Ross Pearson’s game plan going into his UFC Rio fight with Edson Barboza seemed to be a perfect one: stay inside of Barboza’s reach and prevent him from using the same kind of leg kicks that earned him two consecutive leg kick TKO wins.
It nearly worked. Pearson was able to stay away from Barboza’s lethal strikes, outside of a moment early in the fight when Barboza caught Pearson’s body kick attempt and then dropped him with a right hand. The Brit displayed great head movement and range control.
But it wasn’t enough. Barboza landed enough of his trademark lightning-quick strikes to edge Pearson in a split decision. Pearson’s continued inability to take Barboza to the mat may have played heavily into the judge’s scorecards.
But make no mistake about it: this was a close fight where both fighters looked good.