Tuesday, July 5, 2022

UFC Fight Night 128: Barboza vs. Lee Staff Predictions

We’re less than 24 hours away from fight night, and by now everyone should know what that means. It’s time for our latest installment of the MMANews.com Staff Predictions Roundtable for UFC Fight Night 128.

In this edition, MMANews.com staff writers Matt Boone, Fernando Quiles Jr. and Ian Carey will give their expert analysis and predictions for this Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 128: Barboza vs. Lee event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The main card features a six-fight lineup, with former UFC interim lightweight title challenger and number six-ranked contender Kevin Lee taking on number five-ranked contender Edson Barboza in the main event. The co-main event features former UFC lightweight champion and featherweight title contender Frankie “The Answer” Edgar taking on Cub Swanson in a highly-anticipated rematch.

Also on the card this weekend is the return of David Branch against Thiagon Santos, Aljamain Sterling vs. Brett Johns, Jim Miller vs. Dan Hooker and Justin Willis vs. Chase Sherman.

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  • Lightweights: Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee
  • Featherweights: Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson
  • Heavyweights: Chase Sherman vs. Justin Willis
  • Middleweights: David Branch vs. Thiago Santos
  • Bantamweights: Aljamain Sterling vs. Brett Johns
  • Lightweights: Jim Miller vs. Dan Hooker


Kevin Lee (16-3) vs. Edson Barboza (19-5)

Matt Boone: Our main event comes out of the division with the most focus on it these days — UFC’s 155-pound class. With both guys being top-ten ranked contenders and the title scene being wide open with Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor out of the picture at the moment, there is a lot riding on this fight. Lee comes into this one after dropping his last fight to Ferguson. It will be interesting to see how his weight holds up this time around and whether or not he walks into the cage with glaring staph infection once again. (Editor’s Note: Kevin Lee misses weight at official UFC Fight Night 128 weigh-ins.) For Barboza, he’s coming off one-sided beatdown to current division king Khabib Nurmagomedov, so obviously he’s looking to erase that memory from people’s minds. The odds makers actually have Lee as a slight favorite for this one. Because my instincts tell me to side with a grappler in a classic grappler versus striker matchup, which I feel this is, I’m going with “The Motown Phenom.” (Prediction: Kevin Lee)

Fernando Quiles Jr.: Barboza and Lee are hungry for wins and that makes them two dangerous lightweights. Something has to give between these two. Lee’s key to victory is in the grappling. Barboza is no slouch in that department, however. Sure, he may have been helpess against Khabib Nurmagoemdov, but “The Eagle” is a class above even some elite-level talent. In the end, Barboza has five rounds to turn Lee’s legs into jello and potentially finish him off. I like those odds for Barboza. (Prediction: Edson Barboza)

Ian Carey: Barboza is a fun fighter to watch but he’s in tough at the top of the 155lbs division. This was never more evident than in his fight with Khabib. At times it looked as though Khabib was a python in the process of swalling his prey during this fight. Basically all Barboza could do was try and kick his opponent’s leg as many times as he could before inevitibly he was taken down again. Lee, on the other hand, has all the tools to hang with the top of the division, he just needs to work on his cardio. He told his corner before the start of the 3rd round in his fight against Tony Ferguson that he was tired. That was a 5-round fight and he was tired less than halfway through. No surprise, he was submitted that round. If Lee wants another crack at any of the 3 inter-changeable interim and non-interim champions of the division, he’s going to have to improve his cardio. I’m betting he’ll have done exactly that coming into this fight. I’m picking he earns a five-round decision. (Prediction: Kevin Lee)

CONSENSUS: Kevin Lee (2-1)

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1) vs. Cub Swanson (25-8)

Boone: In the co-main event, we feature two fighters coming off of losses to Brian Ortega. Edgar was KO’d by the up-and-comer while Swanson was choked out by him. What makes this that much more interesting is that the two fought once before, with Edgar winning an absolute battle via choke with only four seconds remaining in the fight. The odds makers have Edgar a pretty big favorite at nearly 2 1/2 to 1, which seems a bit long if you ask me. Regardless, when push comes to shove, I can’t pick against “The Answer.” (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)

Quiles Jr.: I think this is a better fight even if we were to ignore the fact that Edgar was knocked out last month. Throw in that fact and picking Swanson to win suddenly doesn’t seem like a bad idea. We’ve seen how a quick turnaround after being finished isn’t the best idea for fighters, Michael Bisping comes to mind. Still, I think Edgar avoids danger for the most part and uses his wrestling to defeat Swanson again. (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)

Carey: Frankie is going to win this fight but Swanson will earn himself a performance of the night bonus all the same. While both are exciting fighters, Swanson’s strength is his scrappiness while Edgar’s strength is his precision. Precision beats scrappiness here. Edgar by decision. (Prediction: Frankie Edgar)

CONSENSUS: Frankie Edgar (3-0)

Justin Willis (6-1) vs. Chase Sherman (11-4)

Boone: In Heavyweight action, big boys Justin Willis and Chase Sherman meet on the card in Atlantic City this weekend. Willis is a one-loss prospect who is undefeated in two fights inside the Octagon, with his most recent win being a KO of Allen Crowder at UFC 218 in December. For his part, Sherman comes into this one with a 3-2 record in the UFC, with his last fight being a quick knockout loss to Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC Fight Night 122 back in November. The odds makers have Willis the second biggest favorite on the main card at more than a 3-to-1 favorite. Can’t argue that, however when it comes to the big boys, keep in mind anything is possible. (Prediction: Justin Willis)

