UFC Fight Night 230 Aftermath: Barboza’s Beautiful Body Work

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

“UFC Vegas 81” featured a tale of two fights. In Round 1 of our main event, Sodiq Yusuff lived up to his nickname and looked “Super,” but as the fight progressed, Edson Barboza clawed his way back from the shadow of defeat and notched a unanimous decision victory. The fight was a major learning experience for Yusuff who, at 30 years of age, likely has one more run at the title. Barboza, 37, is at the end of his career and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. How did Barboza do this? What did he do to be so close to being put away to the spinning back kick almost finishing Yusuff and securing a win? In today’s Aftermath we will explore just that.


Yusuff’s Pressure

The first round was an absolute disaster for Barboza. Yusuff managed to come forward with pressure and landed the heaviest of blows. Barboza practically crumbled under that pressure and the fight was almost lost but Barboza managed to survive, get his wits about him and crushed Yusuff’s body to make his way back into the fight. As he was dropped, Barboza managed to hold on to Yusuff and stay alive just long enough to get back to basics.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Barboza managed to show some slick jiu-jitsu on the ground that created a scramble that allowed him to spring back up. (1) As Yusuff stood over Barboza, “Junior” had the wherewithal to (2) grab the leg of Yusuff and shrimp out to threaten an arm bar. Yusuff would (3) Push his hips in and instead of reaching for the arm, which was not really the point of the motion anyway, Barboza (4) elevates his feet and hips, getting under Yusuff, and pushes through (5) for the sweep.

These types of armbars are low percentage but aren’t really for the submission. Threatening the action causes panic which, in turn, allows Barboza some space to move and work. If the armbar is there, great. If not, there’s a scramble and an opportunity to escape. The master of this is Charles Oliveira. He often threatens the armbar and other submissions just to get create the scramble and get to the back.

But, it was the body work, and the body work alone, that was the foundation of Barboza’s insane come-from-behind win at “UFC Vegas 81.” The spinning back kick to the body, the beautiful lead left hook to the body, and the right to the body were all incredibly useful for Barboza.

The bread and butter for Barboza was the inside slip to left hook. This is textbook Canelo Alvarez, and Barboza has been utilizing it for a long time. It’s also the same left hook Jose Aldo managed to knock out Jeremy Stephens with.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

To step in, (1) Barboza leads with the jab. He always likes following up with the power shot just to jar his opponent. When he throws the right hand, (2) Barboza moves his head off the center line expecting Yusuff to return with his left. Yusuff does and the inside slip causes Yusuff to overextend dramatically and opens up the liver shot. Barboza does as Barboza always does and (3) hammers home that left hook.

In addition to the left hook, Barboza is fond of the spinning back kick to the body. All this body work wears on the gas tank of a fighter and these five round fights are no joke when someone has been pounding you in the body all night. As the fight wore on, Barboza became more and more effective because of this body work. The spinning back kick to the body also set up the epic knockdown from round 3. Here’s how.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Effective fighting is all about creating expectations, rhythms, and patterns and breaking said patterns to catch your adversary off guard. Barboza set the expectation that any rotation from him would result in a back kick to the body. (1) When Barboza went to throw the spinning back kick up high, observe what Yusuff does. Instead of backing away or blocking up high, he lowers his guard, expecting the kick to the body. The kicks hurt and he’s been feeling them all night. The lowering of the guard opens up the kick up top and (3) Barboza lands it clean.

Yusuff can find some solace in the fact that Barboza has done this to many, many new names. Not many has had the success he had in round one. Learning to pace yourself, especially as you move into the realm of five round fights, is an important lesson for any fighter. Barboza knows this and when a fighter has never been that far into a fight, he continues going to the body. It makes for a miserable fight and that’s what Barboza brought to the table. He may be ranked seventh, but as skills go, he’s among the best. Don’t let Barboza’s age fool you. He’s never dead, never gonna die.


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