Edson Barboza returns to the Octagon for the 20th time when he takes on Dan Hooker at UFC on Fox 31. After going 9-2 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship from 2011-2015, Barboza is now 4-4 in his last eight and desperately needs a win to stay relevant in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions.
By this point in his career you should know that Barboza possess some of the best kicks in MMA history and his entire standup game relies on punting the opponent’s legs and ripping the body. His remarkable kicking speed and ability to throw kicks with little set up allows him to land them anytime there is a break in the action. Barboza is also one of the few people to finish a fight with leg kicks and he’s done it on three occasions. Something to notice about his kicks are how he rarely steps into them and the minimum amount of rotation needed on the lead leg to land the kicks with incredible speed and power. Most fighters must step across themselves and turn their hips over while rotating the post leg to land kicks with this kind of speed, but Barboza can simply chamber the kicks from any position and land them with minimal movement, which allows him to recover his stance quickly.
Barboza is also known for his spinning attacks, most notably a wheel kick that he famously knocked out Terry Etim with back in 2012. Similar to his standard leg and body kicks, Barboza can throw these spin kicks with no set up and doesn't need to fully commit to the kicks to land them. Notice how instead of stepping across himself to spin, he spins on his post leg like a ballerina which makes the kick even harder to see coming and again allows him to recover his stance quickly. This is a tactic that Valentina Shevchenko has perfected and made her the best spinning attacker in women’s MMA.
On the lead, Barboza’s game is pretty simple. Jab the opponent until they are off balance and then fire off a kick to the legs. When he is the leading attacker most of his strikes are kicks, so his boxing is done on the counter. One of the best ways to take away an opponent’s kicks is to simply pressure through them and not give them enough room to set their feet. When opponents attempt to do this to Barboza, he will adopt a slick counter boxing game. Early in his career if the kicks weren’t landing, Barboza was in trouble. But he has developed his countering game and can win fights when he is not the aggressor and his kicks are falling short.
Barboza has one major hole in his game that he has never addressed in his eight years with the UFC. As stated earlier, opponents will attempt to pressure Barboza to the cage to take away his kicks and he has yet to develop the footwork to get off the cage. Backing Barboza to the fence not only takes away his most dangerous weapon, but it also makes takedowns easier to secure and we have seen in his past two fights what can happen when a grappler gets on top of him.