Two of the UFC's youngest and brightest lightweights will meet this Saturday night (January 14, 2012) as perennial "Submission of the Night" winner Terry Etim takes on two-time "Fight of the Night"-winner Edson Barboza in expects to be a thrilling battle to open up the UFC 142 main card in Rio.
Terry Etim came back from a 19 month layoff with furious tenacity at UFC 138, tapping out his opponent in just 17 seconds to claim his third "Submission of the Night" bonus in his last four fights. He's resurgent, determined and ready to thrust himself into contention in the crowded lightweight division.
Edson Barboza has quickly become one of the UFC's most exciting young strikers. His UFC debut consisted of leg kicking his opponent to oblivion and he's followed it up with back to back 'Fight of the Night" winning performances. He's hoping to add some more bonus cash to his bank account with another thriller against Etim.
Will Etim be able to have his way with Barboza using his own Brazilian Lute Livre skills? Can the Brazilian earn a more dominant victory in front of his hometown crowd than his nailbiter the last time out? Is there any possibility that this fight isn't amazing?
I doubt it. Read on to find out why:Terry Etim
Record: 15-3 overall, 6-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Terry Etim entered the UFC with an 8-0 record as the Cage Gladiators lightweight champion. After winning "Submission of the Night" in his UFC debut, the Brit would lose consecutive unanimous decisions to veteran lightweights Gleison Tibau and Rich Clementi.
After the loss to "No Love," Etim began a strong stretch that saw him win four straight bouts in the lightweight division including three straight stoppages in 2009 which was capped off when he amassed back-to-back "Submission of the Night" awards.
In April of 2010, Etim would have his streak snapped by talented lightweight Rafael dos Anjos in a back-and-forth battle that saw him nearly submit the talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. He would suffer an awful training injury while preparing to face Joe Lauzon at UFC 118 in August of 2010 and has been sidelined ever since.
He announced that he was finally healed up earlier this past summer and he'll made hit return after 19 months away from the cage against Edward Faaloloto, destroying the Hawaiian in via jumping guillotine in just 17 seconds. With the quick victory, he was more than ready for a fast turnaround.
How he gets it done: Etim has a strong base in the Brazilian Lute Livre fighting style, a form that combines Brazilian wrestling with submissions and striking. This should be very interesting as he's an English Lute Livre fighter competing in Brazil against a Brazilian who primarily uses taekwondo and Muay Thai kickboxing.
Etim is a decent striker, but he's not anywhere near Barboza's league in my opinion. His game should rely almost entirely on pressure and forcing Barboza to play defense. If Barboza is more worried about takedown attempts, clinch attempts or even crazy flying submission attempts, he's not going to have time to focus on attacking.
The British grappler should constantly be threatening with something and while Barboza has shown strong defensive tendencies, he could very possibly wilt if Etim is persistent with his pressure. Hell, it could even open up some avenues in the striking game, which would snowball again into more openings in the offensive grappling. The key is to force Barboza to go backwards.
Record: 9-0 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Despite being a very talented Brazilian fighter based in Rio de Janeiro, Edson Barboza has spent his entire MMA career fighting in the United States. Barboza absolutely tore his way through the local scene at Renaissance MMA and Ring of Combat, obliterating everyone with a stoppage including current M-1 champion Jose Figueroa with a first round knockout.
He made his UFC debut against Mike Lullo, and unfortunately for Lullo, he went to work with some absolutely brutal leg kicks. Lullo ate repeated kicks to the thigh and somehow managed to survive to the third round but he'd had enough after getting dropped again in the third round before the ref stopped the fight.
Barboza would follow up that performance with a tremendous showing against fellow striker Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128 this past March. The Brazilian fascinated the fans and media with a diverse array of kicks and strikes, eventually earning a tough decision victory against the WEC veteran in a "Fight of the Night" winning match.
He gladly accepted an important match-up against a well-rounded fighter Ross Pearson in the UFC's return to Brazil, winning a thrilling and very close decision in the process. Barboza continues to climb the ranks and accepted a bout against resurgent British Lute Livre fighter Terry Etim for the promotion's return to Rio once more.
How he gets it done: Edson Barboza wants to keep this fight standing. There's no doubt about that.
"The Phenomenon" has earned many nicknames in his brief MMA career, but he's done almost all of his damage with his striking in the stand-up realm of MMA. He should expect to be tested against Etim, a respectable striker who's likely going to be trying to keep him on his heels.
Leg kicks will be really important in this match-up as they'll take some steam out of Etim's forward momentum, his takedowns and explosiveness in getting the fight to the ground.
The main thing the Brazilian brawler needs to worry about it getting a little too aggressive in the stand-up and providing Etim with a huge opening to take him to the canvas. Barboza didn't exactly light the world on fire when the fight went to the ground against Mike Lullo so it would probably be wise if he avoided that situation entirely.
The smartest thing for "The Armory"-trained fighter to do is to keep his distance and try to pick Etim apart with his jab and quick combinations. If he can begin slipping strikes through the 25 year old's defenses, he'll find that moment to really throw something nasty.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight is, how good is Terry Etim since returning from his injury? We honestly haven't learned much yet. He blew Faaloloto completely out of the water in just 17 seconds with a highly aggressive submission assault, but Faaloloto was a sacrificial lamb served up on a platter to him. There's almost no way he's going to be able to do that to Barboza, so what is going to happen when's he's forced to fight a longer, more drawn out battle against someone who's going to really make him work?
Will his conditioning be solid? Can he put Barboza on his back? There are a ton of questions about what Etim will be able to do against the talented striker.
Bottom Line: This is an extremely intriguing grappler versus striker match-up. Both men are extremely active in their particular disciplines. Etim will throw a wide range of ground and submission attacks at his opponents while Barboza can pummel his foes with a wide array kicking attacks or short knees and elbows on the inside. If fused together, they would be one of the most potent combinations of violence in the lightweight division. Instead, though, we are simply going to have to be content with a thrilling battle that should be exciting and aggressive wherever it goes.
Who will come out on top at UFC 142? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!