Last night (Sat., April 19, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone faced off in an electrifying main card bout at UFC on FOX 11 from Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
No. 8-ranked "Cowboy" came into Florida looking impressive, having knocked Adriano Martins and submitted Evan Dunham in his last two fights. After an inconsistent run against top competition, Cerrone was looking to prove he didn't deserve his reputation as a fighter who wilts in the face of top competition.
No. 12-ranked Barboza previously won a hard-fought decision over Danny Castillo at UFC on FOX 9. In early 2012, "Junior" was riding high on the momentum of his "Knockout of the Year"-winning wheel kick over Terry Etim at UFC 142, but a upset loss to Jamie Varner at UFC 146 sent him plummeting down the rankings.
Barboza responded by winning his next three mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts to earn a shot at Cerrone, who was probably his toughest challenge to date.
For a moment last night, he rose to that occasion.
Ultimately, however, Barboza got a bit overconfident. He paid the price for it, becoming the latest victim on Cerrone's long list of bonus-winning performances. Let's take a look back at "Cowboy's" third straight finish win.
Barboza unleashed a crisp combination in the opening seconds. Cerrone went for a takedown and got a sloppy one, but Barboza immediately got back up. Cerrone pushed forward and ate a low kick followed by a body shot. Barboza looked sharp as he unleashed some crisp punches. Barboza landed another right; followed by a solid combo and a spinning back kick. "Junior" snapped a jab and looked confident.
But, it wasn't meant to last long.
Cerrone cracked Barboza with a stiff left jab that stunned him, quickly transitioning into a tight rear-naked choke on the ground that left "Junior" with no choice but to tap out.
It was an awesome come-from-behind performance that saw "Cowboy" tie the Zuffa lightweight record for most finishes with 11.
He's ready for another huge fight. Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat Rafael dos Anjos, the last man to defeat "Cowboy," on the UFC on FOX 11 preliminary card, would make for an absolutely awesome fight with Cerrone. If Benson Henderson gets past Rustam Khabilov this June, a trilogy match-up with "Smooth" would also be a blockbuster bout for sometime later this fall.
Barboza experiences his second major setback in as many years. After working his way back up the ladder after his loss to Varner, he had finally got the big fight he believed he deserved. He would have been poised to make a title run had he won in Orlando; now he's relegated to another long climb back up the rankings.
A good test for him would be undefeated prospect Myles Jury or the loser of Henderson vs. Khabilov. Barboza looked like he was confident in his striking against Cerrone, but it bordered on cockiness. He's going to have to shore up that facet of his game if he ever wants to be considered a true title contender.
Thankfully, the 28-year-old has some time, but his room for error is undoubtedly razor thin right now.
It looked like Donald Cerrone was on his way to getting outclassed on the feet, but he rebounded to rock Edson Barboza and earn another solid finish on the ground. With three straight stoppages, has "Cowboy" put his mental preparedness issues behind him?