This past Saturday in the headliner of UFC Vegas 35, we saw a fight that was a dream matchup on paper. Two of the very best strikers in the world battled it out as Edson Barboza (22-10) took on Giga Chikadze (14-2).
Heading into UFC Vegas 35, I actually was picking Barboza. I really liked the way Barboza looked in his fight with Shane Burgos, and I’ve seen Chikadze be susceptible to getting hit in the boxing range.
While Chikadze might’ve had the advantage in pure kicking technique, I liked the total package of Barboza. Well, I was proven to be very wrong on Saturday night. Barboza has always been someone who enjoyed a speed advantage in his striking.
He didn’t have a speed advantage over Chikadze at UFC Vegas 35. For the first couple of rounds, Chikadze’s flawless technique and speed kept Barboza off-balance. Barboza had his moments and the rounds were competitive, but Chikadze was staying a step ahead.
In the third round, Chikadze really turned up the pressure. Barboza was hurt badly and Chikadze was relentless. Ultimately, Barboza succumbed to the pressure of Chikadze and suffered a TKO loss.
What’s next after UFC Vegas 35?
Saturday night was a big setback for Barboza. Barboza had spent his career in the UFC’s lightweight division and took on the best of the best. While he had some success, he could never quite reach the top of the division.
When he moved down to 145, he looked like he was capable of doing that. He lost his first fight to Dan Ige by decision, although the majority of the MMA community believes that he won that. He then won two straight to setup this fight with Chikadze.
Now, it’s back to the drawing board after UFC Vegas 35. With that, who should the promotion pair him against. Well, I think there’s a perfect opponent that is just two spots behind him in the rankings.
I think the UFC should pair up Barboza and “Super” Sodiq Yusuff (11-2). These two were originally supposed to fight back in October but Yusuff had to pull out. Yusuff started his UFC career 4-0 prior to losing his first fight to Arnold Allen back in April.
With both men in a similar spot in the division and both coming off losses, it’s the perfect fight. It’s an exciting fight from a stylistic standpoint and it would tell us a lot about where each man stands in the UFC’s featherweight division.