Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at a sure fire bet to contend for fight of the night when former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis takes on Brazilian striker Edson Barboza. Edson Barboza (Record: 16-4, +155 Underdog, Fighter Grade: B+) The 30-year old Brazilian is part of the current, in prime fighters that is looking to build a new wave of stars from Brazil following in the footsteps of Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva, and Fabricio Werdum. He’s been in the UFC for over 5 years and will be competing in his 15th fight inside the octagon at UFC 197. One of Brazil’s top lightweights, Barboza trains in New Jersey and is a long time training partner of the great Frankie Edgar. Barboza trains BJJ under Ricardo Almeida and boxing under Mark Henry. Barboza is well known for his striking. His leg kicks are as vicious and powerful as anyone in the lighter weight classes. He’s finished four of his UFC fights with some sort of leg kick combination; more than any other fighter in the organization. On the feet, Barboza can compete with just about any fighter in the sport. What has held Barboza back is his ability to take damage from his opponents. He’s been hurt in several fights and finished. Even when he’s getting the better of the exchanges, getting clipped in a standing exchange is always a concern. Furthermore, each time he’s stepped up to face elite competition, he’s faltered. Technique has not been the issue for Barboza, it’s been the ability to overcome adversity and put through a complete fifteen minutes against the best in the division. Anthony Pettis (Record: 18-4, -175 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) The Milwaukee-born and raised mixed martial artist has been training in multiple disciplines since he was five years old. He was a third degree black belt in taekwondo by the time he started fighting professionally in MMA. Pettis enters this fight on the back of his first two fight losing streak of his professional career and is in desperate need of a win. Only one year ago was Pettis being looked at as a potential superstar and PPV draw for the UFC. The former WEC turned UFC lightweight champion has beaten some of the best fighters ever in the weight class including Donald Cerrone (2x), Benson Henderson (2x), and Gilbert Melendez. Pettis is as creative as a striker as they come and does well when he’s able to keep distance and land with any variety of striking. He combines that with a very sneaky ground game. He’s excellent in transitions and has shown he can beat top level fighters in that way. The method to beat Pettis is a combination of pressure striking on the feet and locking him up or taking him to the ground and keeping him there. Either way, it’s stifling his offensive attack that is the key to beating Pettis. It can be done, but it requires the right abilities and a proper game plan. Match-up This is a fight on paper that there’s a lot to be excited about. We should see both guys be able to attempt to work to their strengths which is a creative stand up battle. From the start, it will be interesting to see who gets the best of the standup: Barboza’s muay thai or Pettis’ taekwondo. Both fighters will have a chance to show off their kicking games, but what I think is the biggest difference in this fight is toughness. Pettis has already faced the best fighters in the weight class. He hasn’t beaten all of them, but none of them were able to finish him. Barboza has been hurt in several fights; even in positions where he was leading the fight. Pettis is a big time threat in the kicking game to land decisive blows to the body as well as the head. I can see him landing early testing Barboza and finishing him late in the opening stanza. Time and time again Barboza has had opportunities to prove he can compete with the division’s elite, but has faltered in each of those scenarios. Expect the same at UFC 197.
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