Quiles Jr.: Both these guys train with high-level mixed martial artist. Willis prepares with some of the very best at American Kickboxing Academy, while Sherman trains under Jackson-Wink MMA. Willis has been on a roll in his MMA career, but this is a stern test. I think he passes and he does so via knockout or TKO. (Prediction: Justin WIllis)

Carey: “Big Pretty” vs “the Vanilla Gorilla”. Willis is a big guy training with Cain and Cormier at AKA. I think he just has too much here for Sherman. “The Vanilla Gorilla” Sherman was put to sleep in his last fight and has dropped 3 of 5 in the UFC. Willis is someone other heavyweights might want to keep an eye on as he looks to go 3-0 in the UFC here. I’ve got Willis via first-round knockout. (Prediction: Justin Willis)

CONSENSUS: Justin Willis (3-0)

David Branch (21-4) vs. Thiago Santos (17-5)

Boone: After going undefeated in ten fights, winning belts in the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions in the WSOF (PFL) and returning to the UFC with a win over Krzystof Jotko last May, David Branch finally snapped his win-streak against Luke Rockhold back in September. Meanwhile, Santos comes into the cage in A.C. riding a four-fight win streak, all of which came by way of TKO in the first or second rounds. The Brazilian is riding some good momentum coming into this one and the odds makers like his chances, as he sits at nearly a 2-to-1 favorite over the former double-WSOF champ. Hey, every card has some upsets, right? Keeping that in mind, I’ll choose that as my upset pick of the night. (Prediction: David Branch)

Quiles Jr.: This is a tough fight to call. Branch is coming off a submission loss to Luke Rockhold. The strikes were too much for Branch to handle. He had success early on, but didn’t have the punching power to put Rockhold away. Santos certainly does have that punching power. In the end, I think Santos will tag Branch and leave him in a world of trouble. (Prediction: Thiago Santos)

Carey: This is a tough one because I thought Branch looked decent enough against Rockhold (up until he didn’t) but Santos is rolling now with 4 straight knockouts. In the fight against Rockhold, it seemed as though Branch was demonstrating he could hang with the upper echelon of the division, only now we don’t know if Rockhold is upper echelon anymore. 12 of Santos’ 17 victories are via KO but Branch has only ever been knocked out once in his 25 fights. I’m taking David Branch to earn a decision victory here. (Prediction: David Branch)

CONSENSUS: David Branch (2-1)

Aljamain Sterling (14-3) vs. Brett Johns (15-0)

Boone: In an exciting Bantamweight tilt, Aljamain Sterling meets Brett Johns. Sterling comes into this fight off of an absolutely devastating knockout due to knee from Marlon Moraes back at UFC Fight Night 123 in December. Meanwhile, Johns comes into the cage this weekend bringing his perfect 15-0 record with him, and is riding the momentum off of his “Performance of the Night” submission victory over former title contender Joe Soto back at the TUF 26 Finale in December. The odds makers have this one set as nearly a pick’m fight, with the odds almost even. I’ll give a slight advantage to Sterling. (Prediction: Aljamain Sterling)

Quiles Jr.: Sterling needs a victory, but this is no easy fight. After losing two straight bouts by split decision, Sterling went on to win his next two bouts. He was brutally knocked out by Marlon Moraes in his last outing. A loss to Johns would be resemble a new era blowing past “The Funk Master.” His relevance in the bantamweight division would slide. I see Johns taking a decision victory. (Prediction: Brett Johns)

Carey: I feel like the 15-0 Brett Johns doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves. The 26-year-old from Wales is a propsect in this division, though he might have trouble with Sterling here. Johns only needed 30 seconds in his last fight to submit Joe Soto via a calf-slicer. Meanwhile, Sterling was knocked out in epic fashion by Marlon Moraes in his last fight. It was the first time Sterling has been finished in his career and it’s never easy to tell how a fighter will react to that. I think Sterling is going to fight a smart, cautious fight and pick up the decision victory. (Prediction: Aljamain Sterling)

CONSENSUS: Aljamain Sterling (2-1)

Jim Miller (28-11, 1 NC) vs. Dan Hooker (15-7)

Boone: Jim Miller is as much of a veteran as anybody, however he’ll kick off the main card this weekend looking to erase a three-fight losing streak when he meets Dan Hooker, who is in the midst of a two-fight winning streak. The odds makers have Hooker set as the biggest favorite on this card at more than a 3-to-1 favorite. Because Miller is a stud and his aforementioned three-fight losing streak came by way of defeats to Anthony Pettis, Dustin Poirier and Francisco Trinaldo, I’ll assume that the UFC vet is being overlooked and go with the biggest upset pick of the night in this one. (Prediction: Jim Miller)

Quiles Jr.: Miller has been through some wars and despite having 40 professional MMA bouts, he’s still here. He’s lost three in a row, however and fighting Dan Hooker could be bad news for the fan favorie. Hooker is riding a wave of momentum after his stunning submission win over Marc Diakiese. This could be a fun fight, but I’ve got Hooker finding more success on offense to take the decision win. (Prediction: Dan Hooker)

Carey: Even though Jim Miller has lost 3 in a row, I have trouble seeing why he’s a +280 underdog in this fight. He’s tied with Chase Sherman for being the biggest underdog on the main card. While Dan Hooker looked great in his last bout (a 42 second submission of Mark Diakiese) he’s been a win one/lose one fighter his whole career. I like Jim Miller via third-round submission. (Prediction: Jim Miller)

CONSENSUS: Jim Miller (2-1)

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What do you think of the above analysis for UFC Fight Night 128? Do you agree or disagree with the predictions? Let us know by sounding off in the Comments section below. Join us via Twitter @mmanews_com on Saturday evening for live UFC Fight Night 128 results coverage!

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