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Edson Barboza vs. Lerone Murphy


Fight Odds: Murphy -136, Barboza +118

Odds to Finish: -140

DraftKings Salaries: Murphy $8.5K, Barboza $7.7K

Weight Class: 145


The UFC has set up a striker’s delight this weekend between Edson Barboza and Lerone Murphy in the main event, which should be fun for as long as it lasts.

This is a big opportunity for Murphy especially, who has now won five consecutive fights and will be headlining a card for the first time. Barboza is the experienced veteran, who proved recently that he still has a lot left in the tank when he defeated Sodiq Yusuff over five rounds.

Barboza has been historically underrated by the public, though he struggles against certain types of opponents, and had a very difficult time competing with the wood-chippers at the top of the lightweight division years ago.

Most notably, Barboza doesn’t do a great job of scrambling back to his feet when he gets taken down. Fighters like Khabib, Kevin Lee, and Bryce Mitchell have done well to take advantage of this.

He’s also been in enough wars that his durability is fading, and he will get knocked down on occasion.

That was clear against Yusuff last time out, who badly hurt Barboza in the first minute of the fight and nearly scored the knockout. However, Barboza survived, and came back to control the majority of the remaining 20 minutes, which is extremely impressive for a fighter now at 38 years old.

Barboza is simply a very good technical striker, who throws at a decent pace, and can attack all parts of the body. That style will continue to keep him live in most matchups and especially ones that play out on the feet.

His next challenge will be Lerone Murphy, who I’ve never been particularly high on and have always classified as a physical fighter more than a technician.

Murphy has had some odd matchups through his early UFC run. He earned a draw in his debut against Zubaira Tukhugov, and he’s won a pair of fights in which he was taken down five times. Most recently, he outclassed Joshua Culibao over three rounds.

In total, Murphy’s level of competition has been mediocre and I don’t feel great about his style translating to the upper echelon of the division.

He’s a competent striker with power, but he only lands 3.65 significant strikes per minute. He’s done well to limit strikes against him, absorbing only 2.40 per minute. But he’s also faced several opponents who barely throw any strikes, like Tukhugov, Amirkhani, and Culibao.

Still, he’s come out ahead in the power spectrum and he’s hurt most opponents he’s faced. He was also dropped by Tukhugov, and hurt by both Santos and Culibao.

As far as his grappling, Murphy only defends takedowns at 46%. He’s done well to survive and scramble free though, but I wouldn’t really label him a dangerous grappler.

He’s coming off a three-takedown performance against Culibao, but still averages 1.29 takedowns per 15 minutes.

Overall, I think Murphy is fine, but I think he’ll be limited by his volume and by mediocre grappling game. Landing big power shots will be his best way to separate from opponents, and I think he’s had a run of wins that won’t necessarily translate to the contenders in this division.

How will he fare against Barboza?

Most likely, Murphy will have some opportunities to land power strikes. Barboza has been knocked down seven times in his UFC career, and four of those times have been in his last four fights, which is concerning.

Especially if you go back and watch the fight against Yusuff, Barboza was badly hurt immediately. It’s just not a great sign and I think we can assume Barboza will be hurt again in the future.

For a fighter who’s as physical and powerful as Murphy, I do have to give him knockdown equity, and that could theoretically lead to a finish at any point.

Outside of that, Barboza should be able to stay competitive with Murphy for the duration, if not beat him outright. Barboza lands strikes at a higher clip of 4.18 per minute, and he just landed 164 significant strikes in 25 minutes against Yusuff.

At distance, Barboza is landing 5.0 significant strikes per minute and absorbing 4.4 per minute. Murphy is landing 4.8 per minute while absorbing 3.6. Barboza has 262 minutes tracked at distance though, while Murphy only has 35.

Barboza is also a super dangerous striker himself, who will light you up to the body and the legs, and he’s vastly more experienced against strong competition than Murphy. Plus, he just proved he had the cardio to go a solid five rounds, which Murphy has not yet proven.

Murphy has been hurt a few times as well, so although I’d favor him in the damage and durability department, it’s not by a large margin.

I don’t think either fighter will have a ton of success grappling. Murphy’s takedown defense is worse, but Barboza doesn’t really wrestle, and it would be tough to project him for more than a takedown in the matchup.

Murphy may have more wrestling upside, but I’d be hesitant to rely on that path to victory for him, and projecting him for 1-3 takedowns over 25 minutes makes sense.

Mostly, I expect the winner of the fight to be the winner of the striking exchanges, and it’s hard for me not to lean toward Barboza in that case just given his large sample of success.

This is a very clear step up in competition for Murphy, and I usually like to see these guys prove it before I pick them to win in spots like this. With that said, I do think striking exchanges will be competitive and I think Murphy has early KO upside as well. Picking him to win doesn’t feel like a terrible take either.

I’ll side with Barboza to pull off his second consecutive main-event upset over five rounds, but I think a competitive betting line makes sense with general variance and durability factored in.

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