UFC 146 Results: 5 Questions We Still Have About Edson Barboza
UFC 146 delivered a myriad of explosive finishes and surprises, but in this writer's eyes, the most stunning fight on the card was the lightweight matchup between Edson Barboza and Jamie Varner.
Many analysts, myself included, counted Varner out of this matchup and assumed the ex-WEC star was nothing more than a stepping stone for the seemingly invincible Brazilian.
With some crushing boxing that dropped Barboza and follow up hammerfists, Varner ended Barboza's night early and stopped the prospect's hype train in its tracks.
So where does Barboza stand in the division after this loss?
Here are five questions we still need answered about Barboza before we start considering him the future of the division as we did before this devastating first round loss.
How Is His Chin?
Before his matchup with Jamie Varner, Edson Barboza hadn't found himself in serious danger in his MMA career.
That streak ended due to some devastating boxing and a ferocious killer instinct displayed by Varner in their UFC 146 bout.
To his credit, Barboza ate some heavy shots before eventually succumbing to unconsciousness, but his ability to take a shot will still be under fire after the TKO loss.
Varner hits hard and few lightweights can take the power he was dishing out, but Barboza was hurt early and often in their matchup.
With heavy hitters like Pettis, Cerrone and Maynard atop the lightweight division, Barboza has to show his chin can hang with the best of them before he is a contender.
Can He Defend the Takedown?
Edson Barboza is an athletic lightweight with knockout power and a strong technical striking base, but his wrestling defense must improve for him to be able to utilize these weapons.
Jamie Varner was able to emphatically take Barboza down on two occasions, and this prevented Barboza from getting into a groove and led to his ultimate demise.
The UFC's lightweight division is stacked with powerful wrestlers, and Barboza needs to show he can dictate where the fight takes place before he is ready for championship contention.
Can He Remain Calm Under Pressure?
A key trait of a champion is the ability to stay calm and composed under fire.
Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar exemplifies this, and his championship reign was built and supported by his ability to take a punch, roll with it, survive and live to fight another round.
This heart and determination is something Barboza has to show us in the future if he wants to be considered among the division's best.
Against Varner, Barboza didn't properly cover up and recover when he was under fire, and this inability to survive allowed Varner to tee off at will.
Varner put him in positions he hadn't previously been in, so hopefully the loss will serve as a learning experience for the young Brazilian.
He has to show improved composure under fire in his next fight, and it will be interesting to see how he responds the next time he is caught with a good shot on the button.
What Is His Ground Game Like?
To be the champion, you have to be well-versed in all areas of the fight game, and at this point in his career, Barboza has really only shown us an impressive stand-up game.
A quick Google search of "Edson Barboza" yields only pictures of him flexing, throwing strikes or celebrating, and that is telling to how often we've seen him on the ground in his fights.
Before he is truly ready to be a contender for the long haul, he has to show he can fight off his back.
Varner was able to briefly control him on the mat, and Barboza looked only to stand back up rather than looking for submissions or reversals.
As Anderson Silva has shown, a deadly striker with an attacking bottom game can go a long way in the sport of MMA, and Barboza would do himself a favor to develop an offensive attack off his back in the future.
How Will He Rebound from His First Professional Loss?
Can Edson Barboza get back to his confident, smiling ways?
Too many times in the UFC, we've seen the "next best thing" suffer his first defeat and then spiral into mediocrity or irrelevancy.
How a fighter deals with a loss is even more important than how a fighter deals with victory, so Barboza must rebound impressively from his recent shortcoming against Jamie Varner.
If he can grow through this loss, he may still prove to be the force we thought him to be, but if his confidence is shattered beyond repair, we will instead be witnessing the unfortunate slide of another promising young fighter.
Which will it be, Edson?