ATLANTIC CITY -- Edson Barboza has made many fighters look silly with his one-strike knockout power.
For a moment, Kevin Lee seemed to be joining that list during their lightweight main event at UFC Fight Night 128 at Boardwalk Hall.
Instead, Lee was able to recover from a nasty spinning kick in the third round, beating Barboza via doctor stoppage TKO in the fifth round.
“I can push through adversity,” Lee said. “That wheel kick hurt. The man has some explosiveness. We’re the two best athletes in the division, I just showed I’m the best out of the two.”
After eating a few early kicks, Lee closed the distance and took the fight to the ground inside a minute. Lee mounted Barboza and landed some heavy shots from the top. Barboza got back to half guard, only to find himself mounted again shortly after as Lee rained down a series of elbows. Barboza eventually worked back to guard, but Lee made him pay for staying on the ground.
Barboza, still looking flustered from the end of the first round, had trouble keeping Lee at enough of a distance to make an impact in the striking department. Lee got the best of the exchanges on the feet, eventually taking the fight to the ground once more with a heavy slam. He continued to dominate Barboza on the ground but couldn’t land with enough force to stop the fight.
Barboza whipped some kicks into the side of Lee to open the third round, stuffing a takedown and starting to work more efficiently at any point in the fight. About a minute in, Barboza landed one of his signature spinning kicks, rocking Lee and sending him to the canvas. Barboza swarmed, but Lee had recovered and took the fight down to the ground. Barboza finally was able to get out from under Lee and continued to land a mix of creative shots as Lee stayed right in his face.
Barboza came out firing in the fourth, looking for head kicks and body kicks to keep Lee away. That didn’t work long, however, as Lee brought the fight down quickly and kept it there, landing some intense ground-and-pound for the next four minutes to secure the round and do significant damage to Barboza’s face.
The pair traded again to open the final round with Barboza seemingly getting the better of the striking exchanges. The pair continued to trade, but the damage to Barboza’s eye became too much. During a break in action, the referee called for a doctor, who took one look at the eye and called the fight.
“I said before this fight, mental strength was going to be the key,” Lee said. “I wanted to go all five rounds and show my complete game. I feel I did that. I did a little southpaw, out-boxed him and stopped him in the fifth.”