I know we still have a slate of fights to look forward to this evening on ESPN, with UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira in Jacksonville, Florida at the VyStar Arena. One of the fights I was looking forward to tonight has been canceled. The match-up between Karl Roberson and Marvin Vettori was removed from the card after Roberson fell ill and missed weight. According to the UFC, Roberson’s health issues are unrelated to COVID-19.
This Saturday night, the UFC will put on their second show of the week with UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris. In my opinion, the most exciting fight on the card is Dan Ige (13-2) ranked #15 in the featherweight division taking on the always electric and dangerous Edson ‘Junior’ Barboza (20-8), currently ranked # 11 in the lightweight division. Barboza is making his 145-pound debut Saturday night at the VyStar Arena, the UFC’s current home away from home.
Barboza is moving down in weight hoping to reverse course after two consecutive defeats at 155-pounds. Paul Felder took the win against Barboza in his last fight, a rematch between the two, via a controversial split-decision. Prior to that, he suffered a knockout loss at the hands of the new interim lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje, at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Gaethje, March 30th., 2019. The exhilarating Brazilian striker has lost four of his last five fights.
Barboza will have a four-inch reach advantage when he meets Dan Ige in the Octagon on Saturday. Ige has faced a taller opponent than Barboza in the featherweight division. Defeating Scottish fighter Danny Henry via rear-naked choke last year at UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal. Despite being several inches taller than Barboza, Henry had less of a reach advantage over ‘Dynamite’ Dan.
The last place you want to do battle with Edson Barboza is from range. So, Ige’s game plan against Barboza should follow along the same lines of his against Henry; look for his chance to close distance, land a big shot, create a scramble, attain a position of control and look to sink in a submission.
Given Ige’s relatively small stature I don’t see making weight an issue for him. I doubt he walks around at much more than 155-pounds. On the other hand, how will the weight-cut affect Barboza who is making the drop to featherweight for the first time at the age of thirty-four?
Barboza also has a tremendous advantage with regard to the level of competition he has faced throughout his UFC career. There is no doubt, Ige is facing his toughest opponent to date. If he fails to close the distance allowing Barboza to do what he does best… chop his opponents down with devastating leg kicks… it will be a long and painful night for ‘Dynamite’ Dan.