Kevin Lee and Edson Barboza have quite the act to follow as a main event after Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje threw down in one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen as a UFC fan. Our pick Poirier ended up getting the win with a fourth round TKO, but I’ll admit I was losing hope and the live betting odds also showed Poirier turning into a close to 2/1 dog at the time of his finish. What a wild fight, and one that I will not forget any time soon.
This week the UFC is headed to Atlantic City, and like I mentioned above, the card is headlined by another solid matchup in the stacked lightweight division with Kevin Lee and Edson Barboza both trying to get back in the win column after losses to Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, respectively. The co-main is another fight between a couple high profile UFC veterans trying to get back into the win column with both Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar coming off losses to Brian Ortega.
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Kevin Lee vs Edson Barboza
If I’m being honest I think both of these guys are significantly overrated in the UFC Lightweight division. I would normally be looking to fade either one of these fighters, but because they’re fighting each other I have to look at who I think is more overrated.
A lot of people will look at the Barboza vs Khabib fight and give Barboza a pass because it was Khabib. I can’t do that. Khabib has real holes in his stand up game and Barboza never even gave himself a chance to expose them because he would not commit to his attacks on the feet, instead looking to defend takedowns, with Khabib eventually taking him down anyways. Kevin Lee is no Khabib, but he also has a very strong takedown game getting Ferguson to the mat 3 times in his last fight before succumbing to a triangle choke. In his previous two fights (over Chiesa and Trinaldo) he got his opponents down and proceeded to get his own submission.
The UFC has mostly been matching Barboza up against other strikers (Dariush, Melendez, Pettis, Ferguson, Felder) which made it seem like his takedown defense is elite, but in reality these 5 fighters have a total of 4 takedowns in their last 25 fights (taking the most recent 5 fights from each fighter). Lee has 13 takedowns in his last 5 fights alone (at least 1 in each fight) and often only needed the one takedown to secure a submission.
Lee has way more paths to victory in this fight than Barboza and the only way I really see him losing is if he gets caught with a knockout blow, which I think is unlikely.
Play: Lee -145
Cub Swanson vs Frankie Edgar
Both Swanson and Edgar are coming off of losses to title contender Brian Ortega. Edgar actually only lost to Ortega a month and a half ago and the fight was ended by KO, so many people seem to think Edgar might not be ready to go physically or mentally in this fight. Critics point to Michael Bisping getting KO’d by Kelvin Gastelum a couple weeks after his loss to GSP as proof that a fighter can’t possibly be ready so soon after defeat. The difference between Edgar and Bisping though is that Bisping went into a fight where he was the underdog (and would have always been the underdog) and got knocked out by the better fighter. Edgar is going into a fight against a guy he already dominated just a few years back.
I expect Edgar to be ready to go and for the fight to play out similarly to how it did in 2014. Edgar should be able to get the fight to the mat whenever he chooses (he had 7 takedowns in their last fight) and I expect Swanson to eventually give an opening for Edgar to be able to secure a submission. Swanson is a very dangerous fighter on the feet and he’s a good scrambler after being taken down, but he often gives up his neck and I think Edgar will find it again this Saturday for a late submission after another dominant performance.
Play: Edgar -210
Aljamain Sterling vs Brett Johns
Brett Johns is a bantamweight prospect I’ve been watching closely over the past few years. He’s really impressed in his 3 UFC fights so far, dominating a couple decisions and then showcasing his unique submission grappling skills with a calf slicer finish of Joe Soto in just 30 seconds this past December.
Sterling is a step up in competition for Johns, but I’m personally not too high on Aljamain. He’s fought much tougher competition and fought tight with both Caraway and Assuncao, ultimately losing both fights via decision, but he really doesn’t have many weapons on the feet and relies far too heavily on his kicking attacks. He’s a solid wrestler and grappler, but I still give the edge to Johns in that department.
I expect Johns to close the distance, put Aljamain on his back with relative ease and then proceed to dominate from top position for much of the fight.
Play: Johns -112