UFC Vegas 81: Edson Barboza Survives Near-Finish; Wins Decision Versus Sodiq Yusuff

Sodiq Yusuff and Edson Barboza, UFC Vegas 81
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Edson Barboza of Brazil and Sodiq Yusuff of Nigeria trade punches in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Legendary MMA striker Edson Barboza, still going strong at thirty-seven years old, beat Sodiq Yusuff in the main event of UFC Vegas 81 in a bout where Edson came back from near-unconsciousness to win a unanimous decision victory in a true veteran display of skill and absurd athletic ability.

This was Sodiq’s first main event as a UFC fighter, which he had earned with a two-fight winning streak and an overall 6-1 record in the promotion. Edson had a rockier record of late, going 1-2 in his last three but winning his last fight, which added to his highlight reel of spectacular knockouts. Sodiq came in ranked eleventh in the promotion while Edson was thirteenth.

Sodiq Yusuff came out swinging big from the opening bell. Sodiq pressed forward relentlessly and dropped Edson to a knee against the fence in the opening minute. Edson’s head movement was non-existent and every punch landed in some form on his guard and soon he was not even firing back. He appeared gassed eighty seconds in. Two minutes in he pressed Barboza up against the fence, hit his body, and took him down. Yusuff looked to rain down ground and pound, using a can opener to cause discomfort. Barboza suddenly threw up a triangle choke which forced Sodiq to adjust but never really put him in danger, nor did the ensuing leg lock attempt. He got to half guard but Edson re-guarded. Edson attacked the legs again with forty-five seconds left but Sodiq just escaped then came right back into danger to rain down short ground strikes to close the last ten seconds. The round was likely a 10-8 for Yusuff.

Sodiq started the second round hard like the first but this time he got cracked back good a few times and he did not go as hard with five minutes less in his gas tank. Yusuff still pushed the pace but was not able to force Edson back to the fence completely with pressure this time, as he was not going totally crazy to get the finish like the first. In fact, with one minute left in the second round it was Edson who was on the front foot with Sodiq’s back to the fence. Sodiq had led for a good portion of the round but Edson’s takeover at the end must have worried his coaches and he potentially lost the round.

Sodiq’s gas tank bore watching after he slowed down at the end of the second round. Edson targeted the gas tank with kicks and punches but Sodiq used clinch-ups to smother when necessary and landed some punches of his own. A cup shot paused the action eighty seconds in but only momentarily. Edson landed a big left hook a minute after action resumed and thereafter pressed forward on the front foot, with Yusuff’s back foot constantly near the cage wall. Sodiq was not out of it, not nearly, and Edson had trouble truly tracking him down until after Yusuff broke free of the pressure with ninety seconds left in the round. With forty-five seconds left Barboza landed his infamous spinning wheel kick which caught Sodiq, even as Edson himself fell down. Sodiq’s legs wobbled until Edson jumped on him and fell down. Edson tried to finish the fight with a constant barrage of punches but Yusuff had just enough wherewithal to defend himself, give up his back, struggle to his feet, and see out the round.

The fourth round began with a slower pace and Yusuff seeming to be largely recovered from his daze at the end of the second. Edson looked to pressure again and ended up in a long clinch exchange until Sodiq broke free. Both men had trouble committing to their attacks and landing big as they were each more cautious in the penultimate round, as Edson let Yusuff perhaps close the gap in the scores.

With cardio at a premium in the final round, the thirty-seven year old Edson Barboza seemed to still be going strong, an absurd feet for an athlete his age who is so reliant on explosiveness. Yusuff stayed in the fight and the damage seemed fairly even early on as the pace increased somewhat from the fourth round. Edson’s right even was a mask of blood by this point though he also began to take over, pressuring more and more effectively as the round went on. He landed an outside trip takedown but Sodiq rose to his feet in the clinch with ninety seconds left. Barboza was able to hold Yusuff against the fence for a while and consistently stab at his midsection with knees while holding onto the double underhooks. He got to a rear body-lock off of another trip attempt and held onto that against the fence until lifting Sodiq and throwing him to the ground in the final moments.

When the scorecards were read, all three judges gave the decision to Edson Barboza, as they all gave him four rounds to one. Two judges had a 10-8 in there for Sodiq in the first round. Edson’s veteran toughness and grit shone through as he fought from the brink of unconsciousness to win a decision in legendary fashion, showing some vintage Edson while also demonstrating well-rounded skills that can keep an aging veteran like him in the top-15 of a talented division at age thirty-seven.

Official Result: Edson Barboza def. Sodiq Yusuff by Unanimous Decision (49-6, 48-46, 48-46)