UFC Vegas 81 roundup: Edson Barboza wins via epic comeback in slugfest vs. Sodiq Yusuff

Edson Barboza reacts after the conclusion of a featherweight fight against Sodiq Yusuff during UFC Vegas 81 on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Edson Barboza reacts after the conclusion of a featherweight fight against Sodiq Yusuff during UFC Vegas 81 on October 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Sodiq Yusuff stormed out of his corner in the first round Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas and was instantly all over Edson Barboza. He hit Barboza was a massive right hand in the opening 20 seconds or so, then followed it up shortly thereafter with a crushing left hand.

On a UFC Vegas 81 card that had more than its share of early knockouts, this seemed like another one of them.

Barboza, though, is a veteran and wasn't about to quit. And after nearly being finished, and completely battered in the first, he won the final four rounds and scored a unanimous decision over Yusuff in a wildly entertaining slugfest.

The judges had it 48-46 twice and 49-46 for Barboza. Yahoo Sports scored the first 10-8 for Yusuff and the third 10-8 for Barboza and had it 48-45 for Barboza.

It was a remarkable showing by a veteran known for his brutally damaging leg kicks. Though he caught Yusuff with a wheel kick to the head in the third, most of the damage he did came with his fists.

Barboza admitted he didn't know where he was in the first, but incredibly managed to turn it around and sweep the rest of the fight.

"I was very dizzy," said Barboza, whose right eye was nearly closed and who had welts all across his face. "I didn't know if I was in the gym, at my house playing with the kids or what. I didn't know what the f*** was going on."

He recovered quickly and was in charge the rest of the way. According to UFCStats.com, Yusuff had a 178-164 edge in significant strikes, but it was the 89 body shots that Barboza landed that probably turned the tide of the fight. He invested in the body and Yusuff eventually slowed down enough so that Barboza could catch up and get back into things.

Yusuff said he thought he let his coaches down, but later conceded he got a bit over-anxious in the first as Barboza was reeling around the Octagon and on the verge of going out.

"I could have picked my shots better in the first," Yusuff said. "I got a bit overzealous. I'm still young in this game."

Martinez chops down Yanez

Jonathan Martinez scored only the 15th knockout by leg kick in UFC history when he battered Adrian Yanez's left leg and stopped him at 2:26 of the second round. It was Martinez's second victory by leg kick TKO. The other came nearly a year to the day in the same Octagon, when he finished Cub Swanson with kicks at Apex on Oct. 15, 2022.

Martinez went to the kicks early, and they were frighteningly effective. It sounded like batting practice at Home Run Derby every time Martinez connected on Yanez's lead leg.

"He's a really good boxer so I knew I had to take his hands and his legs [away]," Martinez said of Yanez. "I knew his hands wouldn't be that dangerous after that."

Yanez could never find the right distance, couldn't check the kicks and never really got the opportunity to use his hands. Martinez battered them and Yanez was fortunate to survive the first.

His corner advised him between rounds to either be all the way in or all the way out, and to perhaps switch southpaw. He did neither of those and had little chance as a result to fend off Martinez.

Coincidentally, Barboza is the only other fighter in UFC history to have won two fights by leg kick KO.

Middleweight suits Pereira

After missing weight on July 29 against Stephen Thompson by three pounds, Michel Pereira made the decision to jump from welterweight to middleweight. He said he was cutting close to 50 pounds — 46, to be exact — to make it to 171 pounds, the non-title welterweight limit.

On Saturday, he showed the wisdom of that choice when he took out Andre Petroski in 1:06 of the first round.

Fighting for the first time in 17 months, Pereira looks razor sharp. He drilled Petroski with a straight right that landed on the chin a minute into the round and quickly finished it with ground-and-pound. Afterward, wrapped in the Israeli flag, the Brazilian was overjoyed.

"I'm here to stay at middleweight," Pereira said. " ... This new [weight] category is so much better for me."

'The Damage' does it again

Darren Elkins doesn't look like he's a terribly dangerous guy, but in his case at least, looks are deceiving. Elkins in known for taking plenty of damage and having the resiliency to come back, and that's what he did on Saturday in submitting T.J. Brown.

Brown grabbed Elkins in a guillotine in the third, but Elkins went to the mat, slipped out, reversed position and took Brown's back. He looked in the rear naked choke and got the tap in his 29th fight in the UFC.

The time was 2:23 of the third.

"You know, they've been saying I'm done, but look at this old dog," Elkins said. "He's still got some bite in him. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."

Elkins will turn 40 in May and turned pro in 2007, but said he has no plans to retire soon.

McKinney the first-round KO King

Terrance McKinney made short work of Brendon Marotte on Saturday, hurting him with a knee in the first exchange of the fight and finishing him with ground-and-pound at 20 seconds of the first round.

It was McKinney's 11th consecutive win by knockout. Those wins haven't come consecutively, and after starting his career 4-0, he's dropped six so his overall record after finishing Marotte is 15-6.

In the UFC, his wins are as follows:

• In 20 seconds over Marotte

• A TKO in 1:25 over Mike Breeden

• By rear-naked choke submission in 2:17 over Erick Gonzalez.

• In 2:11 by rear naked choke over Fares Ziam.

• A KO in his UFC debut in just seven seconds over Matt Frevola.

He's scored so many quick KOs that the win over Marotte was only the fifth-fastest KO of his career. He's had two that have been in seven seconds, one in 16 seconds and another in 17 seconds.

"I'm not just throwing heat," McKinney said. "I'm shooting and aiming and firing now. I'm aiming and firing now. I'm seeing everything now because I'm striking daily with some of the best people in the world."

Melissa Dixon laid down a warning to Dana White

In her UFC debut, Melissa Dixon pulled out a gritty victory over Irina Alekseeva, overcoming a hard early knockdown to win a unanimous decision by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. She made most of her news when she called out her boss, UFC CEO Dana White.

In her brief Octagon interview with Michael Bisping, Dixon made clear she felt she deserved a post-fight bonus. And she pointed out that if she didn't get one, she wasn't going to take it lying down.

"Tonight wasn't my best performance and I do apologize," Dixon said. "I'm bloody and not many girls take it and keep standing up after it. So if that's not deserving of either a Performance of the Night or a winning bonus, I don't know what is. So Dana White, I shook your hand last Saturday. Today, if I don't take your hand-shaking it with pounds of my winning bonus, me and you are going to have words, mister."