Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight scrappers Edson Barboza and Makwan Amirkhani will collide this weekend (Sat., Oct. 3, 2020) inside Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It’s not hard to feel for Barboza. The Brazilian veteran very likely deserved to win his last two bouts, a pair of split decisions that went against him. The latter was particularly painful, as Barboza endured a new and difficult weight cut, persevered to perform well, and then ... lost anyway to make it three straight defeats. Of course, Amirkhani is unlikely to show him any sympathy. “Mr. Finland” has won three of his last four bouts and has an impressive UFC record overall, earning him this high-profile opportunity against another ranked foe.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Anthony Pettis (UFC 197), Gilbert Melendez (UFC on FOX 20), Dan Hooker (UFC on FOX 31), Beneil Dariush (UFC Fight Night 106), Paul Felder (UFC on FOX 16)
Key Losses: Justin Gaethje (UFC on ESPN 2), Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 128), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 219), Tony Ferguson (TUF 22 Finale), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 11)]
Keys to Victory: Barboza is in the unenviable position of having a rather detailed game plan written on how to beat him widely available. Fortunately for the Brazilian, few have the skills to navigate past his brutal kicking range even if they know pressure is the answer, as he’s a remarkable destructive force.
Twelve of his victories come via knockout.
Typically, Barboza is really hard to take down early in the fight. Even Khabib failed on his first couple shots! That makes him a pretty terrible match up for Amirkhani, who typically fully commits all his energy to scoring the takedown and submission in the opening five minutes.
So long as Barboza doesn’t do anything silly, he should be able to stuff that shot. On the feet, Barboza is vastly superior to his foe, who is fairly hittable — a bad thing to be opposite Barboza! Worse still, Amirkhani commonly fatigues himself by the midway point of the fight, so even if Barboza is taken down early, he can focus on surviving and then taking over late.
Key Wins: Jason Knight (UFC Fight Night 130), Danny Henry (UFC 251), Chris Fishgold (UFC Fight Night 151), Andy Ogle (UFC on FOX 14)
Key Losses: Shane Burgos (UFC 244), Arnold Allen (UFC Fight Night 107)
Keys to Victory: Amirkhani is a specialist, a really talented wrestler with an excellent strangle game. He took some time off to develop his boxing, though the results have been mixed.
Truthfully, when Amirkhani tries to fight like a boxer, it doesn’t typically work. He’s better off sticking to what got him here: grappling! That’s particularly true against Barboza, who is arguably the most dangerous striker Amirkhani has faced yet.
There is no reason to waste time and energy attempting to establish the jab or work his technical kickboxing in any meaningful way. That path to defeating Barboza involves immediately throwing heavy punches at his face, convincing him to back into the cage, and then taking advantage.
Amirkhani loves to open fights/rounds with the flying knee, and this is the perfect bout for that move! Run at Barboza immediately, leap into the air, and drop into a double leg Khabib-style. If Amirkhani is to win this fight, he does so by dragging down Barboza early and wrapping up the neck, so focusing solely on that path is in his best interest.
It’s a pretty huge bout for each man.
In Barboza’s case, he needs a victory. Ideally, he needs a brutal win that reminds the fight world of his vicious Muay Thai, but at this point, any return to the win column would be welcome. I don’t think Barboza is at risk of being released or anything so dramatic, but considering he’s lost his previous three and five of his last six, the Brazilian cannot feel too secure in his position.
He’s being given a step back in competition for a reason: to prove he’s still top-tier regardless of his recent defeats.
As for Amirkhani, this is another opportunity to break into the rankings. His previous two fights with ranked opposition are responsible for the two UFC defeats on his record, so this will be his third attempt. Given how infrequently Amirkhani fights, it may be a while before he sees another opportunity like this, putting further pressure on “Mr. Finland” to pull it off.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 5 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 5: “Moraes vs. Sandhagen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Fight Island 5, Edson Barboza and Makwan Amirkhani will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?
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