Edson Barboza (Mike Sloan/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Murphy Preview and Predictions

The UFC is back in the friendly confines of the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend as the promotion hosts a showdown between elite featherweights at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Murphy. A longtime contender at lightweight, Barboza fought nearly every big name in the division including former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, former interim champion Tony Ferguson, and the legendary Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. For the latter stage of his career Barboza moved down to featherweight and has won his last two outings. He looks to make it three in a row and remove the zero from the loss column in Lerone Murphy’s record. Since fighting to a draw with Zubaira Tukhugov Murphy has won five consecutive fights. A win over a wily veteran like Barboza would be the biggest statement victory of his career.

There are two welterweight fights on the main card with the co-main event seeing Khaos Williams and Carlston Harris face off against one another. The victor in that fight will likely find himself one win away from entering the rankings at 170 lbs. Harris has won seven of his last eight fights and his lone loss in that stretch is to the monstrous Shavkat Rakhmonov. Meanwhile, Williams has won three of his last four fights with his lone loss over that stretch coming against Randy Brown.

The other welterweight fight on the main card is Ramiz Brahimaj against Themba Gorimbo. Brahimaj has fought four times since joining the UFC and sports a 2-2 record with the promotion. Gorimbo will be making his fourth walk to the Octagon and hopes to improve his promotional record to 3-1.


UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Murphy airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

The only blemish on Lerone Murphy’s record is a draw against Zubaira Tukhugov back at UFC 242; can the undefeated prospect keep the zero in the loss column and defeat longtime contender Edson Barboza?

Kuhl: 32-year-old Englishman Lerone Murphy may be undefeated going into Saturday night, but he is going up against his toughest competition yet, when he faces the 38-year-old Brazilian Edson Barboza.

Murphy is a straight-forward brawler. He lands hard leg kicks, throws heavy leather, and he will execute quick takedowns leading to TKO victories. However, his biggest issue comes with fights that go the distance. In his UFC debut, Murphy could not decisively beat Zubaira Tukhugov, and their fight went to a split draw. Tukhugov has since been released by the promotion. In his second-to-last fight, Murphy barely squeaked out a split decision over Gabriel Santos, who is now 0-2 in the promotion.

Murphy is a bad dude. Don’t get me wrong. And, he has some amazing career knockouts, including two in the Octagon. But his striking game is not at the level of the elder Barboza. Barboza is a human highlight reel. IT was over 12 years ago when the Brazilian scored one of the most iconic knockouts in MMA history, with his spinning wheel kick to the head of Terry Etim. In his 17-11 UFC career, he has scored eight knockouts at the highest level of the sport. Barboza’s striking is amazing. He has ultra-fast leg kicks, odd punching angles, and spinning strikes that come out of nowhere.

Murphy is going to have his hands full. Barboza may be on the tail end of his career, but he is extremely hard to prepare for. His takedown defense is slippery, he strikes at distance, and he has no problem keeping the fight standing. This is not how many of Murphy’s previous opponents have fought. The challenge will prove to be too much, Barboza will pick Murphy apart, and this one goes the distance with Batboza getting his hand raised.

Petela: If both of these fighters were in their primes, I’d pick Edson Barboza ten times out of ten to win this fight. Nothing Dan said is particularly wrong except for how the fight will ultimately play out.

Barboza has lost a step, plain and simple. Especially down at featherweight, he just doesn’t hold the same speed advantage that he once did against nearly every opponent. He is certainly still a competent fighter and not someone to be taken lightly but his stock is falling while Murphy’s is quickly rising.

Lerone Murphy is far better than the fighter he was when he squeaked out a draw against Tukhugov. He’s more disciplined, his game is more well rounded, and I’d venture to say that he even hits harder. All of those things are going to be a problem for Barboza. I see Murphy being able to crowd the kick heavy Barboza early and force him to back up consistently until he starts to feel the exhaustion. At that point, Murphy will successfully get the fight to the mat and then blast Barboza’s face with punches and elbows from half guard until the referee has no choice but to halt the contest.

Khaos Williams and Carlston Harris are both fighters who prefer not to let the judges’ scorecards come into play; which one of these stalwarts will emerge with a win and how does he get it done?

Petela: This one ends with someone getting woken up with smelling salts and a flashlight in his face. That person will be Carlston Harris. Khaos Williams consistently lives up to his name and has won seven fights by knockout. He will make that eight knockout wins this weekend.

