The opening bout of the UFC 142 Pay Per View broadcast pairs off two exciting lightweights vying for a shot at one of the division's surplus of top-level fighters. Neither fighter is known for handing in a boring show, and the UFC is no doubt banking on a fast-paced scrap to get the card off on the right foot, a common motivation behind the organization's frequent lower weightclass openers.
Terry Etim emerged on the UFC scene as one of those fighters who you could count on to take part in the dark portion of the UFC's UK-based shows, but failed to wow anyone early in his time there as he fell to sub-.500 in the UFC. While Etim's bookings have remained outside the US since his loss to Rich Clementi in his third UFC-bout, the Liverpudlian's results have taken a noted turn for the positive, with only a recent loss to Rafeal dos Anjos keeping Etim on the periphery of the top of the division.
After his 1-2 start in the organization, Etim strung together a run of four straight victories inside the Octagon, with the last three coming by way of stoppage. The run set-up a bout with Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos, and while a victory provided the opportunity to crack into the top-25, Etim came up short as he was outgunned by dos Anjos and tapped to an armbar late in the second round after having previously won the first round. Following the loss, Etim remained outside the cage for more than 18-months due to injury, before returning last November when he needed just 17 seconds to get back on the winning track against Edward Faaloloto.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Although Etim can hold his own on the feet, there is little doubt that his biggest edge in this bout will come when the fight hits the canvas. Etim has earned eighty percent of his victories by way of submission throughout his career, including four of his six UFC victories. Not only has Etim had his hand raised via the grappling arts four times since joining the UFC, each time he has found a check for Submission of the Night waiting for him as he got in the van back to his hotel, so expect the Brit to try to make it five-for-five against Barboza.
There are two possible avenues to success that seem reasonable plays for Etim. The first is for the fight to go to decision, with Etim using his grappling prowess to grind out a victory over Barboza who has still yet to prove his grappling chops at the highest level. While not implausible, this involves the always frightening scenario of needing your pick to take a decision off of a proven judge's-favorite fighter. A split decision win is a defensible play, but for a more likely bet take Etim to win by submission after some softening up in the second or third round. For fantasy betting, Etim goes off as a +170 against Vegas lines in the area of +230. Normally I advise against going against Vegas, since the folks there know what they are doing, but I like Etim's shot in this fight, and with nearly a triple-up on any bets on Etim I'll be using him as a dog in my parlay, and possibly putting a little straight action on him as well.
Edson Barboza analysis after the jump.
Barboza has quickly become a fan favorite in his short-stint with the UFC, using a flashy but dangerous striking game to win over the hearts of spectators. The young Brazilian will turn 26-years-old just one week after the fight, and has been tabbed as one of the top fighters to watch as a potential breakout star in the next couple years.
Barboza's final fight before being promoted to the UFC came in the New Jersey-based Ring of Combat, an organization with a long history of nurturing future UFC talents, and if the TKO by leg kicks victory didn't serve as a warning to Barboza's debut opponent, Mike Lullo, it should have. Barboze hammered Lullo's legs for just over two rounds until his opponent could no longer stand it, quite literally. Many fans have called robbery on Barboza's two subsequent decision wins over Anthony Njokuani and Ross Pearson. While this is unfair to the Brazilian, as the majority of reputable MMA play-by-play scorings will show a split but majority opinion for Barboza in both, the fact remains the fights were close enough that Barboza could be 1-2 for the UFC as easily as he finds himself 3-0.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As a Muay Thai specialist with only one career submission victory, it is clear where Barboza wants his fights to remain. Barboza has rarely been involved in any grappling in his time with the UFC, leaving the ground as a giant question mark with only the notion he is a purple belt to go by. On the feet, Barboza hits hard and fast, but his biggest asset is the unique set of strikes he brings to the table. In addition to making it difficult for an opponent to prepare for him and to know what is coming once inside the cage, his flashy moves are eye-pleasing, which can sometimes make the difference between a close round lost and a close round won.
As with Etim there appears to be two likely ways for Barboza to get his hand raised, however in this case it is the finish which seems less likely. Although Barboza has certainly shown some power in his shots, Etim should have enough guile and grappling to make it the full 15 minutes. While Barboza may not be Leonard Garcia, and comparing the two as some have does disservice to the Brazilian's striking chops, there is no denying that his flash plays well with the judges and makes him the favorite to win any close decision with Etim, so take Barboza to win by split decision. While I won't be taking the odds of -180 offered on Barboza, as mentioned Vegas fancies him a bigger favorite, so if you like Barboza to win he is probably a solid place to bunker some of your fantasy bankroll.