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Our questions about UFC Atlantic City: Lee vs. Barboza


April is apparently UFC Lightweights Month as we get our third straight show headlined by the 155-pound division, this time by a former title challenger and an opponent that is looking to pick up the pieces after a one-sided beatdown in his last outing.

Helping me examine the show a bit more is the usual suspects in fellow MMA scribes Paul Fontaine and Ryan Frederick.

Note that the Lee/Barboza fight is now a catchweight affair as Lee missed weight, Aspen Ladd missed weight for her fight with Leslie Smith so that fight is off, and Magomed Bibulatov injured his back so his fight with Ulka Sasaki is off the show.

First, The Card

  • Kevin Lee vs. Edson Barboza (catchweight)
  • Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson II
  • Chase Sherman vs. Justin Willis
  • David Branch vs. Thiago Santos
  • Aljamain Sterling vs. Brett Johns
  • Jim Miller vs. Dan Hooker
  • Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Garcia
  • Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Luan Chagas
  • Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins
  • Merab Dvashilli vs. Ricky Simon
  • Tony Martin vs. Keita Nakamura

What are you most looking forward to?

Nason: That co-main really stands out although we'll find out pretty quick if it was too soon to re-book Edgar after his brutal KO loss at the fists of Brian Ortega. The main event has some intrigue for me as well, but I'm also not a big Lee fan. Overall, this is a quality show, especially on free TV.

Ryan: I actually like this card a whole lot as it has some very good depth on it. Barboza against Lee is a high-quality main event, and both are looking to keep themselves in the title hunt. I like the fact that Edgar and Swanson are rematching, but as I’ll get into later, I hate the circumstances. Branch vs. Santos is quality matchmaking and Santos is on a good win streak. Johns is undefeated and has a tough test against Sterling, who has the ability to contend for a championship. Miller always has good fights as does Hooker. We also have some solid prelims with Bahadurzada on them as well as a very solid fight between Anderson and Cummins. Overall, this is a very good card with a lot of depth.

Paul: This is a great free TV card with pretty much all FS1 televised fights having recognizable names in them. In addition to the fights Ryan mentioned, I’m also curious to see ifJohns can keep his unbeaten record going. He hasn’t lost in 18 fights going back to his amateur career and he’s a helluva promo as well, so an impressive showing here could get him a real big fight his next time out.

What is being overlooked?

Ryan: I’m not sure anything is being overlooked, but I don’t think the main event has been getting a lot of extra attention that is deserving. Barboza is one of the most dangerous strikers at 155 pounds, but as Nurmagomedov showed, he still can have issues getting up from the mat if taken down. Lee is a strong wrestler with good submissions. It is such a great matchup that isn’t getting the recognition it deserves.

Paul: Cummins vs. Anderson kicking off the prelims seems like odd match placement for two guys bordering on the top 10 who have both had high profile fights in the past. Johns, who I mentioned before, has the quietest 15-0 record you’ll ever see. 

Nason: Sterling vs. Johns should be a bit higher up the card as I'm not sure why Sherman-Willis is third from the top. Branch vs. Santos might also a banger too depending on which Branch shows up.

What’s not doing it for you?

Paul: Edgar being put back into the Octagon definitely rubs me the wrong way so quickly after his brutal knockout loss just last month. The heavyweight bout between Willis and Sherman has two great characters, but they could have a really bad fight and doesn’t belong anywhere near the main card, especially with a deep lineup such as this. And on the flip side, while Jim Miller is at least on the main card, it seems like a slap in the face that the tough vet is in the opener in his home state. He really should be pushed as one of the big stars on the show.

Ryan: It is the entire Edgar situation and the fight against Swanson. I’m glad that Swanson and the UFC agreed to a new contract as he deserves to remain in the UFC and is still an elite featherweight. He gets his crack at trying to avenge a loss to Edgar, but the circumstances surrounding it aren’t pleasing. Edgar was just knocked out cold seven weeks to the day on Saturday, and this is rushing him back. I get the likely story: he probably wanted back in as soon as possible to shake off the loss, and with this event being in his home state of New Jersey, it might be his last chance to fight in front of his friends and family. I wish they would have slowed down his return to at least July, but here we are. I like the fact we are getting this rematch, but I don’t like the fact it’s happening this weekend.

Nason: Anderson vs. Cummins and Sherman vs. Willis could be snoozers, but perhaps there's a reason why UFC placed them as they did.

What’s the big intrigue with this show?

Nason: For me, it's Lee and Edgar. I still don't know if Lee is an elite talent at lightweight or someone that talked himself up so much that he finds himself in that spot. I still don't buy the win over Chiesa and this is now two straight fights in which there's been weight and/or health issues. He's a fun personality, but this fight should tell how much of that is smoke and mirrors. For Edgar, a win should give him a title shot against the winner of Max Holloway vs. Ortega unless if Holloway loses. In that case, expect a rematch.

Ryan: It’s whether some fighters can break out of the pack, and whether some  veterans have anything left in the tank. The winner of Barboza and Lee remains in the talk of the crowded lightweight picture, but they have long roads ahead. This could be the official beginning of the end for two Jersey veterans in Edgar and Miller. Santos could continue to climb up the 185-pound rankings. There are lots intriguing on this card.

Paul: It’s the amazing run Santos is on as four straight wins via KO is not something you see all the time. A fifth straight will make people notice. In fact, eight of his nine UFC wins have been by knockout, a ratio usually only seen in the heavyweight division. I think it’s also intriguing how Edgar does and, should he lose, where does he go from here?

At the end of the year, what will make this show matter looking back at it?

Ryan: It’s another in a string of several events over several weeks, but this one has some good name value on it. It likely won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, unless this is truly the beginning of the end for future Hall of Famer Edgar. It still should be a good fight card.

Paul: I really don’t think the show in general matters all that much but there are guys on this show that are a couple steps away from title contention and this could be one more rung up that ladder. But, it’s a fun night of fights and it’s free so this is a great treat for the hardcore UFC fans.

Nason: I doubt this will have long-term impact, but like Ryan and Paul alluded to, we could get two interesting names in title contention after the night is through. Whether they get those shots with a win, however, is another set of questions entirely.

Who wins?

Lee vs. Barboza

Barboza: Paul, Ryan
Lee: Nason

Edgar vs. Swanson

Edgar: Nason
Swanson: Ryan, Paul

Branch vs. Santos

Santos: Nason, Paul, Ryan

Anderson vs. Cummins

Cummins: Ryan, Paul, Nason

Follow along with our coverage on Saturday night.