What does Edson Barboza have left? | UFC Kansas City main card preview

Bloody Elbow provides the dirt on the main card of UFC Kansas City including Edson Barboza vs. Billy Quarantillo.

By: Dayne Fox | 2 months ago
What does Edson Barboza have left? | UFC Kansas City main card preview
Edson Barboza after his contest with Bryce Mitchell | Imago/Louis Grasse

If you squint hard, the UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen main card is above average for a Fight Night card. Aside from the main event, there are three contests that feature ranked fighters. There’s been PPV’s that couldn’t claim that. And yes, I’m referring to events in the last year… just make sure you read my words carefully. 

However, I did say you need to squint as none of the contests at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen are the type of fights that draw casual fans. Edson Barboza might have once upon a time. Same with Clay Guida. Unfortunately, they’re past their primes. They still have enough in the tank they should offer competitive fights, but both are also underdogs for a reason. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be a contest on the main card that doesn’t offer me pause to ask myself if I’m positive about my picks. Make your own picks at your own peril…. 

UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen Main Card 

Edson Barboza vs. Billy Quarantillo | Featherweight 

It can be argued how great of a fighter Edson Barboza is in a historical contest. What can’t be argued is Barboza is undoubtedly one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport. In fact, he may have the flashiest highlight reel of all-time, highlighted by spinning wheel kick KO of Terry Etim over a decade ago. However, given that occurred over a decade ago, that also says something about the wear and tear on Barboza. 

To be fair to Barboza, he looks far more spry than most would anticipate after a dozen years in the UFC, most of that time spent facing the top ten of the lightweight division. He hasn’t gotten much of a break since opting to move down to featherweight either. But the wear is still visible. Barboza can’t eat a barrage of punches the way he used to, nor can he hold up under an insane pace as he could in the past. Even then, he was never considered to be great at handling either of those issues. 

That’s why Quarantillo enters the fight as the favorite. The TUF and DWCS vet has proven himself to be as relentless as they come. He’s not the most physically gifted fighter, but Quarantillo is supremely conditioned and is aware of his limitations and how to work around them. It involves a lot of pressure, volume, and takedown attempts. I have to say attempts as it’s a rarity when he completes the takedown, at least early on. Once his opponents begin to breakdown under Quarantillo’s onslaught, he’s been able to find the finish more often than not. 

If this was a prime Barboza, there wouldn’t be any doubt about who the favorite would be. Barboza is one of the most dangerous outfighters seen in the confines of the Octagon. He isn’t great in the pocket, but his boxing is one of the more underrated aspects of his game, perhaps the most underrated aspect. Plus, his KO of Beneil Dariush is a great reminder of Barboza’s great reactional instincts. But this isn’t prime Barboza. He’s still as dangerous as ever in a pure striking contest, but it’s hard to believe Quarantillo will be foolish enough to try that. 

Barboza’s most recent contests indicate he’s in decline. He’s not the athlete he once was and his takedown defense in particular has looked weak. Even if he is still a superior athlete to Quarantillo, Barboza has been losing to inferior athletes. Quarantillo is a difficult stylistic matchup for Barboza too. It’s foolish to discount the idea of Barboza landing something explosive and putting Quarantillo out cold, but Quarantillo is smart enough to mitigate those type of opportunities. Quarantillo via decision 

Dustin Jacoby vs. Azamat Murzakanov | Light Heavyweight 

In a weird way, it could be argued Jacoby has been the MVP of the light heavyweight division since he rejoined the roster. Note that I didn’t say the best fighter, just that no one else has been more consistent in fighting on the regular while finding steady success as Jacoby. Since finding his way back to the organization, he’s gone 6-1-1 over the course of two-and-a-half years. Even the lone loss in that stretch is controversial. 

Jacoby’s detractors would argue he’s been fighting lesser opposition, none of his opponents being in the official rankings when he fought them. Perhaps Jacoby could have lobbied harder for tougher competition, but he likely wouldn’t have been as busy. Thus, he wouldn’t be picking up as many paychecks. Regardless, Jacoby has made use of the kickboxing skills he sharpened in the eight-plus years he was out of the UFC. He may not be the most powerful striker, but he knows how to use his length exceptionally well. 

That’s problematic for Murzakanov. The Russian certainly has the advantage in the power department and he’s in possesion of the better wrestling credentials. Beyond that though, that’s where his advantages end. Granted, those are notable advantages. But Murzakanov struggled mightily with Tafon Nchukwi before landing a brutal flying knee. Nchukwi isn’t without talent and skill, but he doesn’t have the striking discipline or defensive acumen of Jacoby. 

That isn’t to say Murzakanov is screwed. Jacoby hasn’t proven to be great at stopping takedowns when opponents have proven capable of closing the distance. Plus, when I said Murzakanov has an advantage in the power department, that’s putting it lightly. The Russian has a long history of first round finishes, often requiring just one punch to get the job done. Plus, while his gas tank has been a question mark given his lack of proven track record going the distance, he’s gone into the third round in his last two contests before finding the finish. 

All that said, Murzakanov doesn’t match up well with Jacoby. Though his wrestling is credentialed, he hasn’t made much use of it since coming to the UFC. If he continues to look for a striking battle, he’s in bad shape. He won’t win a point fight with Jacoby and looking for a kill shot is often a fool’s errand and a more skilled striker. Jacoby either takes a decision or scores a late stoppage. Jacoby via decision 

Pedro Munhoz vs. Chris Gutierrez | Bantamweight 

The dichotomy of this contest is very interesting. Munhoz enters the contest with one win in his last six contests. By comparison, Gutierrez has not lost a single contest in his last eight appearances. I can’t remember the last time there was such a discrepancy in terms of recent history. 

