Sodiq Yusuff vs Edson Barboza: fight-of-the-year contender war at UFC Vegas 81

Sodiq Yusuff was making a big step up this time around when he collided with Edson Barboza. UFC Vegas 81 was stacked with brilliant finishes and great moments, but nothing comes close to the incredible fight-of-the-year contender affair between the two featherweights.

The Brazilian has picked himself back up after a rough patch inside the octagon and is looking to make a push toward the top end of the rankings. At 37 years old, fighters tend to start slowing down but Barboza proved he still has a lot in the tank with his performance earlier tonight.

Both men entered the octagon looking to make a statement. A battle between a veteran who was looking to recapture his glory inside the cage and a rising contender dubbed for great success in the sport was about to unfold.

Yusuff adapted a pressure-heavy game plan and it paid off in the opening round. During their first exchange, the Nigerian hit his opponent with a huge strike which set the tone for the next five minutes. The younger fighter was closing the distance and throwing nothing but haymakers as he tried to get an early victory. 

Despite being dropped and hit with some devastating hooks, the South American refused to give up and fired back whenever the chance arose. Some ground grappling then ensued followed by some damaging ground and pound by Yusuff. As the claxon sounded to bring an end to the first round, there were many who believed that the contender had scored a 10-8 over his far more experienced opponent.

Related: Watch: Edson Barboza features in the Top 10 Featherweight Knockouts in UFC History

After a tough start to the night, Barboza found his footing in the second round and clawed his way back into the fight. However, ‘Super’ Sodiq wasn’t completely outclassed and was still ahead on the judges scorecards.

Round three began with Yusuff once again pressing forward and doing his best to give his foe no space and making it a dogfight. The body shots were beginning to pile up in favor of Barboza, but it wasn’t until he hit a signature spinning wheel kick that sent Yusuff tumbling to the canvas that the tide truly began to change. Despite having him hurt, Barboza was unable to sink in the D’arce choke which ultimately brought an end to the round.

Capping off an unbelievable comeback victory, Edson Barboza was given the following two rounds and scored the unanimous decision win. Not only did he get his hand raised, but the MMA vet also earned himself a performance bonus; which in turn pushes him to the top of the list for the most Fight of the Night bonuses in UFC history.

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