UFC Fight Night 128 tips: Best bets for Barboza v Lee
We make our pick for the lightweight showdown in Atlantic, plus three more big fights on an exciting card.
Edson Barboza v Kevin Lee
Saturday night’s main event is a classic striker v grappler match-up between two lightweight contenders coming off defeats against top opponents.
Former Muay Thai kickboxer Barboza had won three successive fights before he met current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in December. He was then beaten comfortably by the Russian in a three-round decision.
Lee, meanwhile, was on a six-fight winning streak before losing an interim lightweight championship fight to Tony Ferguson by submission in October.
Each of these fighters are potentially just a couple of wins away from a title shot, and it’s Barboza – with his elite kicking game – that should get the first of those this weekend.
After he was beaten by Khabib, it’s easy to forget just how good the Brazilian’s striking is, and Tony Ferguson is the only fighter Lee has fought that’s in a similar class.
Before he fought Nurmagomedov – one of the best wrestlers in UFC history – Barboza’s takedown defence was at 86 per cent, and the 31-year-old should keep this one on the feet just enough to get the win.
Frankie Edgar v Cub Swanson
Former lightweight champion Edgar is taking a risk here, fighting a hard hitter like Swanson less than two months after being knocked out for the first time by Brian Ortega.
The 36-year-old has now lost two of his last four fights, having also been beaten on points by Jose Aldo in July 2016.
Edgar’s bounced back from defeats before, though, and should do so again against Swanson, who he beat by submission in November 2014.
Swanson’s a good all-round fighter but he’s never really beaten an elite opponent at their best, with eight losses on his record, including the one to Edgar.
Expect Edgar to use his superior footwork and wrestling to grind his way to a win by decision.
Justin Willis v Chase Sherman
This should be a fun fight between two unranked heavyweights.
Willis is on a six-fight winning streak since losing his first professional bout back in June 2012, and he’s closed out four of his five wins inside the distance.
In Sherman, he faces a more experienced opponent, but one who has lost three of his last five bouts.
The Vanilla Gorilla was knocked out in each of his last two defeats, and will probably be stopped on Saturday night, too, given the run that Willis has been on.
Thiago Santos v David Branch
Branch’s 11-fight winning streak came to an end against Luke Rockhold in September, and the American now faces another tricky opponent in Santos.
The Brazilian has won four fights in a row – all by TKO – and he’s closed out 10 of his last 11 wins inside the distance.
Santos’ kicking is among the best in the middleweight division, and it’s hard to see how Branch – a decent but unspectacular striker – is going to deal with the 34-year-old’s size and strength.
Santos should get the win, and could earn a shot at a top-five opponent if he picks up a fifth successive stoppage.
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