Barboza, 10-4 in the UFC with five finishes, scored one of the best knockouts in UFC history in 2012, putting Terry Etim to sleep with a spinning wheel kick. Pettis also scored some impressive stoppages during his 5-3 run in the UFC, and that’s why fans asked for this bout.
"This is the fight that fans always asked for on social media," Barboza told MMA Fighting. "He’s at the top for a long time, one of the best, a former champion, so people wanted this fight for a long time, and now we will make it happen."
A win in Las Vegas means a lot for both fighters. Barboza bounced between wins and losses in his last UFC fights, most recently losing to Tony Ferguson via submission, while Pettis enters the bout in a two-fight losing skid following decisions to Rafael dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez.
"I see myself dominating the fight. I can’t see it differently. I see myself controlling and dominating the fight," he said. "I’m a striker too, and that’s where I feel more comfortable. Honestly, I feel comfortable standing against anyone, and it won’t be different against him.
"He’s dangerous, kicks a lot and is very creative, but I’m ready for a MMA fight. If I feel that grappling is better option for me during the fight, I’ll do it. I’m prepared for a MMA fight, but I’m sure I’ll do my best when I get there, and I will win this fight."
Speaking with MMA Fighting last August, right after a win over Paul Felder, Barboza predicted he would win the UFC lightweight title in 2016. It’s unlikely that he gets a chance to fight for the belt this year, especially with his Alvarez getting the next crack at Rafael dos Anjos and Khabib Nurmagomedov campaigning for a shot later this year.
Yet, a big win over Pettis puts him in great position.
"No doubt about it. Things happen the right time," Barboza said. "The division is stacked, and God willing, winning this fight, I’ll be closer to getting my shot for the belt."