Preview: UFC Fight Night 241 ‘Barboza vs. Murphy’

UFC
May 17, 2024
The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes a one-week pitstop at the UFC Apex on Saturday in Las Vegas, where UFC Fight Night 241 figures to sink or swim with its main event.

Edson Barboza enjoyed a highly successful 2023 campaign in terms of holding serve against opponents trying to take his spot, and the longtime vet looks to further the trend against Lerone Murphy in the featherweight headliner. It represents a massive opportunity for Murphy, who has quietly put together a series of solid performance and now faces a significant jump in terms of profile and level of competition. Meanwhile, Kalinn Williams squares off with Carlston Harris in a welterweight co-main event that figures to be messy but entertaining, and electric bantamweight Adrian Yanez looks to rebound from a rough patch against Vinicius Salvador. Beyond that, women’s strawweight stalwart Angela Hill returns to action for what should be yet another closely matched affair opposite Luana Pinheiro.

Now to the UFC Fight Night 241 “Barboza vs. Murphy” preview:

Featherweights

#12 FW | Edson Barboza (24-11, 18-11 UFC) vs. Lerone Murphy (13-0-1, 5-0-1 UFC)

ODDS: Murphy (-148), Barboza (+124)

Barboza was signed by the UFC about a year and a half into his professional career, which isn’t out of the ordinary nowadays but made him extremely raw for the promotion per 2010 standards. Given that, Barboza hit the ground running in impressive fashion, immediately establishing himself as one of the most violent kickers in the sport’s history, winning his first four UFC bouts and capping that streak with an all-timer of a wheel kick knockout against Terry Etim. However, an upset loss to Jamie Varner served as a preview for most of the rest of Barboza’s career, at least in terms of his defeats. Varner came out of the gate quickly and got Barboza moving backwards, at which point the Brazilian was suddenly much less effective. That’s been the clear through-line for most of Barboza’s losses. He’s absolutely terrifying when given time and space to work, but pressuring opponents can usually make a ton of hay as Barboza constantly tries to reset his range and stay out of danger. Even with that clear game plan, it takes a high standard of fighter to actually pull it off. A 2018 fight against Dan Hooker is probably the clearest example of an opponent who had all the right ideas but was still slow enough that he kept walking into the proverbial wood-chipper. Barboza cut down to featherweight in 2020, and not much has changed since. Barboza still has the same problems with his game, but it’s also impressive that he’s still the same fighter in his late-30s and down a weight class given his athleticism-dependent style. After rough losses to Giga Chikadze and Bryce Mitchell, 2023 served as a nice reminder of the needle that Barboza’s opponents have to thread. Billy Quarantillo pressured him and got knocked out with a knee for his troubles, while Sodiq Yusuff dumped his gas tank in a dominant first round, only for Barboza to coast out a clear decision win.

Murphy, a top British prospect, is the next to step up to the plate and try to upend Barboza, and it’s a fascinating matchup that really could go either way. “The Miracle” was easy to ignore ahead of his UFC debut in 2019. It was a fight thrown together at the last minute against a top talent in Zubaira Tukhugov, and Murphy’s regional career was full of dominant wins against a particularly weak level of competition. It took Murphy all of one round to adjust to fighting in the UFC. After dropping a one-sided first round, Murphy took over the fight enough to earn a draw, keeping his undefeated record intact. It remains so to this day. In fact, a lot of Murphy’s fights follow that general pattern. He’s a clear athlete with plenty of skill in all areas, but he’s prone to shockingly poor starts time after time, often dropping the first round before turning things around to win a decision or score a finish. The impressive bit of business is that Murphy always seems to arrive at the answer to get things done no matter the matchup, as he’s proven himself as both a knockout artist and a grimy wrestler when his opponent presents the opportunity. Still, Barboza is by far his most dangerous opponent to date, which makes it a bit hard to parse how Murphy’s resume translates to this fight. Is Murphy’s ability to adjust a good sign that he can keep gutting out wins, especially against an opponent with clear weaknesses like Barboza, or are all these cold starts and close wins signs that he’ll falter with the first big step up in competition? Murphy probably needs to iron out some of his issues to beat opponents above Barboza’s level, but the Brit does get the benefit of the doubt for this specific matchup. Murphy adjusts well enough that he should eventually arrive at pressuring Barboza no matter how poor the start. Plus, he’s durable, and the fact that he picks up steam could lead to his blowing this fight open by the end. This is extremely well-matched, but the pick is Murphy via decision.

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/1/Preview-UFC-Fight-Night-241-Barboza-vs-Murphy-193714

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