Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight prospects Leon Edwards and Bryan Barberena will throw down this Saturday (Sept. 2, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 115 inside Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Edwards announced himself to UFC’s roster with an eight-second knockout win in his second fight, but he actually impressed quite a bit in a loss to Kamaru Usman as well. Against the powerful wrestler, Edwards managed to deny a great number of takedowns — a great sign for the English kickboxer — and has since put together a trio of quality wins. Meanwhile, Barberena has proven his worth as a spoiler. He’s won three of four since moving to 170 pounds, only coming up short to a Top 10-ranked athlete in Colby Covington. He may be an underdog here as well, but “Bam Bam” is unbothered by that.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Albert Tumenov (UFC 204), Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 107), Seth Baczynski (UFC Fight Night 64)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: Edwards entered UFC as a slick Southpaw striker, but his ground game was something of a mixed bag. Since then, however, the Englishman’s wrestling defense has really developed, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu even earned him a big submission win over Tumenov.
At 26 years old, Edwards is definitely a fighter to watch.
In this match up, Edwards’ range control will be tested. Barberena isn’t super refined in any one area, but he’s tough as nails and packs a serious punch. Given the choice, Barberena would get inside and trade tight punches. Instead, Edwards should make use of his Southpaw stance to back away and let Barberena walk into long left hands and kicks. He’s the faster, slightly longer, and more technical man, which means he should find real success by working on the outside.
There’s a real chance that Edwards will frustrate Barberena and cause him to lunge in. Recently, Edwards’ reactive takedowns have been on point, and there’s a fair chance those shots will work here too. Even if the takedown doesn’t land, it could help stall out Barberena’s forward pressure.
Key Wins: Warlley Alves (UFC 198), Sage Northcutt (UFC on FOX 18), Joe Procter (UFC Fight Night 108)
Key Losses: Colby Covington (UFC on FOX 22), Chad Laprise (UFC 186)
Keys to Victory: Now that Rick Story was released/retired, the position of Welterweight spoiler is open, and Barberena is the favorite. A physical fighter with a deep gas tank, Barberena pushes his foes into brawls and tends to dig deeper in the late rounds.
He’s knocked out nine of his opponents.
As I mentioned above, Edwards’ ideal strategy would be to maintain his distance and rely on technical kickboxing. The inverse of your opponent’s strategy isn’t always the best bet, but in this case, Barberena absolutely wants to get in Edwards’ face and make this ugly.
Aside from the standards of pressure fighting — such as cutting off the cage and using round, sweeping strikes — I’d like to see Barberena look to clinch. He’s not the most explosive man, but the clinch is an area where physical strength and conditioning are more important than quick movements.
Additionally, Usman managed to pin Edwards on the fence in the clinch for long periods of time. Barberena may not have Usman’s wrestling ability, but if he can hang on, he can find opportunities to land.
Bottom Line: It’s a solid scrap between fighters looking to break into the top 15.
Both men are in pretty similar positions. They’ve scored some solid wins at 170 pounds, but they also have a single loss in their weight class as well. Luckily, the two defeats — to Covington and Usman — came against quickly rising athletes, making it easier for both Barberena and Edwards to bounce back and climb the ranks anyway.
Whoever wins this fight has a reasonable chance at earning that No. 15 spot, currently held by Tarec Saffiedine who hasn’t looked truly good in a fight in some time. If not, the winner could at least earn a shot opposite a ranked foe. A loss, meanwhile, would be a definite setback, though the fighters are certainly young enough to keep climbing given some time.
At UFC Fight Night 115, Leon Edwards and Bryan Barberena will duel. Which man will have his hand raised?