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Edson Barboza: A bridge between hardcores and casuals

Deep within the structural layers of the MMA community lies a continuous ambivalence between hardcore and casual fans. Both varieties of enthusiasts require the top MMA organizations to deliver the product in entirely contrasting styles. The hardcore fan ordinarily wants structure, proper rankings, significant undercards, gradual builds of forthcoming talent, and justified title fights. Casuals customarily desire matchups with fighters in separate weight classes, appearances of retired legends, top billing for fighters with star power, and competitors who would rather get knocked out cold trying to finish an opponent in seconds over tactfully picking apart their adversary over the span of 3 to 5 rounds. Like all areas in life, there is a regulatory grey area where common understandings are shared between all communities. MMA is no different. Both the hardcore and casual population can be connected together by Edson Barboza.

A post shared by Edson Barboza Jr (@edsonbarbozajr) on Mar 29, 2019 at 7:50am PDT

Each sport needs casual fans in order to reach mainstream success. Most of the time, a transcending athlete carves their own trail in a sport by presenting a special skill set that is utterly undeniable, must-see television. Athletes in major sports such as Ronaldinho, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali were superstars who transformed their sport and united the common fans of their game with casuals that secured them as part of pop culture. While all are once in a lifetime athletes, the casual eye also gravitates towards specialists who shine in a distinct area. Devin Hester’s ability to return kicks easily and score touchdowns in the NFL turned so many heads that his uniform is now housed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his electric run back off a punt for 81 yards. Blake Griffin produced waves in the beginning chunk of his NBA career by humiliating 7ft tall defenders and dunking on them so brutally, that the term “dunkface” was coined to represent the highlight reels and make it easier to find on Youtube and Instagram. Now that the UFC is on ESPN, the world will soon undergo the highlight reel of Edson Barboza.

Both hardcore and casual MMA fans acknowledge the artistry of the KO/TKO finish recognizing it as the artistic array of flawlessly measuring technique that it is. An amateur viewer with inexperienced eyes may simply see blood and directly translate it to the last World Star Hip Hop video that showed up on their Instagram feed. With Edson Barboza, the knockouts come with power and in a variety of ways. The never-ending arsenal of lethal blows in Barboza’s toolkit consists of flying knees, wheel kicks, liver shots, and immobilizing opponents by shattering the bones in their shin with his own, similar to Paul George’s gruesome leg injury suffered at the Team USA basketball showcase in 2014. As a walking human highlight reel, it is effortless for Barboza to excite every fan in unison in victory and defeat.

A post shared by Edson Barboza Jr (@edsonbarbozajr) on Feb 18, 2019 at 12:33pm PST

The foundation of his game begins with murderous kicks. So much so, that most MMA fans agree that he is the greatest and most powerful kicker in the sport. Barboza is also the owner of 6 fight of the night bonuses, 1 performance of the night bonus, and 1 knockout of the night where his wheel kick KO of Terry Etim is regarded as the single best KO in UFC history. Pundits of the sport such as Joe Rogan consider Edson to be the owner of the fastest switch kick they’ve ever seen. Additionally, he is the only UFC fighter to earn multiple TKO victories in the octagon via leg kicks. Although Edson has never fought for a UFC title, he will still go down in history as one of the most compelling fighters who has perpetually accelerated towards an opponent and refused to back away.

A post shared by Edson Barboza Jr (@edsonbarbozajr) on Jul 10, 2017 at 9:55am PDT

At UFC Philadelphia, Barboza will take on Justin Gaethje who almost mirrors his style of onward pace. Barboza has fired 257 leg kicks during the term of his UFC career with an insane 78% landing rate. Gaethje, who has only had four UFC fights so far, has already landed over 120 leg kicks. Odds have Barboza as a slight -140 favorite with Gaethje at +110. Razor sharp odds make the fight remarkably challenging to prophesize an outcome, but a clairvoyant won’t be required to prognosticate the characteristics of the fight. Both men absorb as much pain in fights as they dish out to opponents and have stated in recent interviews that they will not be afraid to stand in front of each other and exchange deadly leg kicks.. It’s their will and toughness that decide whether they win or lose. Expect that to also be the reason why one of them will be victorious while the other is eliminated from title contention quicker than the Syracuse Orange in the 2019 NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament.

Win or lose, Barboza will be a reference point on the history of MMA’s timeline. Any time the UFC decides to publish video content that lists the best knockouts in the history of their organization, expect to see his name. Hardcore fans appreciate his talent to administer brutal kicks with precise technique while casuals get to see him punt someones kooka off into orbit, only to reappear on a SportsCenter top 10 highlights broadcast. While the risk of a loss is higher for Edson due to his fight style, every hardcore and casual fan wins when Barboza performs, no matter his outcome.

A post shared by Edson Barboza Jr (@edsonbarbozajr) on Jan 21, 2017 at 8:35am PST

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