Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight up-and-comers Leon Edwards and Bryan Barberena threw down last night (Sept. 2, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 115 inside Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Edwards came into this bout on a three-fight win streak that cemented him as a serious fighter to watch. Against a rough-and-tumble bruiser in Barberena, Edwards was hoping to impress.
Barberena has been the underdog before; he’s no stranger to it, and he’s won as often as not. In this match, Barberena had a real chance to build momentum. Edwards was undeniably skilled, and halting his rise would push Barberena closer to the top 15.
Unwilling to be bullied, Edwards took the center of the cage and looked to impose his range with long kicks and jabs. The fighters traded kicks for a couple minutes, with Edwards getting the better of most exchanges.
At about the halfway point, Edwards switched it up with a takedown against the fence. He slowly towards the back mount, breaking Barberena’s posture and preventing any stand up.
Ultimately, Edwards wasn’t able to find the choke, but he did take a dominant position and do more damage than his foe in the opening round.
Barberena came out with a bit more aggression in the second, but it didn’t amount to much. Edwards remained composed, picking his shots well and scoring another takedown along the fence a couple minutes into the round.
This time around, Barberena did a better job of defending the back mount and returning to his feet. He was finally able to create some separation in the final minute, and at first Edwards landed hard. However, “Bam Bam” persevered, pushing forward and dropping the Englishman with a left uppercut of his own.
Though the finish didn’t materialize, the scorecards were suddenly tied heading into the final frame.
Edwards seemed to have recovered between rounds, coming out with some sharp counters and low kicks. Both men were a bit slower, but Edwards’ outside striking was allowing him to land the cleaner shots.
Still, Barberena’s power punches were a serious threat, so Edwards changed things up with a slick takedown into half guard. The pressure was on for Barberena to return to his feet, but he gave up his back in the process. “Rocky” aggressively hunted for the choke, but Barberena did a great job of fighting hands and eventually returned to his feet.
Sadly for the Arizona-native, it was too late.
This was not the prettiest performance of Edwards’ career, but it’s nearly impossible to have an attractive win opposite “Bam Bam.” He makes fighters miserable and fights ugly, and that’s a vortex that talented fighters have fallen into and failed to resurface.
On the whole, Edwards blended his rangy kickboxing and grappling quite well. At range, he whacked Barberena’s leg repeatedly, and his combinations were landing even if Barberena eats punches for breakfast. Whenever the opening arose, Edwards was in on the takedown, and his grappling looked smooth on the mat.
Outside of the big uppercut in the second and some elbows along the fence, Edwards pretty thoroughly out-worked his opponent. He called for a top 15 opponent, and that’s not unreasonable considering his four-fight win streak. If he doesn’t receive his wish, a battle with Darren Till would make sense.
In this bout, Barberena does what he does. Despite being athletically and technically out-matched, Barberena very nearly knocked out a top prospect. He thrives in small moments, and that uppercut was a thing of beauty. Barberena was getting smashed with punches, but he still realized his opponent was a bit fatigued after all the grappling. He also picked up on Edwards’ habit of ducking, which allowed the uppercut to land with such devastating effect.
At the end of the day, however, Barberena was not able to defend enough takedowns. That’s a problem at 170 lbs., a division filled with hard-nosed wrestlers. Until he fills out that aspect of his game, he’s going to struggle to gain momentum.
Last night at UFC Fight Night 115, Leon Edwards outworked his opponent en route to a decision win. What is next for “Rocky?”
For complete UFC Fight Night 115 “Struve vs Volkov” results and play-by-play, click HERE!