Preview: Featherweight Veterans Meet for a Top 15 Showdown at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Murphy

After the heavyweights shined in St. Louis last week, the UFC will return to the APEX this weekend for another exciting Fight Night card featuring some of the best in the lighter weight classes. There may not be any huge names or any gold on the line, but there are certainly some very interesting matchups on this card.

An octagon veteran faces off against an undefeated featherweight contender in a main event that could see the winner vaulted into the top 10 in the class. Plus, two welterweight matchups featuring four tough but currently unranked opponents could steal the show with each guy looking to make a statement.

Welterweight bout: Themba Gorimbo vs. Ramiz Brahimaj

Two welterweights are going to be looking to build some momentum in this one. Themba Gorimbo is coming off of back to back wins, which brought his record to 12-4 with six submissions. The 33-year-old will be stepping into the octagon for the fourth time, with his last loss coming in his UFC debut. Since then, he has scored a couple of big victories, including his first knockout in the octagon. Gorimbo is a fairly well-rounded fighter, he just needs to put it all together and continue to build momentum in order to make a name for himself in the UFC.

Across the octagon, Ramiz Barhimaj is looking to get back into the swing of things after being away from the sport since 2022. He sports a 10-4 record with an astounding 10 submission victories. You know you have a specialist when 100% of their wins come in the same fashion. The grappling expert is certainly going to be looking to close the distance and get a hold of his opponent to score yet another submission. It will be interesting to see how ring rust affects him and whether or not he can turn this into a grappling match.

Welterweight bout: Khaos Williams vs. Carlston Harris

Sometimes, even when a fight features no ranked fighters or any other exciting stipulations, the fans just know it’s going to be an exciting bout. Khaos Williams tends to be in those kinds of contests. With a 14-3 record and seven knockouts, Williams has found a lot of success and has been in some very exciting fights. Williams has been on the verge of stardom since his UFC debut in 2020. However, he has been unable to keep the momentum rolling en route to cracking the top 15. Coming off of a split decision victory here, he has a chance to get a win streak going and perhaps break that trend. Williams has dynamite in his hands and can end the fight in a hurry if it stays on the feet.

Like Williams, Carlston Harris has also scored stoppages in more than half of his victories. He boasts a 19-5 record with six submissions and five knockouts. Since his UFC debut in 2021, Harris’ only loss has come against Shavkat Rakhmonov, who might just be next in line for a championship opportunity. Every other opponent he’s faced in the octagon has not fared as well, with two of them being submitted by Harris’ specialty: the anaconda choke. Expect Harris to look to get this fight to the ground, which will be easier said than done.

Featherweight bout: Edson Barboza vs. Lerone Murphy

Edson Barboza: Family First | UFC

Edson Barboza: Family First | UFC

This featherweight division is very top-heavy, with each of the top 10 guys being legitimate championship contenders and the top three guys all being in the pound-for-pound best conversation. So cracking into that upper tier is very difficult, but these two guys have a chance to do just that if they can really score a statement victory here.

Edson Barboza knows a thing or two about scoring a statement victory. His spinning wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim all the way back in 2012 is still one of the most incredible knockouts in the history of the sport. Unfortunately for Barboza, he has also struggled to win consistently in the octagon, failing to put together a win streak of more than three fights since that 2012 victory. He is however, coming off of back to back wins and currently holds the 12th spot in the featherweight rankings. A victory in this main event could even push him into the top 10, which would certainly set him up for another very big fight.

That won’t be easy though as the undefeated Leron Murphy stands in his way. Murphy is a perfect 13-0-1, with seven wins by way of knockout. Since taking a split draw in his UFC debut in 2019, he has won five in a row, including two knockout victories. Murphy is an explosive striker but it will be interesting to see if he is willing to stay at range against an opponent with kicks as dangerous as Barboza’s. Look for Murphy to try and close the distance a bit to utilize his distance while avoiding those kicks.

UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Murphy will be held Saturday, May 18 at 7:00 PM ET. Fight fans can watch live on ESPN+.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."