Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight kickboxers Edson Barboza and Giga Chikadze will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 21, 2021) at UFC Vegas 34 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Barboza unexpected transition to 145-pounds has proven surprisingly fruitful. The Brazilian should probably be 3-0 in his new weight class (a split-decision vs. Dan Ige went against him), and he’s been stunning opponents more than ever with his punches! Now ranked at No.9, perhaps one last title run isn’t impossible for 35 year old. On the other hand, Chikadze brings a wealth of professional kickboxing experience with him into the Octagon. He’s parlayed that skill into six straight UFC victories, seemingly growing better with each fight and getting more comfortable in the other aspects of MMA.
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), Shane Burgos (UFC 262)
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 grew up in Muay Thai, competing nearly 30 times as a professional in Brazil. Inside the cage, he’s best known for his lightning fast kicks, which can destroy an opponent’s legs, liver, or skull with equal aplomb. As mentioned, he’s been scoring more knockdowns with his hands as of late, an advantage that definitely helps prevent foes from pressuring him.
This is a tricky fight! Both men share many of the same traits, such as a ripping left kick, and they’re likely to be rather familiar with one another’s setups and traps.
Barring a high kick sneaking through the guard on either side, this is likely to be a highly competitive battle of inches. For Barboza, he has a pair of advantages. For one, he seems to be the faster man, which betters his odds of winning the outside jab and low kick battle. In addition, Barboza historically works at a slightly higher pace than his opponent, so volume could prove the difference over five rounds.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to mix in a shot or two, like Barboza did vs. Paul Felder. Chikadze has shown generally solid defense wrestling, but a minute on his back could add some hesitancy to his striking.
Key Wins: Cub Swanson (UFC Vegas 25), Jamall Emmers (UFC 248), Brandon Davis (UFC Fight Night 160), Omar Morales (UFC Fight Night 179)
Key Losses: Austin Springer (DWTNCS)
Keys To Victory: A veteran of Glory Kickboxing, Chikadze has done well to implement his classic kickboxing combinations in small gloves. “Ninja” is famous for his left kick — the “Giga Kick” — which is responsible for his last two stoppage wins.
There is a clear, well-established strategy opposite Edson Barboza. Whether one’s goal involves chasing takedowns or the knockout, it is very proven that pressuring the Brazilian greatly increases chances of success.
Of course, that’s not to say Chikadze should sprint at Barboza wildly — that’s how fighters swallow jump knees and spin kicks. No, Chikadze has the kickboxing skill and experience to be more methodical in his pressure, to block-and-return off kicks or slip punches while continually advancing and cutting off the cage.
As mentioned, this bout is likely to feature many close exchanges. If Chikadze is the man dictating the pace and controlling the Octagon, however, he’s likely to score big connections as Barboza is trapped. Even if the exchanges remain fairly tit-for-tat, judges love center control.
One knockout artist will continue his Featherweight climb.
The move to 145 pounds did genuinely inspire something of a renaissance in Barboza’s status as a contender. Scoring a title shot is still not exceptionally likely, but at least “Junior” does not have five men who have previously defeated him ranked ahead of him anymore. A third consecutive win in a main event slot could really do wonders for pushing him forward, potentially drawing him a Top Five-ranked foe next.
Would you watch Edson Barboza vs. Chan Sung Jung? I know I would.
Chikadze is fighting for a similar big step up, but he has the added benefits of an undefeated UFC record and general newness to the company. Should Chikadze score the biggest win yet of his pro career in his first main event appearance, it surely will build a good deal of momentum. Similar to Barboza, the prospect of pitting Chikadze vs. Jung or Calvin Katter is such an easy sell ... if he wins tonight.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 35 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 35, Edson Barboza and Giga Chikadze will duel in the main event. Which striker will remain standing when the dust settles?