UFC 134: The Face-Off


Ross Pearson

Heavy MMA staffers go head-to-head with their analysis of Barboza vs. Pearson

Introducing first — fighting out of the blue corner — this man is a Heavy MMA feature writer and represents Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson. Fighting out of Indianapolis, Indiana — Duane Finley.

His opponent — fighting out of the red corner — this man is Heavy MMA’s lead writer. Representing Edson Barboza and fighting out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada — E. Spencer Kyte.

The Case for Ross Pearson (Finley)

I believe Barboza’s striking and style will present some interesting challenges for Pearson, but this will ultimately bring out the best in him.

Pearson has power in both hands and while his stand up is primarily boxing based, he isn’t confined to the discipline. He seems to do best when his opponents are willing to engage, and there is no doubt Barboza will engage.

Naturally, fighting in his opponent’s backyard will create added pressure, but I don’t see that being anything the Brit can’t overcome. He’s spent most of his time in the UFC fighting Americans on American soil, so why would fighting a Brazilian in Brazil be any different?

I also think Barboza being a highly touted prospect could work against him here. He is on a tear, and has not yet registered a notch in the loss column. A year ago, Pearson was on a similar trajectory before an upset loss to Cole Miller knocked him off course. He bounced back from the loss with an impressive performance over veteran Spencer Fisher, a win that showed his mental toughness and resolve.

Another aspect not to be overlooked here is experience. With twice as many fights as the young prospect, Pearson is more in tuned to adjusting when things don’t go as planned. Life’s great when things are going according to plan, but when strikers get caught or wobbled, it can be difficult to get their bearings back. This was something Pearson learned the hard way against Miller, and one Barboza has yet to deal with in the cage. Lessons learned in the heat of battle often far outweigh those discovered in the training room.

The true determining factor in this fight might be how Pearson handles himself in the rapid fire exchanges that are sure to come against a striker like Barboza. He was successful against powerful kickboxer Dennis Siver and the high output, savvy veteran Fisher, able to adapt to what his opponent offered while implementing his game plan at the same time. If he is able to weather the early storm, I see Pearson settling in and finding his range.

Barboza will find success early in the fight, but Pearson endures and comes out with the win. I have Ross Pearson winning via TKO in the second round. That’s how I see it and that’s how it goes.

The Case for Edson Barboza (Kyte)

Is it weird that I agree with almost everything my colleague says about Pearson except how in translates to this particular fight?

This is a great match-up, and would have registered as the Under the Radar fight for this event if we didn’t decide to roll with it here in the debut of The Face-off. I like Pearson — I have since his time on The Ultimate Fighter — and think he’s a solid challenge for the talented, young Brazilian.

The 25-year-old Barboza, who now trains and fights out of Jupiter, Florida, has shown excellent Muay Thai through his first two bouts in the UFC. He chopped the legs out from under Mike Lullo in his debut at UFC 123, and engaged in a Fight of the Night winner with fellow kickboxer Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128 back in march.

While the decision in the fight with Njokuani can be debated, the promise Barboza showed cannot. He’s fast and powerful on his feet, as evident by the spinning back kick he connect on to end the bout. That bout was the first time he had gone the distance and he didn’t show any real drag in his cardio, a positive sign for sure considering I think Pearson looks to make this a grimy, inside fight where he tries to force Barboza to carry his weight against the cage as much as possible.

But to be able to execute that kind of game plan though, he has to be able to get inside, and I think that is going to be a problem. Barboza has a three-inch height and a six-inch reach advantage.

In addition to being the quicker of the two — in my estimation — his added length should allow him to keep Pearson on the outside. At the very least, it forces the Brit to press forward to close enough to connect, and I expect Barboza to make him pay every time he does. If he chooses to stay in space and look for the right opportunity to counter, Pearson will be fed a steady diet of leg kicks, and we’ve already seen that Barboza is capable of stopping someone with leg kicks.

I see this one going the distance; Pearson hasn’t been knocked out at any point in his career, and I don’t see Barboza looking for submission. It’s going to be a frustrating 15 minutes for the winner of Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, however, as the constant storm Barboza’s “Art of Eight Limbs” assault will earn him a clean sweep of the cards.