Top-ranked lightweight Edson Barboza saw a three-fight win streak brutally disappear when he was dominated for three rounds by top-ranked contender Khabib Nurmagomedov in the co-main event of December 30’s UFC 219.
It was a beatdown of epic proportions, one that became more apparent and visceral as ‘The Eagle’s’ ground game neutralized another with each onslaught of ground damage. The win has the long-touted Khabib on the cusp of an interim title shot, but for the striker Barboza, it’s back to the drawing board.
One of the UFC’s best pure Muay Thai practitioners, Barboza didn’t believe the Dagestani grappler would be able to shut him down like he had everyone else, telling MMA Fighting that he had a great camp preparing for “The Eagle” and simply fell prey to his dominant gameplan:
”I really didn’t expect that to happen, man. I was very upset the week after the fight because I was well prepared, had a wonderful camp.
“It was a tough loss, no doubt about it.
”It was pretty much how we imagined it. I knew he wouldn’t take me down in the middle of the Octagon. I knew that his only chance to take me down was close to the fence, so I obviously worked that a lot, but he was able to impose his game, and I couldn’t get out of there. That was the problem. I fell in his game, I spent 15 minutes doing his game.”
Barboza also admitted he was fooled by Khabib’s takedown attempts off of forward pressure, something he said was the opposite when he watched prior film on him:
”Honestly, I didn’t expect that. He walked backwards in all of his previous fights before he went for takedowns. I was prepared for it, but I thought he would do what he always did, to avoid the striking. It surprised me that he moved forward.
”I was aware of what was happening the entire time, and I believed it until the end. Things were going wrong but I kept thinking, ‘Brother, if he gives me a chance I’ll finish the fight.’ I remember everything that happened that night.”
While the beating was arguably the most one-sided fight of 2017 that actually went to the judges’ scorecards, Barboza didn’t agree one bit with some people’s assessment that the fight could have and should have been called at several junctures:
”If my corners had stopped the fight, I probably would have fought them all,” he said. “They know me really well, they know what I can handle. I’ve trained with millions of different people, the best boxers in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and they never knocked me down. They know me, they know what I can take, and they knew I could win at any moment.”
The best boxers in New Jersey and Philly don’t have arguably the best takedowns in all of mixed martial arts, however, and Barboza’s inability to defend them will keep him out of the very top levels of the talented but troubled lightweight division.
Hungry to wash away the bad taste of the loss, Barboza said he’s ready to get back to training as he prepares teammate Frankie Edgar for his featherweight title match-up with Max Holloway at UFC 222:
I’m already training hard. I want to fight.”