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Time no longer appears to be on Edson Barboza’s side.
Now 35 years of age and doing all he can to remain relevant in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division, the American Top Team export will take aim at Shane Burgos in a three-round UFC 262 showcase this Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. Barboza enters the cage having lost five of his past seven bouts. He last appeared at UFC Fight Night 179, where he closed the book on a three-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision over Makwan Amirkhani on Oct. 10.
As Barboza prepares for what figures to be an action-packed confrontation with Burgos, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Regional Coronation
Barboza captured the Ring of Combat lightweight championship in scintillating fashion, as he put away Marcelo Guidici with leg kicks in the first round of their ROC 30 feature on June 11, 2010 at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Guidici succumbed to an accumulation of punishment 3:01 into Round 1. Barboza flashed a dizzying offensive arsenal in his sixth professional appearance, assaulting his counterpart with high-impact kicks to the body and legs, flying knees and left hooks, one of which resulted in a knockdown. Guidici moved in for takedowns in response, only to be cut off and denied at every turn. After a restart, Barboza spun around the 15-year veteran with another leg kick. Guidici retreated to his back, where his lower extremities were met with further punishment, necessitating a stoppage. It marked Barboza’s final appearance on the regional scene, as he made his UFC debut a little more than five months later.
2. Highlight for the Ages
It was a beautiful and frightening moment. Spinning wheel kicks rarely make appearances in MMA, but when they do, they are sights to behold. After two rounds and two minutes of a terrific back-and-forth battle, Barboza electrified all who were watching when he ducked down and unloaded the kind of kick that gets Chuck Norris out of his seat. His spinning wheel kick at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro landed so perfectly and in such devastating fashion that Terry Etim never knew what hit him. Once Barboza’s heel connected to the face at UFC 142 on Jan. 14, 2012, the Brit stiffened and plummeted to the canvas, his head slightly turned, his face twisted by tension. Barboza pocketed the post-fight performance bonus for his efforts, and his knockout became a permanent fixture on UFC highlight reels. It remains the standard by which all head kick knockouts are measured.
3. Mortal After All
Former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion Jamie Varner sprang a stunning upset on the previously unbeaten Barboza and stopped the highly touted Brazilian with first-round punches in the featured UFC 146 prelim on May 26, 2012 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Varner sealed the deal 3:23 into Round 1. A late replacement for the injured Evan Dunham, Varner ate some horrific leg kicks but punched his way into the clinch and rattled Barboza with his heavy hands. With the lightweight prospect in retreat, Varner bashed him with a straight right, trailed his fallen opponent to the mat and finished it with punches and hammerfists. Despite starting his career with 10 consecutive victories, Barboza was indeed mortal.
4. In a Class by Himself
American Kickboxing Academy ace Khabib Nurmagomedov grounded, pounded and systematically dismantled Barboza across three rounds in the UFC 219 co-main event on Dec. 30, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Scores were 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24, all for Nurmagomedov. Barboza never stood a chance. Nurmagomedov marched him down with punches, pushed him to the fence and tripped him to the floor; he often appeared amused by his work, a sadistic grin stretching across his face. Barboza absorbed a horrendous beating whenever he hit the mat, as the Dagestani brute unleashed his ferocious brand of ground-and-pound with short punches and elbows. The scene repeated itself in all three rounds. Barboza took his shots when the two men were upright but too often found himself either operating off his back foot, struggling for air in the clinch or fighting for survival on his back. The loss snapped Barboza’s three-fight winning streak.
5. Systematic Dismantling
Barboza put away Dan Hooker with a left hook to the body in the third round of their UFC on Fox 31 co-headliner on Dec. 15, 2018 at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Hooker bowed out 2:19 into Round 3, his four-fight winning streak having run its course. Barboza was in prime form. The Brazilian destroyed the inside of Hooker’s lead leg with his patented Louisville Slugger kicks before targeting the head and body with his fists and shins. Barboza was sadistic in his approach, answering the City Kickboxing star with increasing violence at every turn. He doubled over Hooker with multiple spinning back kicks below the navel in the third round, reset and then sealed the Kiwi’s fate with a wicked left hook to the liver. So thorough was the beatdown that it become uncomfortable to watch by the time it ended.
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