UFC Fight Night 61 Date: February 22, 2014 Arena: Gigantinho Gymnasium City: Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil Lightweight bout: Michael Johnson (+125) vs Edson Barboza (-145) Fight Breakdown: The co-main event of the evening will be a lightweight contest between a pair of talented strikers. Fireworks are expected when TUF 12 finalist Michael Johnson travels to Brazil to square off against Edson Barboza in what is the favorite to take home the evening’s ‘Fight of the Night’ honors. Johnson is a slight +125 ($100 to win $125) underdog at the sportsbooks heading into this lightweight scrap, with Barboza being a -145 ($145 to win $100) betting favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. Michael Johnson (15-8 NC MMA, 7-4 UFC) is currently riding an impressive three-fight winning streak that includes a pair of unanimous decision victories over Joe Lauzon and Melvin Guillard and a knockout of Brazilian veteran Gleison Tibau. The Tibau knockout was especially impressive because it was the first time the Brazilian had been stopped via strikes in seven years. Tbe 28-year old has excellent takedown defense, and even though he was submitted by Paul Sass and Reza Madadi, he has reasonable submission defense, as well. Johnson’s offensive wrestling is decent, and he does come from a wrestling background, but nowadays he is predominantly a kickboxer who prefers to keep his fights on the feet. His striking skills have developed tremendously since teaming up with Blackzilian head striking coach Henri Hooft; he has been showing clear-as-day improvements in his stand-up skills from fight to fight. “The Menace” showcases excellent movement on the feet, uses his range well and works a solid jab. He is a well-conditioned athlete with a good chin who will be ready for a three round of action against Barboza on Sunday night. The last time Johnson strung three wins together inside the Octagon, he followed up with two consecutive losses. Now, again he finds himself on a three-fight winning streak, which he will eagerly be hoping to extend to four against the Brazilian on enemy territory this Sunday night. Edson Barboza (15-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) last saw action at UFC Fight Night 57 three months ago where he picked up a unanimous decision victory over Bobby Green which made him two in a row since being stopped by Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone last April. Heading into Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 61 co-main event scrap against Johnson, he will be looking to extend his streak to three in impressive fashion. Barboza is a very talented Muay Thai striker who has developed excellent defensive wrestling skills. He has incredible takedown defense and prefers to strike, so we have yet to see him really implement any offensive submission attacks inside the Octagon, though he did display some solid submission defense in his come-from-behind victory over Danny Castillo back in December of 2013. The biggest concern for Barboza at this point is his chin, considering the fact that he was dropped and finished by Jamie Varner, dropped and nearly finished by Castillo, then dropped again and submitted by Cerrone. That said, he did show good recovery against Castillo, as he did survive the onslaught to make a come-back and take home a majority decision on the judges’ scorecards. The Brazilian has an incredible kicking game and undoubtedly owns the hardest leg kicks in the lightweight division. He has scored three TKO’s via leg kicks, with two of them coming inside the Octagon. The 29-year old has beautiful spinning kicks, as well, like the highlight-reel ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus and ‘Fight of the Year’ award winning spinning heel kick he knocked out Terry Etim with at UFC 142. Barboza often likes to use his spinning back kick, and also has a nice spinning roundhouse kick. The Muay Thai specialist mixes it up well on the feet, putting together some excellent and effective combinations. He has a good over-hand right, a solid left hook and a nice uppercut-left hook combination he likes to use. He uses his lead jab really well, and is great at working his range. Training in New Jersey with the likes of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, the Brazilian is well-conditioned and ready for 15-minutes of action, if necessary. Gabe’s Prediction: I think this is going to be a three round war and lean with the Brazilian to get his hand raised, but feel like it could be anybody’s fight. They are both very capable of putting the other away, but I think these two battle it out for all 15-minutes of action more often than not, so at the current betting price of -120, I do like the Over 2.5 rounds total for a play. Gabe’s Call: Barboza by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Over 2.5 rounds (-120) 2.4u to win 2u
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