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Fortunes changed for five at UFC Atlantic City

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Fortunes Change for Five

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Barboza vs Lee
Kevin Lee wrestled his way to a win at UFC Atlantic City.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Five weeks ago in London, Leon Edwards and Paul Craig both finished opponents Peter Sobotta and Magomed Ankalaev at 4:59 of the third round.

There had never been a stoppage that late in a three-round UFC fight dating back to the implementation of five-minute UFC rounds, which was way back at UFC 21 on July 16, 1999.

Suddenly in one night, there were two. The odds of something like that happening seemed almost infinite.

Edwards and Craig set a record that perhaps could be tied at some point in the future, but surely could never be beaten.

Yet, on Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J., both were wiped out of the record books by something that most fans likely thought could never happen: A stoppage of a fight that had already ended.

The last 50 or so seconds of the Ricky Simon vs. Merab Dvalishvili fight seemed like, and were, a race against the clock. Dvalishvili had appeared to have won the first two rounds, so seemingly, as long as he didn’t have a dominant round against him, or get finished, he was going home with the win. Simon then caught him in a guillotine and Dvalishvili did everything he could to let referee Liam Kerrigan know he was okay. He kept alerting him with his hands, and then decided to start moving his legs like he was pedaling a bicycle.

The clock ticked slowly, as Simon squeezed and Dvalishvili pedaled, and then time ran out. The judges and all the fans assumed it was going to the cards, and while it was close, Dvalishvili did figure to win. Two of the three judges gave him the win on 29-28 scores, but it didn’t matter.

Kerrigan ruled that when time ran out, Dvalishvili was out, and that the scorecards weren’t germane, as Simon won the fight via stoppage — even if the ruling and the stoppage came after time had run out.

And such a ruling was valid, so Simon’s finish at 5:00 of round three in a three-round fight actually broke a thought-to-be-unbreakable record.

I wonder what kind of odds there are against something like this happening a second time in the next 19 years?

Let’s look at how Fortunes Changed for Five stars on Saturday’s show.

KEVIN LEE While there was a rough moment or two in round three, Lee (17-3) got the jump on Edson Barboza (19-6) in the first two rounds, brutalized him badly, and Barboza was never able to fully recover from the beating.

The performance, similar in some ways to the beating Khabib Nurmagomedov put on Barboza, was impressive enough to get a lightweight title shot.

However, with such divisional depth, there are a number of fighters also in the mix. The shot is Conor McGregor’s if he chooses to take it. If not, it could go to Eddie Alvarez (29-5), Tony Ferguson (23-3), Dustin Poirier (23-5), or Lee.

More likely, Lee will not get the next call, nor will Poirier. Lee vs. Poirier is a fight that not only looks great on paper, but could be promoted as the winner getting a title shot in what right now may be UFC’s money-weight division.

EDSON BARBOZA Depending on how the higher-ranked contenders end up being booked, Barboza could get Poirier, Alvarez or Justin Gaethje (18-2). If those names don’t fit, James Vick (13-1) is also deserving of a fight against someone who can either show Vick as a true contender, or a expose him as guy with an impressive record but isn’t at that level.

FRANKIE EDGAR Edgar (22-6-1) was set to face Max Holloway twice, but both fights fell apart due to injury, first by Edgar, then by Holloway.

After Brian Ortega finished Edgar in a top contenders matchup at UFC 223, Edgar was eliminated from immediate talk about facing Holloway. Now, Edgar is likely one win away from a title shot, and the most logical opponent looks to be Darren Elkins (24-5), who has a six-fight winning streak. The winner of that fight would have a strong claim to a title fight.

CUB SWANSON Swanson (25-9) didn’t have the speed to beat Edgar. At this point, his best role would be a test to see how Alexander Volkanovski (17-1) can fare against higher-level competition.

DAVID BRANCH With 12 wins in his last 13 fights, and the only loss coming at the hands of former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, Branch (22-4) should next face Chris Weidman (14-3). Another interesting name for Branch would be Antonio Carlos Jr. (10-2), who is working on his own five-match winning streak.