Two lethal Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight finishers lock horns this Saturday (April 21, 2018) in Atlantic City, N.J., as Edson Barboza throws down with Kevin Lee in UFC Fight Night 128’s main event inside Boardwalk Hall. Earlier in the evening, Cub Swanson looks to settle the score with Frankie Edgar, while David Branch attempts to halt the violent rise of Thiago Santos.
Four UFC Fight Night 128 “Prelims” undercard bouts join the main card on FOX Sports 1 (check out the first batch here). Shall we?
170 lbs.: Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Garcia
In Feb. 2017, Ryan LaFlare (13-2) returned to action after more than a year away, defeating Roan Carneiro to improve his UFC record to 6-1. He looked poised to make it 7-1 after controlling Alex Oliveira in the first round of their July 2017 clash, but ran headlong into an uppercut for his first-ever stoppage loss.
He will have four inches of height and two inches of reach on Alex Garcia (15-4).
“The Dominican Nightmare” got off to a perfect (2-0) UFC start before alternating losses and wins, starting with a narrow decision loss to Neil Magny. He is coming off an upset submission of striking standout Muslim Salikhov and is three fights removed from a one-punch, bonus-winning knockout of Mike Pyle at UFC 207.
He has knocked out and submitted six opponents apiece.
Garcia could be something special if he worked to evolve his striking beyond “hurl haymakers at opponent until he falls down” and improved his cardio, but as of now he’s simply dangerous and entertaining, which isn’t enough at the highest levels of the shark-infested Welterweight division. LaFlare — a competent striker and takedown artist — looks to be just beyond him. LaFlare can keep up with Garcia in the grappling and control him with range striking until Garcia’s gas tank empties, at which point it’s all one-way traffic.
Garcia definitely has the power to end LaFlare with one hit, but it’s not a possibility worth putting your hopes in. LaFlare outstrikes and outwrestles him on the way to a decision victory.
Prediction: LaFlare via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Magomed Bibulatov vs. Yuta Sasaki
Magomed Bibulatov (14-1) entered UFC with extremely high hopes behind him thanks to a standout run in Russia and a World Series of Fighting (WSOF) title victory over Donavon Frelow. After cruising past Jenel Lausa in his Octagon debut, Bibulatov entered his fight with John Moraga as a massive favorite, only to eat a lights-out left hook just 98 seconds into the fight.
He will give up five inches each of height and reach to Yuta Sasaki (20-5-2).
Consecutive stoppage losses to Leandro Issa and Taylor Lapilus sent “Ulka” down to Flyweight, where he choked out Willie Gates and gave Wilson Reis an unexpectedly tough out in his first two appearances. He went on to upset the painfully upset-prone Justin Scoggins, winning “Performance of the Night” in the process, but tapped to Jussier Formiga’s patented rear-naked choke in Sept. 2017.
He has submitted 11 opponents and scored (technical) knockout victories over another two.
Bibulatov still has all the skills needed to make a serious run at title contention, but he now bears the burden of a cracked chin. If his confidence remains intact, he remains a potential Top 5-ranked Flyweight. If it doesn’t, well, it’s not like anyone’s beating Demetrious Johnson anyway.
Even assuming the worst-case scenario, though, he should demolish Sasaki, whose fearsome grappling is hamstrung by lackluster wrestling and striking. Both Bibulatov’s kickboxing and takedowns are miles against of Sasaki’s, and so long as he’s even remotely close to his best, this is an extraordinarily winnable fights. He dominates in all areas for 15 minutes.
Prediction: Bibulatov via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Luan Chagas
Injuries, illnesses and other issues have held Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) to just four Octagon appearances since his debut knockout of Paulo Thiago in 2012. He returned from two years away to choke out Brandon Thatch in March 2016, then stepped up in weight to knockout Rob Wilkinson 18 months later.
He is nine years older than Luan Chagas (15-2-1) and will give up three inches of reach.
“Tarzan” opened his UFC career with a rare 1-1-1 run, drawing with Sergio Moraes, tapping to Erick Silva in a “Fight of the Night” and submitting Jim Wallhead in sequence. He was set to face Niko Price in Oct. 2017 before breaking his foot, making this his first appearance in 10 months.
His 15 stoppage wins are split 9:6 between submissions and knockouts and 10 of them came in the first round.
As fun as Bahadurzada is, he’s slow and ungainly with his punches ... not to mention lackluster off of his back. In Chagas, he faces a far younger, far more athletic, and far more well-rounded fighter. His only real hope here is finding the Brazilian’s chin early, otherwise he’s in for a long, frustrating night.
Chagas is early enough in his career that Bahadurzada could, conceivably, catch him with an ugly punch as “Tarzan” overextends. More likely, Chagas uses his length and kicks to pick apart Bahadurzada with power shots all night.
Prediction: Chagas via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins
Corey Anderson (9-4) — the man formerly known as “Beastin’ 25/8” -- started his UFC career 5-1, beating the likes of Jan Blachowicz and “Filthy’ Tom Lawlor along the way. He currently finds himself in a 1-3 slump, however, suffering knockout losses to Jimi Manuwa and Ovince Saint Preux in 2017.
He will have an inch of height and three inches of reach on Patrick Cummins (10-4).
Three knockouts in four fights had Cummins on the figurative ropes, but he bounced back with victories in his last two fights. Last April, he fought back from a disastrous first round to take a decision over Jan Blachowicz, then edged Gian Villante four months later.
He was originally slated to fight Anderson in Nov. 2017 before the latter got staph.
Imagine how scary Cummins would be if he had a chin. He’s just so damn relentless when he’s stable, only to disintegrate when he can’t withstand the return fire. The question, then, is whether Anderson has enough firepower to halt Cummins’ inexorable advance. “Overtime” has a nifty kickboxing game, but he’s never been a devastating striker, instead relying on his wrestling to open up ground-and-pound.
Without the means to reliably take down Cummins or put him to sleep, Anderson’s going to have serious issues keeping “Durkin” off of him. He moves well, sure, but Anderson’s striking has never been a cohesive whole. I say Cummins marches through his best shots and wears him down for another close decision victory.
Prediction: Cummins via unanimous decision
Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee and Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson 2 are both killer match ups. Don’t miss ‘em, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 128 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.