UFC Fight Night 128: Picks and Predictions

  • The UFC heads to Atlantic City for UFC Fight Night 128 on April 21st.
  • Kevin Lee makes his return against the fourth-ranked lighteweight, Edson Barboza.
  • Aging featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson face for a second time for the co-main event

After the complete slugfest that was UFC on Fox: Poirier vs Gaethje, the UFC heads to Atlantic City, New Jersey next Saturday, April 21st in search of a little more finesse. UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee offers an interesting stylistic match-up in the main event, where Muay Thai extraordinaire Edson Barboza faces submission artist Kevin Lee. For the co-main event, Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson jockey for position in the featherweight rankings.

Edson Barboza (-110) vs Kevin Lee (+140)

It’s going to be a fascinating showdown between Edson Barboza (19-5) and Kevin Lee (16-3). Both are top-tier lightweights looking to rebound after a tough loss. Lee last fought Tony Ferguson for the interim title, where he was thoroughly outdone by a more experienced fighter. And Barboza last fought Khabib Nurmagomedov, who relentlessly mauled him for five rounds.

Both Barboza and Lee remain within the top ten of the division, but they’ll need to rebuild with a few notable wins before they reach the very top.

A win could eventually lead to a title fight against the newly-crowned Nurmagomedov. A loss would spell back-to-back defeats and could mark the beginning of the end.

Khabib Nurmagomedov may have ragdolled him for 25 minutes, but Barboza is still the fourth-ranked lightweight in the UFC according to the official rankings. He’s undoubtedly the most talented kicker at 155, and arguably the best across any division. The way he wears his opponents down with leg kicks is a sight to see, and his flying knee knockout against Beneil Dariush is one for the ages.

When the fight is kept upright, Barboza is one of the most devastating fighters at lightweight. His strikes land with amazing precision and his opponents often have no response. On the ground, however, he’s completely out of his element.

That’s where Lee will hope to shine. The former collegiate wrestler is known for his takedowns and his vicious ground-and-pounds. Once the Motown Phenom is able to gain top control, that’s when he works his magic. He’s absurdly strong for a 155er and can out-muscle just about anyone.

Lee was hindered by a staph infection during the Ferguson fight, and appeared to gas out after a few rounds. We don’t know how much of that is due to poor conditioning or poor health, but his deterioration in the third round was there for all to see.

Nurmagomedov was able to take Barboza down with ease, and Lee will probably have a significantly tougher time against the Brazillian. But he should still be able to put his wrestling to use in some capacity. If he finds success with the takedown, it’ll be another bad night for Barboza.

Pick: Kevin Lee (+140)

Frankie Edgar (L) being interviewed by Joe Rogan
Frankie Edgar (L) being interviewed by Joe Rogan (Photo: UFC (Youtube) [CC License].)

Frankie Edgar (-225) vs Cub Swanson (+175)

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1) and Cub Swanson (25-8) have a few things in common. They both lost their most recent fight to Brian Ortega; they’re both in the top five of the featherweight division; and neither has much time left in their fighting career. They’ll face each other for the second time on Saturday.

Edgar had a title shot lined up against Max Holloway, but when the champ pulled out due to injury, Edgar accepted a replacement fight against Ortega and lost.

At 36 years old, he may have squandered his last chance to become featherweight champ.

Swanson has become something of a gatekeeper for the division. Any young prospect hoping to break into the top ten has to go through him, and usually “Killer” Swanson sends them back out. He’s an unorthodox and aggressive striker, making him one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC. But when matched against the very best, he usually doesn’t fare well.

Let’s consider Edgar vs Swanson 1, which took place back in 2014. Edgar won with a neck crank submission within the final seconds of the fight. Even without the submission, Edgar would have cruised to a comfortable decision victory. On reflection, Swanson admitted he had been outclassed: “He gave me just a straight ass kicking.”

Swanson has lost twice since, first to Max Holloway and then to Brian Ortega. Both losses came by way of a guillotine choke. The Palm Springs native clearly has flaws in his grappling game, and after 33 professional fights, it’s a little too late for him to drastically improve. I imagine the rematch ending similarly to the first.

Pick: Frankie Edgar (-225)