There are many fighters who can end the fight in a second if they land a perfect punch but Williams can end the fight in a second if he lands a decent punch. His power is a little bit mind blowing, just ask Abdul Razak Alhassan. Williams’ power will draw Harris into repeated level changes as he looks to get the fight to the mat where the power of Williams is nullified to a large extent. In hindsight that will be a foolish game plan because even with a flawless takedown attempt there is a chance that one can get caught by a thunderous blow without being able to defend whatsoever. That is what will happen in this one. Harris changes levels and ends up ducking into a monstrous right hand from Williams that has fans leaping out of their seats and the ringside physician calling for the smelling salts.

Kuhl: I see the exact same outcome as Matt. Carlston Harris is a bot older, more crafty, and has much better grappling than Khaos Williams. But, those level changes can get a bit dicey against a heavy-handed guy like Williams. I, too, have Williams by KO.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Abus Magomedov absolutely needs a win. He is already only 1-2 in the UFC, and a third loss in a row, to veteran Warlley Alves, who is on a three-fight losing streak, wil certainly lead to his release.

Petela: I’ll go ahead and piggyback off of Dan’s comments and say that Warlley Alves needs a win or it is likely the end of his tenure with the UFC. Not only is he on a three-fight losing streak but he is just 2-5 over his last seven bouts. It is hard to believe that with six losses over eight fights the UFC will save a spot on the roster for him as they continue to sign a plethora of young talent out of feeder programs and television series.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: The women’s strawweight fight between Emily Ducote and Vanessa Demopoulos. Ducote could be part of the next wave of contenders at 115 lbs. Demopoulos is quickly becoming a mainstay in the division, as this will be her seventh UFC bout in the less than three years since she signed with the promotion. If Demopoulos is going to make a run towards the top of the division, a win over a prospect like Ducote could be a nice feather in her cap.

Kuhl: Kleydson Rodrigues and Alatengheili are going to put on a banger. Both of these guys are finishers, and both are coming off losses. They will both be looking to keep their spot on the UFC roster, and a win is essential.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: While I think the headliner between Edson Barboza and Lerone Murphy will go the distance, I also believe it will be the fight of the night. Two creative and hard-hitting strikers going into deep waters is going to be exciting, and both men should earn some extra cash for their performances.

Petela: Well, Dan is dead wrong about the main event going the distance but that is totally besides the point. The Fight of the Night is going to be Adrian Yanez vs. Vinicius Salvador. Bantamweights are always fun to watch and these two are particularly entertaining. Yanez and Salvador have both lost two in a row and they are both educated strikers with finishing power. There is going to be action from the opening bell in this showdown, definitely a good possibility they both leave a bit of themselves in the cage by the time this clash is said and done.

Pair this card with…

Petela: I’m picking Lerone Murphy to notch the biggest win of his career so it feels right to pair this with an English classic, fish and chips. This fight card also begins at 4:00 PM Eastern and call me crazy but that just feels like a good time to eat fish and chips. If you’re feeling really adventurous, throw in some tea to complete the English appreciation meal.

Kuhl: In the battle of Brazil vs. England, I’m going with Brazil in this one. And, with Barboza dragging this one into deep waters, it will take more than caipirinha, which is Brazil’s national cocktail. It is, in a way, similar to a mojito, but the liquor used is cachaça. Super tasty, but you may need a whole pitcher for a lengthy war.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Edson Barboza vs. Lerone Murphy Barboza Murphy
WW: Khaos Williams vs. Carlston Harris Williams Williams
WW: Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Themba Gorimbo Gorimbo Brahimaj
BW: Adrian Yanez vs. Vinicius Salvador Yanez Yanez
Women’s StrawW: Angela Hill vs. Luana Pinheiro Luana Pinheiro Hill
LW: Tom Nolan vs. Victor Martinez Nolan Nolan
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
LHW: Oumar Sy vs. Antonio Trocoli Sy Sy
Women’s BW: Tamires Vidal vs. Melissa Gatto Gatto Gatto
MW: Abus Magomedov vs. Warlley Alves Magomedov Magomedov
Women’s StrawW: Piera Rodriguez vs. Ariane Carnelossi Rodriguez Carnelossi
BW: Alatengheili vs. Kleydson Rodrigues Alatengheili Alatengheili
Women’s StrawW: Emily Ducote vs. Vanessa Demopoulos Demopoulos Demopoulos