Edson Barboza survived a nightmare opening round before staging a remarkable fightback to earn a unanimous decision victory over Sodiq Yusuff at UFC Vegas 81.
Barboza and Yusuff battled back and forth through the full five-round duration in the featherweight main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, with the Brazilian veteran emerging the victor on the scorecards, with the judges scoring the bout 49-46, 48-46, 48-46
Yusuff adopted a smart gameplan from the very start of the opening round, as he immediately stepped into the pocket to nullify Barboza’s famed kicks, and immediately set to work with his boxing.
Yusuff unloaded heavy hands early and had Barboza in big trouble, with “Super Sodiq” seemingly unable to miss with his right hand through the majority of the round. But a combination of some gutsy determination and his in-cage experience kept Barboza in the fight as he survived a one-sided opening round.
Encouraged by his corner between rounds, Barboza looked a much improved fighter in Round 2. Yusuff started well as he attempted to pick up where he left off at the end of the first frame, but he started to slow as the round wore on, and Barboza started to take over with some heavy shots of his own. And, with the distance now perfect for his kicking game, Barboza unleashed a succession of heavy kicks to the body and legs of a tiring Yusuff as the round came to a close.
Both men loaded up early in Round 3, with Yusuff looking to rekindle his success from the opening round, while Barboza ripped hard shots to the body as he continued to focus on his opponent’s midsection in a bid to sap his gas tank. Then, with seconds remaining in the round, Barboza unleashed a spinning wheel kick that wobbled, then dropped Yusuff. But, rather than follow up with immediate ground strikes, the Brazilian went for a D’Arce choke that ultimately was unsuccessful. That decision proved crucial as Yusuff survived the round when he looked seconds away from being stopped with strikes.
After a fourth round that saw both men stand and exchange for the full five-minute duration, the pair went toe to toe for the final round as they both looked to score a late finish. But, despite their best efforts, the pair battled all the way to the scorecards, where Barboza was declared the victor with scores of 49-46, 48-46, 48-46.
Araujo claims crucial win
In the co-main event, Viviane Araujo made light of her underdog status to claim a huge win for her career as she outpointed compatriot Jennifer Maia after three tightly contested rounds of flyweight action.
Araujo edged the bout 29-28 on all three scorecards as she improved her record to 12-5 with victory over Maia, who entered the weekend ranked two places above Araujo, sitting ninth at 125 pounds compared to Araujo’s 11th.
Those positions may well be swapped when the rankings are updated, with “Vivi” snapping a two-fight skid with a crucial victory to keep her within touching distance of the division’s top contenders.
Best of the rest
Also on the main card, Jonathan Martinez put his leg kicks to good use as he chopped down fellow striker Adrian Yanez in the second round of their bantamweight matchup. And Brazil’s Michel Pereira marked the occasion of his UFC’s first middleweight appearance with a 66-second TKO finish of Andre Petroski.
The main card kicked off with a bantamweight battle between rising prospects Christian Rodriguez and Cameron Saaiman. The pair fought all the way to the scorecards, but it was American Rodriguez who claimed the unanimous decision victory over South Africa’s Saaiman to improve his record to 10-1 by handing Saaiman the first loss of his pro career.
There was also a quickfire KO on the preliminary card, as Terrance McKinney finished debutant Brendan Marotte in just 20 seconds to earn his 15th career win, and his fifth in the UFC. All five of those wins came in the very first round.
UFC Vegas 81: Official results
- Edson Barboza def. Sodiq Yusuff via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-46, 48-46)
- Viviane Araujo def. Jennifer Maia via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jonathan Martinez def. Adrian Yanez via TKO (leg kick) – Round 2, 2:26
- Michel Pereira def. Andre Petroski via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 1:06
- Christian Rodriguez def. Cameron Saaiman via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Darren Elkins def. TJ Brown via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 2:23
- Tainara Lisboa def. Ravena Oliveira via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Terrance McKinney def. Brendan Marotte via TKO (knee and punches) – Round 1, 0:20
- Melissa Dixon def. Irina Alekseeva via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Chris Gutierrez def. Alateng Heili via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Emily Ducote def. Ashley Yoder via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)