In the bout between two Brazilians scheduled for the UFC 162 prelim card, Edson “Junior” Barboza will meet Rafaello “Tractor” Oliveira in what is sure to be one of most exciting events shy of the main card. Barboza is known for his Muay Thai mastery and strong striking ability, and has a height advantage over Oliveira. However, the Tractor has more MMA experience and a significantly superior ground game, which as we all know can prove to be the downfall of fighters who rely too much on their striking ability.
Oliveira is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has trained with the former lightweight champion BJ Penn, and has gone against notable fighters such as Yves Edwards and Andrew Winner. In his last seven fights, he has landed 165 out of 506 endeavored strikes, and taken down his opponent 14 times out of an attempted 33. He likes to mix up his striking attacks, as 67% of his blows are thrown from standing, 9% from the clinch, and 24% from the ground. He avoids 63% of strikes against him, but has only defended 11% of takedowns. With nine submission attempts (four leading to victory), 17 guard passes, and two sweeps, his ground stats are solid, and could help him dictate where this fight goes. Coming off a win after three difficult losses, Oliveira is planning to show that his last victory wasn’t a fluke, and that he definitely belongs in the UFC.
Barboza is also coming off a win, as well as following a great history of victory in a successful Muay Thai career. Although he is only 11-1 in MMA, he was 25-3 in Muay Thai, with 22 if his wins coming from knockouts. He is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and received his black Prajied in Muay Thai. He also has a purple belt in BJJ, which means that he is pretty capable on the ground if he needs to be. In his last seven fights, he has succeed with 38% of the 601 strikes thrown, nailed four out of five takedown attempts, avoided two-thirds of his opponents attacks, and defended 75% of their takedowns. He also prefers to fight predominantly from a standing position, as 92% of his strikes were thrown while upright. He has received Fight of the Night three times from the UFC and Knockout of the Night once, as well as being awarded 2012 KO of the year from UFC, the World MMA Awards, MMAValor.com, and Sherdog. In Muay Thai, he was the GP Demolition Fight champion, which is known as one of Brazil’s biggest Muay Thai events held in Sao Paulo. He was a three-time state champion in Rio de Janeiro, Submission Wrestling champion in Sao Joao da Barra, two-time Copa Ciam champion, Festival de Muay Thai champion in Rio, and the Mountain Champion via first-round KO.
I definitely see this fight going to Barboza via KO, simply because of his superior striking background. Muay Thai is one of the most brutal striking disciplines, and he has an extensive background in it, as well as refining his skills with the speed and accuracy of Tae Kwon Do. He has a purple belt in BJJ, and great takedown defense, which will help him defend against the only real advantage that Oliveira has over him. If he can keep this fight standing, Barboza shouldn’t have a problem bringing home the victory.