engage, or someone is going down.
Which of these two scenarios will play out in "The Garden State?"
After making his UFC debut back in November of last year, Barboza was touted as a lightweight version of current featherweight champion Jose Aldo after displaying his ferocious style of Muay Thai.
As for Njokuani, he'll be making his Octagon debut after having mixed success in the now-defunct WEC promotion. Primarily known for his striking, Njokuani plowed through the likes of Chris Horodecki and Bart Palaszewski with devastating knockout power.
With two explosive strikers going at it in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, something has to give.
Will Barboza live up to the hype and prove that he is indeed the next Jose "Junior" Aldo? Or will Njokuani prevail and succeed in his UFC debut?
We break it all down after the jump:
Record: 7-0 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: None
How he got here: The Armory lightweight made his move to the UFC after succeeding in the regional promotions Renaissance MMA and Ring of Combat (ROC). Barboza has yet to go the distance in any of his MMA contests and has finished six of his seven opponents via some form of knockout.
Barboza made his Zuffa debut at UFC 123 last November, victimizing his opponent Mike Lullo and finishing him off with leg kicks.
How he gets it done: While this is a striker vs. striker contest, Njokuani's ground game has been so non-existent that if Barboza can bring this fight to the mat, he could conceivably get a submission victory. However, Barboza also throws some of the better leg kicks in the lightweight division and should this fight remain on the feet, his leg kicks could bring down the larger Njokuani.
Record: 13-4 overall, 4-3 in the WEC
Key Wins: Bart Palaszewksi (WEC 40), Chris Horodecki (WEC 45), Muhsin Corbbrey (WEC 43)
How he got here: The Janjira Muay Thai pupil is most recognized in the WEC for his round house kick that he landed on Chris Horodecki as "The Polish Hammer" turned his back and ran away. While known primarily for his kickboxing, Njokuani has shown that he also has some explosive scrambling abilities and solid takedowns in his fights. At WEC 52 he snapped a two-fight losing skid as he defeated Edward Faaloloto via TKO due to a powerful elbow.
How he gets it done: Njokuani needs to use his long-range attacks and keep Barboza at a distance. Barboza is the slightly shorter of the two and Njokuani's reach at 75.5" is almost unheard of at lightweight. The Nigerian-American will need to utilize more of his straight punches in this fight as Barboza throws his strikes a little wider and should be sure to check the leg kicks of his shorter foe.
Fight "X Factor:" Njokuani's big fight experience is this fight's "X Factor." Njokuani, even though he's making his debut in the Octagon, has fought much stiffer opposition. Barboza has shown tremendous potential but Njokuani will be his first real test in MMA and we don't really know for sure how he'll do.
Bottom Line: As the first test for Barboza against a dangerous striker like Njokuani, I believe Barboza will pass with flying colors. The talk of him becoming the next Jose Aldo is certainly premature, but his style of kickboxing matched with his explosive athleticism should get the job done in this fight. Njokuani is no pushover, so this fight could (and should) be a war as long as it lasts, but I envision Barboza using his powerful strikes to finish Njokuani in the second round via knockout.
Which lightweight striker will win at UFC 128? Voice your opinion here!