Later this evening (Sat., Jan. 19, 2013) from the Ibirapuera Arena in Sau Paulo, Brazil, lightweight strikers Edson Barboza and Lucas Martins are set to clash on the UFC on FX 7: "Bisping vs. Belfort" under card. Barboza, who was once a highly touted prospect, will welcome "Mineiro" to the Octagon for the first time ever (and on short notice).
Barboza's hype has dwindled over his past few fights because -- outside of his ridiculous knockout of Terry Etim -- he has been involved in two contested decision victories over Ross Pearson and Anthony Njokuani. He was then brutally knocked out by Jamie Varner in his most recent outing. Originally scheduled to fight Justin Salas at this event, Barboza needs a bounce back fight if he intends to rally the support from mixed martial arts (MMA) fans that he enjoyed not too long ago.
Martins, a product of the esteemed Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, will step up to the plate on just under three weeks notice. And although many people may overlook him, he stands a pretty decent chance in this match up. He is currently undefeated, with 12 victories on the Brazilian regional circuit, and he stands to make a big impression should he pull off the upset over Barboza.
Both of these men are primarily strikers, with Barboza sporting the better ground game. Though his takedown and submission game are not areas focused on by many fans, Barboza poses a real threat on the ground and he definitely has the ability to get it there.
But, that is not what makes this fight so interesting.
Should Barboza take this to the ground, the fight loses much of its appeal simply because he's far superior to Martins in the grappling department. If this fight is to stay contested on the feet, however, it has all the potential to be the best of the night.
Barboza and Martins sport some beautiful Muay Thai, and while Barboza appears to be the more proven of the two, "Mineiro"'s fundamentals are nothing to be overlooked. Martins has a very good stiff jab, complemented by an array of kicks and right hand punches that he uses to unleash some vicious combinations.
Both of these men are rangy fighters, with Barboza being taller and longer. At a distance, they both tend to throw kicks more than punches, primarily focusing on the legs of their opponents. They each also have flashy arranges of kicks, as Barboza is known for his spinning kick knockout of Etim, while Martins earned a sick flying kick knockout in his last fight.
Barboza tends to react poorly to pressure, as evidenced in his struggles in fights with Pearson and Njokuani, and then proven with his brutal knockout loss to Varner. When on the defensive, he has a tendency to move straight back and not keep his hands tight, which opens him to an array of punches. The reason this may come into play is because of Martins' training with Chute Boxe, a camp known to produce hyper-aggressive fighters.
If Martins can find early success on the feet, this fight may get very interesting. Barboza is a crafty fighter, complementing his flashy attacks with brutal leg kicks and body strikes, which serve to slow opponents. If Martins decides to press forward, he'll make the fight into the Muay Thai equivalent of a slugfest, with both men throwing heavy punches, kicks and knees.
With dynamic strikers like these two, we are likely to see them face off mostly on the feet. Barboza has claimed that he has focused on being more aggressive, which may be interesting to see, but Martins is a very solid underdog. With both fighters looking for a big win for their Brazilian audience, they may be lighting one another up on various occasions.
If Martins can close the distance on Barboza, and use his strong arsenal of combinations, he may put Barboza into some compromising positions. Barboza needs to keep his cool and find his range to be effective, so if Martins doesn't let that happen, this could become a dogfight.
Of course, it is very possible to see Barboza win in dominant fashion, as Martins is stepping up for the first time on the big stage on short notice. However, if he's game, this fight could be very close and hotly contested, a surefire winner of the UFC on FX 7 "Fight of the Night" bonus.