Barboza survives early pounding to beat Yusuff

Sodiq Yusuff absolutely pummeled Edson Barboza throughout the first round of their featherweight main event on Saturday in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Yusuff, it wasn’t a one-round fight.

Barboza (24-11) survived a dreadful opening round en route to a comeback unanimous decision win at UFC Fight Night. All three judges called it for Barboza, via scores of 49-46, 48-46 and 48-46.

Yusuff, 30, hurt Barboza badly with punches in the opening round, to the point it looked like the veteran was out on his feet. Barboza recovered, however, and went on to control the majority of the remaining 20 minutes.

“I really felt it,” said Barboza, 37, on Yusuff’s early onslaught. “I didn’t know if I was in the gym or at home playing with my kids. I said, ‘What the f— is going on.’ Thank God, I listened to my coaches, had a good recovery and came back stronger.”

The 12-year UFC veteran nearly delivered a highlight-reel knockout in the third, when he dropped Yusuff with his signature spinning wheel kick. Yusuff showed off his own toughness in that moment, but he never really looked the same afterward.

“I’m not going to lie; this one hurts pretty bad,” Yusuff said. “I think I could have picked my shots better to get him out of the first round; I was a little overzealous. It is what it is. I’m still a young guy in this sport.”

According to UFC Stats, the two featherweights landed almost an identical number of total strikes: Barboza 208, Yusuff 207. Barboza’s were clearly the harder shots, however, and he mixed up his targets well between the body and head.

The body work especially seemed to take a toll on Yusuff. He came out ultra-aggressive at the start of the fight, crowding Barboza with forward pressure and combinations. Eventually, Barboza found his groove, however, and started to slip off Yusuff’s jab and respond with his own thudding shots. Yusuff’s forward movement wilted as the fight played out.

Yusuff (13-3) has only lost twice since signing with the UFC in 2018. He went into Saturday’s bout following a one-year layoff, having not fought since October 2022. Barboza moved to 2-0 this year, after suffering losses to Bryce Mitchell and Giga Chikadze in his prior two appearances.

“That’s a war,” said Barboza, on failing to get Yusuff out of the fight despite controlling the pace in the latter rounds. “You really have to kill your opponent, and he was still alive. I gave my best to get the finish, but he’s one of the best in the world. He didn’t give up, like me in the first round.”

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