There is a very good reason these two are colliding despite their recent records: level of competition. Only two of Gutierrez’s opponents in that stretch remain on the roster. One might argue former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar is one of those victims – someone who hung an L on Munhoz in his recent rough stretch – but Edgar’s chin was shot and it was his retirement fight. By contrast, Munhoz hasn’t fought an opponent outside of the official rankings at the time he fought them since 2018. 

All that said, there’s a solid reason Gutierrez is a sizeable favorite. He’s younger than Munhoz. Quicker too. Bigger as well. It’s hard to find a physical characteristic in which Munhoz has an advantage outside of raw power. That said, Gutierrez is developing his own power and Munhoz’s chin has absorbed a lot of damage over the years. Gutierrez has largely been able to avoid serious damage. Add in that Gutierrez has been looking better each time he steps into the cage and there’s every reason to believe the oddsmakers are onto something aside from just looking at the momentum of each fighter. 

There are clear advantages in terms of skillset for both fighters as well. For instance, being the longer fighter, Gutierrez is the superior outfighter by a wide margin. That’s an area he’s been focusing on for quite some time and the results have been obvious. It’s to the point where Gutierrez has gone from throwing the simplest punching combinations to throwing spinning and flying attacks on the regular. That said, the base of his attack is still his leg kicks, Gutierrez being one of the few in UFC history who has incurred a stoppage via leg kicks. 

While Munhoz isn’t a great outfighter, his low kicks are just as potent as Gutierrez’s, even if he doesn’t have the stoppage Gutierrez does. However, Munhoz is a fantastic boxer in the pocket, far more dangerous than Gutierrez. The question is if he can regularly close the distance without taking too much damage for those situations. If he can, he’s also one of the most fundamentally sound grapplers on the roster, his guillotine in particular being worthy of note. Of course, that requires Munhoz to attempt to get the fight to the mat. He has attempted a total of two takedowns in his last eight fights.

Perhaps there is a solid defense for Munhoz to his lack of recent takedowns aside from him being older. He’s also been fighting a plethora of fighters with strong wrestling and/or grappling backgrounds. Gutierrez isn’t a slouch on the mat, but he’s not at the level of those whom Munhoz has been fighting as of late. Plus, I didn’t say Gutierrez won every one of those eight fights. He secured a draw against Cody Durden due to an exceptionally aggressive first round from Durden grounding and holding Munhoz down. 

That Durden fight sticks in my craw. Munhoz is a more skilled grappler than Durden and may even be the better wrestler. He’s got superior stamina too. If Munhoz still has it in him to cover the distance and score takedowns, this should be an easy win for him. There’s no guarantee of that. At 36, Munhoz is ancient for bantamweight. Regardless, I haven’t seen a notable slippage from him yet and Munhoz has his back against the wall. Need is a hell of a motivator and I think that will ensure we see the best of Munhoz. Munhoz via submission of RD1 

Ion Cutelaba vs. Tanner Boser | Light Heavyweight 

There’s no questioning the physical talents of Cutelaba. One of the most explosive and powerful 205ers on the roster, he finds himself with a 5-8-1 record despite his impressive skillset. That’s due to his having one of the worst fight IQ’s in the history of the sport. Cutelaba enters every contest with guns blazing, swinging heavy ham hocks and pursuing takedowns with reckless abandon. Should his opponent survive, he tends to gas HARD, sometimes even before the first round is out. Once that happens, he tends to give in to exhaustion and/or get subbed out. It’s hard to say if Cutelaba’s front runner tendencies will work on Boser. 

This will be the Canadian’s first fight at 205, cutting down from heavyweight. It’s possible the dehydration from weight cutting could be miserable on his chin. In a 30-fight career, he’s only been finished once, but a bad weight cut could throw things off. If Boser survives the opening round, he’s a technical enough striker he can outpoint a fading Cutelaba by a wide margin. Ultimately, I don’t like what I’ve seen of Boser’s takedown defense or get-up ability. Cutelaba’s pressure will make Boser’s low kicks ineffective too, at least early on. I’m holding my nose as I write this, but Boser matches up poorly with Cutelaba. Cutelaba via decision 

Clay Guida vs. Rafa Garcia | Lightweight 

Yep, Guida is still fighting at the age of 41. For those of you who might point out what else he might do for a living, his nickname is The Carpenter for a reason…. 

Terrible jokes aside, Guida may not be at the level of hyperactivity he was at his peak circa 2010, but he’s still more hyperactive than the majority of roster. Thus, even as he approaches dinosaur status by MMA standards, he’s still able to outwork members of the roster with his pressure and wrestling. Guida has even grown wiser in his approach, taking less risks and showing improved striking technique. That doesn’t mean one should discount to possibility of him walking into a guillotine or some other compromising position, but it hasn’t been as much of a frequency as it was even just a few years ago. 

Some might see Garcia as a poor mans version of a younger Guida, but there are some important differences. While aggressive in his pursuit of takedowns and loopy with his punches, Garcia is stronger than Guida ever was and hits harder. Plus, he’s a better grappler in the technical sense. Unfortunately for him, the biggest difference is his gas tank tends to flag down the stretch. That’s enough to prevent me in being supremely confident in picking him, but he should still be able to do enough in the first two rounds to thwart Guida’s best efforts. Garcia via decision 

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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