This Sunday, UFC Fight Night 61 emanates live from Ginásio Gigantinho in Porto Alegre, Brazil with a card headlined by former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir and former UFC heavyweight title challenger Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The co-main event sees Edson Barboza, fresh off of wins over Bobby Green and Evan Dunham, against The Ultimate Fighter 12 runner-up Michael Johnson.

Barboza will bring in a dynamic striking game that includes arguably one of the lightweight division’s most vicious assortment of kicks, while Johnson will bring in solid wrestling and knockout power. In what is arguably the UFC’s most competitive division, men have a hard time standing out as contenders to the throne of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, so it is hard to speculate as to how far a win takes either Barboza or Johnson.

Still, as much as Johnson can do things to take himself to the win column again, Barboza can as well. Exactly what must “Junior” consider as his keys to defeating Johnson, though?

Mix it up

Remember that “dynamic striking” that we touched on? Well, that includes his hands as well. Typically, Johnson struggles more with solid grapplers and guys that can at least set up openings for submissions than he does with straight-up strikers, but even a “lather, rinse, repeat” strategy involving a combination to the head and either a shot to the body, a shot to the legs, or a takedown attempt can make the best of fighters hesitate to come forward with anything because they will not know exactly what to defend. Should Barboza aim for a game plan similar to the one he used to make his fight with Bobby Green a largely-standing affair, he benefits tremendously from keeping a mixed bag of tricks. He has had to use one before, and even if Johnson were hypothetically to go the entire fight banking on one big shot, Barboza may still need to keep that bag of tricks on him again.

Takedown defense

In case Johnson does get hit substantially and immediately changes his game plan to a more takedown-based offense, it helps to defend takedowns, which is actually not the problem that it always seems to sound like in Barboza’s case. Sure, Jamie Varner and Danny Castillo created openings to take Barboza down at will, but for a guy who is supposed to struggle with good wrestlers, he still defends 84% of the takedowns thrown at him, which means that unless Johnson takes a cue from Castillo’s performance, he could be the one in for a long night.

The “leg kicks of doom”

Every time any fan or expert of the sport talks about Barboza, the leg kicks automatically count as a key to Barboza’s success. Mind you, not every UFC lightweight will be stifled by Barboza’s vaunted technique, but regardless of whether or not Barboza comes in with a set game plan, he can’t forget what brought him to the dance. Even if Johnson conditions his legs so that a consistent onslaught of leg kicks doesn’t take a long term toll on him, he will feel them eventually, and a man can only come forward despite that punishment for so long before he starts slowing down.

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.

  • Joseph

    Solid article except Castllo went 0-11 in TDs against Barboza. Not exactly taking him down at will.

    • Joseph

      1-11 I mean.