Las Vegan Kevin Lee felt he had a lot to prove after tiring and eventually losing an interim title bout against Tony Ferguson in October.
He’s certainly back on track after a drubbing of Edson Barboza on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City.
“I can do it all,” the 25-year-old said after officials halted the bout in the fifth round because of damage to Barboza’s eye.
“I feel I’m the most complete fighter in this division. Edson Barboza is 100 percent the best striker in this division, and I showed I can stand with the toughest striker in the world. I wanted to go out there and show it. I showed I can do it all.”
Lee had a brief scare in the third round when Barboza landed a spin kick that staggered him.
“I can push through adversity,” Lee said. “That wheel kick hurt.”
Lee said he hopes the performance can earn him a title shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov, though that will be difficult in a crowded division with Ferguson and Conor McGregor waiting in the wings.
Featherweight contender Frankie Edgar controlled all three rounds against Cub Swanson to cruise to a unanimous decision victory just eight weeks after suffering the first knockout of his career in an interim title bout against Brian Ortega.
“I had the title shot and risked it,” he said of accepting that fight against Ortega when champion Max Holloway was forced to pull out of their scheduled bout. “I was doing really well against Brian Ortega, but he caught me with a shot. I’d love to fight the winner of Holloway and Ortega. We’ll see what happens.”
He had hoped to make his case more clear by finishing Swanson, who entered on a four-fight winning streak.
“Cub did a great job,” Edgar said. “I wanted to put on a more dominant performance, but hats off to Cub.”
Bantamweight Aljamain Sterling bounced back from a crushing knockout loss in December to hand Brett Johns the first loss of his career.
“That last fight was a big learning lesson for me,” Sterling said after the unanimous decision victory. “This fight was to let everyone know I’m still here and I’m one of the best bantamweights in the world.”
Also on the main card, David Branch and Dan Hooker won on first-round knockouts.
Branch landed a right hand on the chin of Thiago Santos to snap his four-fight knockout streak at the 2:30 mark.
Hooker stopped Jim Miller with a knee at 3:00 of the opening round for his third consecutive win since moving back up to lightweight.
Heavyweight Justin Willis outlasted Chase Sherman for a unanimous decision.
Ricky Simon highlighted the preliminary card with a bizarre victory over bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili.
Dvalishvili appeared to survive a deep guillotine until the final bell and was ahead on the scorecards.
Simon, however, was awarded the victory as the referee ruled Dvalishvili was out at the bell.
“I got up, looked at his eyes and he was gone,” Simon said. “I sunk in a deep choke and he was out. I stood over his body and he was limp. He was flailing and then went limp.”
Dvalishvili disputed the account.
“He took me down and I couldn’t move,” the bantamweight said. “I just waited because there was only a short amount of time left. When it was finished, I was just tired and stayed down. I knew I had won. The doctors told me to stay down. I don’t know why they gave it to him. I feel I’m the winner. I didn’t lose this fight.”
Welterweight Siyar Bahadurzada had the only other finish on the preliminary card when he knocked out Luan Chagas with a body kick and a punch in the second round.
Bahadurzada has now won all three fights since missing nearly three years because of injuries.
Ryan LaFlare, Corey Anderson and Tony Martin each won decisions.