The battle between battle-tested Edson Barboza and rising star Beneil Dariush is expected to be one of the most entertaining fights of the night. While it’s also anticipated that Beneil Dariush will climb the rankings swiftly as he continues to improve and defeat the stiffer competition, to do so, he must first defeat opponents such as Edson Barboza who stand in his way.
Barboza is probably unlucky not to receive a higher ranked opponent after two impressive victories against ex-champions in Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez. These two wins got him back on track after a loss against Tony Ferguson in December 2015 that was regarded as one of the best fights of that year.
The Iranian Beneil Dariush is also entering this one after two consecutive victories, each against James Vick and Rashid Magomedov. Dariush has beaten down experienced UFC veterans in the past in Jim Miller and Michael Johnson and deserves to be in any conversation of future championship contenders in the lightweight division.
This is a tough fight to break down but I believe that Edson Barboza is too good at this point in time for Beneil Dariush who, in a couple more years, will be one of the biggest names in the division. Barboza’s length and kicking accuracy, timing and power will all be too much for Dariush and I’m expecting him to cruise to a decision victory.
Ray Borg recently made easy work of the usually difficult Louis Smolka by dominating the grappling game. Borg was faster, smoother, and seemingly beat Smolka to every position in the contest as a result of his athleticism. Borg’s physical prowess means that he has plenty of room to work an opponent and if he does make a mistake, or tactical error when grappling, he can quickly re-adjust. The only issue with Borg here was that he came in to the bout heavy and he will need to get his weight under control for this flyweight contest against Jussier Formiga.
The flyweight division is a strange one and you can see it by the disparity between the top fighter (DeMetrious Johnson) and the rest of the competition, and then on the next tier is Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo who are levels above all other fighters as well. Just below these guys is Jussier Formiga who has made easy work of all opponent’s who aren’t Cejudo or Benavidez recently. He cruised to a unanimous decision victory against Dustin Ortiz by threatening submissions all night long.
Borg looked amazing in his last bout against Smolka, and it’s hard to go past him in this one if he can get by the weight cutting with ease. Jussier Formiga is definitely a tough competitor, but I think it’s Borg’s time to climb the rankings and start putting himself on the radar as a real contender at just the age of 23.
In the only female bout scheduled for the main card, Bethe Correia takes on the 39-year-old Marion Reneau. Reneau has returned to the winner’s column after defeating Milana Dudieva by a third round TKO and put aside her losses to Holly Holm and Ashlee Evans-Smith previously.
Correia is also on a one fight win streak after defeating Jessica Eye to get back on track after losses to Ronda Rousey and Raquel Pennington. Both of these fighters have lost matches recently to tough competition, and I think this fight is superbly booked as both they both seem to belong in this mid-range tier in the division right now.
Reneau expressed that she thinks “it’s gonna be a stand-up dog fight. I just foresee it as two individuals, who really like the stand-up game, who are going to collide in the centre of the Octagon.” However, this may be smoke on the water as Reneau most likely has the advantage when it heads to the ground, as well. I look back at when Reneau defeated Jessica Andrade in 2015, and that stands out as the impressive performance here and shows she has what it takes to take down Correia.
Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means gets back in the cage against Alex Oliveira this weekend in what should be a fight full of deadly elbows from the clinch and brilliant striking. These two fought each other recently at UFC 207 in December 2016, and Tim Means took an early lead before a controversial ending to the fight occurred when Tim Means blasted his knee into the head of Oliveira while Oliveira was ‘grounded’, therefore making the knees illegal. Dan Miragliotta decided that these knees were not intentional and therefore the only possible outcome was that it was now a ‘no contest’ and Means would not be disqualified.
These two were going back-and-forth for the entire three minutes before the stoppage, and I’m sure the aggression will further magnify now after Oliveira left the first fight on a stretcher after the contentious knees.
Tim Means looked outstanding in their first encounter and I think he has the greater potential to improve before entering the ‘rematch’ against Oliveira. Oliveira definitely took more damage and Tim Means will be out to close this victory that he probably views as stolen from him.
Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush
Edson Barboza to Win
Sunday 12th March, 04:30 GMT
Odds: -163 – Paddy Power
Ray Borg vs. Jussier Formiga
Ray Borg to Win
Sunday 12th March, 04:00 GMT
Odds: +105 – Ladbrokes
Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau
Marion Reneau to Win
Sunday 12th March, 03:30 GMT
Odds: -125 – Ladbrokes
Tim Means vs. Alex Oliveira
Total Rounds – Under 1.5
Sunday 12th March, 03:00 GMT
Odds: +120 – 32Red
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