UFC 142 RIO: Aldo vs. Mendes kicks off with a salivating match up between two electric lightweights with an offense-first mentality. Brazilian Muay Thai expert Edson Barboza meets UK Luta Livre specialist Terry Etim to launch the pay-per-view this Saturday night.
Edson Barboza (9-0) is one of MMA's most exciting new prospects. Despite just nine professional fights, Barboza is far from inexperienced in the fight game with a stellar history in Muay Thai competition (25-3 with 22 knockouts). His stance, selection of strikes and fluent delivery just ooze traditional Muay Thai and it's obvious that the kid has a wealth of pure talent and a bright future ahead of him.
After his first six outings, Barboza had already acquired the Ring of Combat lightweight title and finished every opponent. Five of those stoppages came in the first frame and an equal amount were registered by his devastating striking. The sole remainder, an Anaconda choke, is an impressive submission for a kickboxing-based fighter to employ at such an early stage and signified that Barboza had more than one dimension.
Barboza made his Octagon debut in November of 2010 at UFC 119 in spectacular fashion, cascading a barrage of low roundhouse kicks to the legs of Mike Lullo. Barboza won by "TKO via leg kicks" -- a rare way to finish in MMA but hardly so for Barboza, who'd won his last fight by the same method. The 25-year-old would accrue decision wins in his two subsequent bouts, though Anthony Njokuani (unanimous) and Ross Pearson (split) both gave him a good run for his money in standing shootouts.
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Terry Etim (15-3) is a Team Kaobon product based in Liverpool, England. Like Barboza (5'11" tall; 75" reach), Etim is long and lanky (6'1" tall; 73" reach) and wields an aggressive, dual-pronged assault of striking and submissions. The similarities don't end there: Etim debuted in the UFC with an undefeated record, had finished every opponent (8 subs, 1 head-kick KO) most of which were in the first round (6 of 9), and Etim had also captured a title in a smaller promotion (Cage Gladiators lightweight champ).
Etim first appeared in the UFC against Matt Grice in 2007 and stayed true to form with a first-round guillotine choke. However, he would then experience a double dose of defeat, dropping decisions to Gleison Tibau and Rich Clementi. Etim would respond phenomenally by reeling off four consecutive wins: the biggest of his career over Sam Stout (decision) and impressive finishes of Brian Cobb (TKO facilitated by another head-kick), Justin Buchholz (Brabo choke) and Shannon Gugerty (guillotine).
Rafael dos Anjos snapped his streak with a second-round armbar and Etim would then suffer a broken rib in training that sidelined him for a year and a half. He made a successful return at UFC 138 with a lightning-quick tapout of Edward Faaloloto, using his signature guillotine choke to end things early.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Barboza's whirling ballet of violence is an understandable hit with fans. The back-spinning roundhouse to the right is both poetic to behold and undeniably effective, thwacking Njokuani clean along the right side of his jaw.
The quickness, balance and precision this strike is unleashed with is an undeniable testament to Barboza's stratosphere-level stand up. Every minute fundamental detail about the kick is technically perfect, as the slight stumble afterwards is more of a result of it landing flush than a lack of control.
Even though he has flashy, highlight-reel dramatics, Barboza isn't "all show" or excessively gaudy in his selection. The bulk of his onslaught is no-frills boxing in the pocket with calculated kicks from outside. He also has exceptional footwork, timing and grasp of range. Barboza's defense is also solid, though he did get tagged a few times against Njokuani and Pearson, but both are talented strikers themselves and engaged Barboza on the feet for fifteen minutes each.
Another encouraging aspect is that Barboza has exhibited some rather sufficient wrestling.
Mostly accomplished with his timing and agility, Barboza scored takedowns on Njokuani (right) and switched up his constant sprawling by reversing Lullo's takedown attempts and slamming him to the floor.
Given his unreal striking and BJJ capabilities, Barboza's wrestling could prove to be an invaluable third-dimension to his already-stacked arsenal. Thus far, he's been more than happy to trade on the feet, but the ability to spring for takedowns if things don't go his way, to score points in a close fight or work his submissions from the top could be a valuable strategy to fall back on.
This is my go-to ensemble for Etim because it portrays his Luta Livre acumen so well.
Luta Livre went head to head with Jiu Jitsu in a well documented rivalry of fighting systems in Brazil during the Vale Tudo era. In addition to the focus on submission grappling, it incorporates Judo and wrestling for takedown prowess. The huge divide with BJJ is that Luta Livre is practiced without the gi for a more realistic fighting environment, which makes it somewhat surprising that BJJ eventually became the standard.
In these two animations of Etim vs. Buchholz, Etim shows his unwillingness to sacrifice position in order to pursue a submission attempt. Buchholz catches the knee he throws and seeks a takedown, but Etim, showing excellent balance, alters his clinch grip into a choke while controlling the head. While the attacker typically drops back to tweak the arm-in guillotine from this position, leaving himself in an unfavorable spot if his opponent escapes, Etim snares the Brabo choke and snaps Buchholz's head down to stay off his back. Readjusting to form a strong base, Etim cranks away from there to elicit the tapout. If Buchholz were to escape, Etim would be in high side-control with a number of options to keep the pressure on.
With his exhausting work rate, the way Etim chains his attacks together and smoothly transitions from one to the next has opened up a lot of opportunities on the mat for him, and he's been relentless in capitalizing.
Etim is also a rangy and dangerous kickboxer, giving this bout all the right ingredients for a "Fight of the Night" barn-burner. Notice the distance from which he unrolls the high kick to the left. Though he keeps things more basic than Barboza, Etim is a serious kicking threat and also adept with his hands at close range.
Both fighters are accustomed to enjoying an edge in height and reach, but the playing field is much more level here.
Barboza comes in as a strong favorite on the betting lines at just shy of -300, which is understandable but definitely a bit steep in my eyes. He's never lost and has been surging upward in memorable performances, while Etim has been out of action while nursing his broken rib and departed on a loss. Plus, he only made a seventeen-second appearance in submitting Faaloloto.
I'm begrudgingly choosing Barboza here. He's such a quick and clean striker with no glaring flaws. I do think Etim deserves the "Upset Alert" and is being overlooked: he has comparable agility and length, he's a savvy kickboxer himself, he's never been finished with strikes and his ability to phase-shift could throw Barboza off on the feet.
My Prediction: Edson Barboza by split-decision.
Barboza gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Etim vs. Buchholz gifs from Sherdog Forums
Etim vs. Cobb gif via MMA-Core.com