With UFC Fight Night 106 behind us, there were many noteworthy performances which saw fighters’ stock rise. Jay Primetown takes a look at the key performers from Fortaleza and what’s next for them. Edson Barboza Overview: The Brazilian lightweight has long been considered one of the most promising fighters in the division. His combination of athleticism and striking technique make him one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. His problem in the past was inability to win the big fight. That has changed significantly over the last year. He had victories over former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez and former UFC champion Anthony Pettis. Beneil Dariush presented another challenge. A southpaw with an aggressive approach. Barboza struggled in the first round of the fight, as he was unable to find distance to land his heavy hitting leg kicks. He found a bit more space in the second round, but it was his perfectly placed flying knee that landed flush and put away Dariush. It was Barboza’s third straight victory, all over ranked opposition. Outlook: Barboza is certainly a rising fighter in the lightweight division. On the back of this winning streak, he’s earned himself an opportunity to face Top 5 opponents in the division. His exciting style, ability to finish in a variety of ways and flashy technique will provide him the opportunity to fight high profile opposition. I’d expect to see him next either at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro or during International Fight Week in Las Vegas in July. Ray Borg Overview: The 23-year-old flyweight entered the UFC in 2014 and was quickly recognized as one of the top prospects in the division. Borg’s speed and tenacious wrestling approach gave him a skill set capable of success in the world’s biggest MMA promotion. Borg had suffered losses previously when he was unable to dominate his opponent with his wrestling. The matchup with Jussier Formiga was a key test for the American, as Formiga is a talented grappler in his own right. Borg had his moments in the striking, and the two battled back and forth on the mat. However, it was Borg’s turn from when he was controlled on his back to earn top position in round three that won him the fight. It allowed Borg to land heavy shots, cutting Formiga open in the final couple minutes of the fight for him to earn the biggest win of his career. Outlook: Fresh off a victory over the third-ranked flyweight in the world, Borg is on the cusp of contendership. With the majority of the Top 10 already previously facing champion Demetrious Johnson, Borg can leap-frog many of the division’s top fighters to give the champion a fresh matchup. I still think he’s at least a fight away from that opportunity and will need to take another fighter this summer before a chance a potential chance at Johnson at the end of 2017. Kevin Lee Overview: The 24-year-old American had won three fights in a row, including a huge victory over talented Russian Magomed Mustafaev. Lee had really started to become a dominant grappler capable of a serious run in the division. At Fight Night 106, he was paired against a fighter on a seven-bout winning streak. It certainly wasn’t an easy fight for Lee. He struggled with Trinaldo’s striking early in the fight and was wobbled at one point during round one. The second round was a more even fight until Lee landed a head kick and was able to take a stunned Trinaldo to the mat. From there, he went back to his core of grappling and was able find his opponent’s back, finding a rear-naked choke for his biggest victory inside the Octagon. Outlook: Lee is one of the few fighters to ever call out undefeated lightweight Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov. Lee believes he’s a better wrestler than Nurmagomedov. While I respect his self-confidence, I believe that would be a bit more than Lee could handle at the moment. Lee had major issues putting Trinaldo on his back, and if weren’t for the head kick that hurt Trinaldo, he would of struggled throughout that bout for takedowns. Nurmagomedov is a different level fighter that would put Lee on his back. At this point, Lee needs to continue to make small strides up the lightweight division. I expect him to debut next week in the lightweight rankings and he should look to fight a fighter ranked between the Top 10-15 range in the division. Lightweight is one of the deepest divisions in the UFC, so there’s plenty of talent he can test himself against without going into the cage against one of the division’s elite like “The Eagle.”
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