When we last left our heroes...This is one of those 'stop to smell the roses' bouts. A moment that requires a certain kind of reflection; things may suck in your life, but your life still provides you the odd gift now and then. This fight is that gift.
And both men are billed as high level world class strikers. They're the K-1-iest strikers in the division, so beware the world classiness on the feet. Or so Rogan and Goldberg will constantly remind us.
They've had some pretty interesting careers. In fact, Barboza seems headed towards the path of being the sequel to Cerrone. Like Cerrone, he has faltered here and there, and doesn't dominate in the spots you sometimes expect him to.
Either way, a win for the man from Jackson's Submission Fighting, or a win from the product of Valor MMA will propel one or the other towards a title shot: and believe that an impressive win for Barboza will influence Dana's title contender scenario. After all, title fights need to be sexy, and there aren't any fights sexier than an improved Edson Barboza versus Anthony Pettis (sorry ladies).
What both men can do: I feel like I need to talk about Barboza's fight with Castillo. Yes, it was a magnificent fight. And yes, Barboza looked to be headed towards the nightmare scenario where another wrestle boxer got the best of him on the feet. But that was a gutsy performance.
And a performance that speaks to his qualities. Yes, we can hear how good his leg kicks are. But he also proved his savvy by making adjustments. He moved his head when Castillo would throw his right hand, which made a big difference in the later rounds. Basically, Barboza is a destroyer of men at a distance. It's not just his ability to control distance with his variety of kicks (spinning and otherwise), but his willingness to jab. I also liked how in the middle of a scramble he was willing to go for the anaconda choke, which means he's anything but one dimensional (Castillo knows a thing or two about submissions training at Alpha Male, after all).
A lot of the things said about Edson can be said about Cerrone. The difference is that Cerrone doesn't always commit to low impact strikes, and is more prone to mixing it up on the ground. Along with searing leg kicks, he's very good in the clinch with an array of violent elbows and knees at his disposal.
What both men can't do: From a distance, beast mode for Barboza is always engaged. In close quarters, beast mode gets deactivated in the blink of a rage quit.
One of the things Barboza does to leave himself open is that the closer he gets to his opponent, the lower his arms go because he's always looking to counter with a left hook. The problem is that despite being quick, he doesn't chamber that left hook quick enough. It's kind of strange, but it's noticeable even for me. It looks a little like a reflex; he's confident he can outstrike anyone, but not confident he can survive on the ground so he lowers his body to prepare for underhooks. Both Castillo and Varner have taken advantage of that tic.
Cerrone, a fighter who can get fights to the ground, would be wise to borrow from their strategies. You're better off picking Cerrone. He's more well rounded, has a solid chin (though this is the first casualty in a fighter's decline), and can compete with Edson on the feet, who has shown himself to be crackable.
However, I'm going with Barboza. I feel like Barboza is only truly prone on the feet when he's too close to his opponent, and Cerrone is often content to keep his distance. He's a tall lanky striker as well, after all. Edson has trouble dealing with fighters who can threaten with top control and that doesn't describe Cerrone all that well.
Perhaps the better fight to look at when highlighting the matchup is probably Edson's bout against Ross Pearson. I feel like an idiot picking Barboza even without the benefit of retrospect, but I really believe that of all the fights Barboza has had, this matchup favors his spinning attack from range. Especially Edson's spinning kick to the body.
Prediction: Edson Barboza by Decision.