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UFC 197: Jones vs. Saint Preux - Idiot's Guide Preview to Anthony Pettis vs Edson Barboza

The slickest pair of lightweight strikers go Highlander on us for UFC 197 in Vegas. The three things you need to know about Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis vs Edson Barboza.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most anticipated lightweight clash of styles ignites the barn this April 23, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Match Up

Lightweight Anthony Pettis 18-4 vs. Edson Barboza 16-4

The Odds

Lightweight Anthony Pettis -175 vs. Edson Barboza +165

3 Things You Need to Know

1. Pettis is a long way from that Wheaties Cereal Box home.

Pettis' struggles, I would argue, can be traced all the way back to his fight with Gilbert Melendez. In that bout, he made no adjustments to Melendez' plan to throw combinations in order to transition into a takedown. I mean, he did, but the adjustment seemed by accident. Two losses since, and early UFC struggles against fighters like Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens paint the picture of a fighter who projects to struggle further. Is it doom and gloom for Pettis in the UFC? Because these fights aren't getting easier.

2. Barboza lost his last fight but you better believe he wants this fight.

Barboza's career shares some similarities with Pettis'. Like Pettis in the WEC, Barboza debuted to a scintillating storm of action packed fights. Then the Jamie Varner fight happened. He's since been fairly consistent, only losing to elite fighters (save for Johnson, who has elite striking abilities). However, for a lot of fans and observers, the book on Barboza has been written. The good news for Barboza is that his limitations will be at home against Pettis.

3. Barboza has been trending up for a while. Pettis has been trending down. MMAth?

Edson is at his best when he's able to generate volume at range. With brutal leg kicks, and a massive but quick overhand right, he's good at switching between countering an pressuring without ever missing the volume beat.

Even though he struggled, his fight against Ross Pearson displayed some of his counter chops.


By throwing that inside kick to the body, it gets Ross to drop his hands. You see the end result. This is the spirit of Edson's game: quick movements using his legs to set up his hands in a variety of ways. In a vacuum, his boxing is limited. You're not gonna see deft left hooks, punishing uppercuts, or even a steady jab per se (though he does use a good jab to the body). What you will see is a volume strategy that never commits to pressure, but never suffers from inertia. Striking wise, he's the perfect midrange fighter.

Pettis is neither a pressure fighter nor a volume fighter. He's kind of a rare breed in the way he's so selective. At his best, a quick right and a brutal kick to the body form what could be called the basis of his "setup" game. Because of his timing and anticipation, he's elite at landing one shot at a time to open up opportunities for the finish. He's a creature of selection. Not pattern.

Because of this I favor Barboza by a wider margin than most. Pettis is fantastic offensively on the ground, but no way does he get Barboza off his strong feet unless Edson is rocked. There's a similar template in the fight with Paul Felder, who is also a strong unorthodox fighter on the feet. While Pettis is the quicker of the two, the same principles of allowing Barboza too much space apply.


Pettis won't be cut if he loses three in a row, but this is a tough bout for him. I could see him landing a good shot to the body because that's the kind of threat he is. But Pettis doesn't have the kind of pressure or wrestling to neutralize Barboza's game. Edson has only lost to fighters who had either volume (Johnson), or multdimensional pressure (Varner/Ferguson) going for them. Pettis is neither. Edson Barboza by Decision.