Because the UFC 123 main card fights on Nov. 20 didn’t take up too much of the allotted pay-per-view time, viewers at home were able to witness the Octagon debut of Edson Barboza (7-0), who delivered some of the nastiest leg kicks from a fighter not named Jose Aldo.
The unlucky recipient, Mike Lullo (8-2), couldn’t even stand on his lead leg by the end of the fight, and Barboza — who trains out of The Armory in Jupiter, Fla. — earned an impressive TKO with 26 seconds left in the third round.
“It feels great,” Barboza said of his first UFC win. “The first fight was a fantastic experience. I realize after watching the fight so many time now that I was fighting conservatively, but still won the fight by stoppage. Also appearing on the PPV broadcast was very cool. It was fun to listen to Joe Rogan and the commentary on the fight.”
Barboza had originally been scheduled to face Darren Elkins, but an injury forced Elkins off the card and Lullo stepped in on a couple of weeks notice. Despite the change in opponents, Edson stayed focused on his own preparation.
“The last second opponent change did not effect my preparation at all,” he told ProMMAnow.com. “My philosophy and my team’s philosophy has always been to prepare myself to fight where I want the fight to occur. The change of the opponent certainly was a surprise, but was not something that really bothered me. My approach to the fight remained the same.”
A highly-touted prospect with a strong Muay Thai background, Barboza attacked Lullo’s front leg almost from the start and controlled the striking action rather effortlessly. It was almost painful to watch but impressive to see Lullo push through despite the pain.
“Yes, Lullo took quite a few of those leg kicks,” he said. “I knew from so many years of fighting that there would eventually become a time during the fight where his heart wanted to continue, but his body would not be able to. Mike Lullo was a very, very tough guy, and I [knew] since it was also the UFC and his first fight as well, he would give it all he could.”
Edson added, “I am glad the referee stopped the fight when he did. Lullo could not really move any longer. I certainly was not going to stop with the striking until [he] was out or could not have continued. Mike showed a tremendous amount of heart.”
To Lullo’s credit, when he did get the fight to the ground, he showed great flexibility and control with his full guard and rubber guard. However, even though most of Lullo’s wins have come by submission, Barboza felt comfortable avoiding the submission attack.
“[He] tried to put a gogoplata on me and we had just spent a few minutes on that in the dressing room before the fight,” Barboza said. “Also, my two MMA coaches, Raf Chaves and Eduardo Guedes, were there cornering me so I did not make any foolish errors. I knew that he could not submit me and I just knew I had to be patient until I could get a little room to escape.”
At the time of this interview, Barboza could not reveal who his next opponent might be, but did say that “there will be an official announcement very soon and the fans will really like this match-up.” That could be an understatement, with Barboza rumored to go up against another very athletic, powerful striker, Anthony Njokuani (13-4), at UFC 128.