Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight contenders Edson Barboza and Kevin Lee clashed last night (Sat., April 21, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 128 from inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
A three-fight win streak led Barboza to a title eliminator match opposite Khabib Nurmagomedov, which ended disastrously for the Brazilian. Since that loss, Barboza has been something of an afterthought at 155 lbs., but the knockout artist intended to remind the world of his unique talents opposite “The MoTown Phenom.” Meanwhile, Lee came up short in his last fight as well, but he looked so impressive in defeat that he may actually have improved his standing. There was an opportunity for Lee to potentially leapfrog other contenders with a big win last night, but Lee forsake that chance by missing weight the day before.
Lee opened as a Southpaw, firing the jab and pressuring. Barboza responded with inside low kicks, but Lee moved him towards the fence and finished a double leg. Lee quickly established top control, dropping some heavy ground strikes and working to advance position.
Barboza worked to recover guard, but Lee eventually passed into mount. From there, he immediately dropped brutally heavy punches and elbows. He then gift wrapped the Brazilian, continuing to hammer away with hard shots. Barboza eventually fully recovered the full guard, but Lee continued to drop bombs and work into mount again
Lee finished the round dropping big shots, and things could not have gone better for him.
Lee continued the second with more aggression, stunning Barboza with a high kick. However, the Brazilian did manage to defend the first takedown, returning to the center. He couldn’t stay upright for long, unfortunately, as Barboza was hurting and gave up the second double leg pretty easily.
It wasn’t quite as brutal, but Lee dropped heavy blows from within the guard and kept working toward the mount. For the better part of four straight minutes, Barboza ate shots and tried to defend himself.
It was a rough 10 minutes for the Brazilian.
Barboza targeted the body to start the third. It did a bit to slow Lee, and Barboza spun into a wheel kick that badly wobbled his opponent. Barboza was too wounded to fully take advantage, however, and Lee as able to gut his way into a takedown and recover.
This time, however, Barboza was able to kick off and get back to his feet. Lee’s jab was active and landing as the Brazilian waited for his moment. Barboza landed some nice kicks as Lee worked forward, but Lee threw a lot more punches.
It was a very close round.
Barboza seemed to have caught a bit of a second wind, firing faster punches and landing hard shots on Lee. Lee kept the pressure on though, moving forward and landing yet another power double along the fence.
The fourth was generally a slower replay of the first and second. Lee slowly worked his way into mount, dropping hard shots and tying up the wrist frequently along the way. When he gained the mount, he would drop big shots as Barboza frantically fought to recover at least half guard.
With five minutes remaining, Barboza absolutely needed a finish.
Barboza came out firing one last time. Some of his punches and kicks actually connected quite well — but Lee landed too — and Barboza denied his foe’s first takedown attempt. Barboza was slow to disengage, however, and Lee was able to drive into better position. Miraculously, Barboza managed to defend a pretty locked up takedown.
It did not pay off. Barboza lost his mouth piece, and the referee used that opportunity to call in the doctor, who stopped the bout. It was honestly the best call, it’s just unfortunate that it came at one of like two moments where Barboza was actually finding success.
Lee continues to grow, both as a technical fighter and the meanest sumbitch in the division. Technically, Lee made a great decision to fight as a Southpaw, something Barboza tends not to deal with as well. Plus, his kicks learned excellent, as Lee just slammed his shin into Barboza at every opportunity. Even when blocked, those kicks hurt bad.
As for the meanness, Lee is a brutal fighter. From top position, he dropped nasty blows over and over. Each time Barboza scrambled in the hopes of gaining some kind of safety, he suffered a half dozen elbows as a result.
If Lee made weight, I’d be on board with him fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov. As is, a title eliminator with someone like Eddie Alvarez would make a lot more sense.
Barboza got dominated in this fight for the second time in a row, which really destroys his position in the title mix. Barboza showed a lot of heart, but after the first round he was running on fumes.
There’s not much to analyze in a mauling, but I think Barboza would have been better advised to be patient in the first round. Once Lee scored the takedown, the focus should have been on tying Lee up and waiting for the round to end. Instead, Barboza tried to work his way up, but he just isn’t great at scrambling up. The actual end result was that Lee gained the mount multiple times, dropping a ridiculous amount of punishment in the process.
If Barboza had focused on survival, perhaps a rally later in the fight would have been more feasible.
Last night, Kevin Lee dominated a top contender to prove himself one of the best in the world. Who should Lee face next?
For complete UFC Fight Night 128: “Barboza vs. Lee” results and play-by-play, click HERE!