The UFC makes a stop at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for UFC on ESPN 2 Saturday night. The main event takes place in the lightweight division where Edson Barboza takes on Justin Gaethje. Justin Gaethje fights are must-watch events. Match him up against a fighter like Edson Barboza and you have fight of the year written all over it.
Justin Gaethje is 2-2 under the UFC banner. He won his debut by finishing Michael Johnson in the second round at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale. Gaethje took everything Johnson could throw at him and was close to getting finished himself until finally stopping “The Menace” with a knee and punches.
After the Johnson win, we saw Gaethje suffer two straight defeats. The first loss came at the hands of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218. After eighteen straight wins, it was Alvarez who gave Gaehje the first loss of his career. The finish came in the third round after a vicious knee from Alvarez landed flush in the middle of the cage.
The second of Gaethje’s back-to-back losses was against Dustin Poirier at UFC on FOX 29. Gaethje found himself in yet another war and got stopped thirty-three seconds of round four. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 135 where he destroyed James Vick a minute and a half into the fight. The former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion boasts sixteen (T)KOs to go along with one submission in his nineteen career victories.
Edson Barboza is 1-2 over his last three fights. He lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision at UFC 219 and then got stopped by Kevin Lee at UFC Fight Night 128. He got back in the win column most recently at UFC on FOX 31 where he finished Dan Hooker with a vicious body shot in the third round. Barboza has wins against Paul Felder, Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, and Beneil Dariush, so this man is no joke. The thirty-three year old Brazilian has thirteen victories via stoppage in twenty career wins.
The co-main takes place in the middleweight division where David Branch, another former World Series of Fighting alum takes on Jack Hermansson. Branch won his promotional debut by beating Krzysztof Jotko via split decision at UFC 211. Since then he is 1-2. He suffered losses to Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 116 and Jared Cannonier at UFC 230; both via stoppage. The win was sandwiched between the two losses when he finished Thiago Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 128. The thirty-seven-year-old held both the WSOF middleweight championship and the WSOF light heavyweight championship. Nine of his twenty-two career victories went the distance.
Also on the main card, Josh Emmett will look to get back in the win column after getting destroyed by Jeremy Stephens at UFC on FOX 28. It’ll be interesting to see if the one year plus layoff has any effect on him. He’ll take on the aforementioned Michael Johnson who will look to make it three straight wins.
In the women’s strawweight division Karolina Kowalkiewicz faces off against “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson. This fight is a must-win for both fighters as it serves as a title eliminator.
Rounding out the main card Paul Craig goes up against Kennedy Nzechukwu who makes his promotional debut and Sodiq Yusuff takes on former WSOF fighter Sheymon Moraes.
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Edson Barboza (20-6) vs. Justin Gaethje (19-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Barboza -125; Gaethje +105
Pick: Barboza by (T)KO. The blueprint is out there on how to beat both fighters, but the question is will either one follow it? My money says no; however, this fight can go either way due to the finishing ability of both fighters and their disdain for defense. This fight is a hard pass for me.
David Branch (22-5) vs. Jack Hermansson (18-4) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Hermansson -120; Branch +100
Pick: Branch by decision.
Josh Emmett (13-2) vs. Michael Johnson (19-13) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Emmett -110; Johnson -110
Pick: Emmett by decision. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I’m settling on Josh Emmett to get the win. That said, this fight is a pass for me.
Michelle Waterson (16-6) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Kowalkiewicz -145; Waterson +125
Pick: Kowalkiewicz by decision. This is another fight I’ll pass on. If you find yourself having to wager on this one, I think there’s value on Waterson plus the odds.
Paul Craig (10-3) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (6-0) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Nzechukwu -175; Craig +155
Pick: Nzechukwu by (T)KO
Sodiq Yusuff (8-1) vs. Sheymon Moraes (11-2) – Featherweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Yusuff -130; Moraes +110
Pick: Yusuff by decision.
Marina Rodriguez (10-0-1) vs. Jessica Aguilar (20-7) – Flyweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Rodriguez -330; Aguilar +300
Pick: Rodriguez by decision.
Ross Pearson (20-15) vs. Desmond Green (21-8) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Green -420; Pearson +375
Pick: Green by decision.
Enrique Barzola (15-3-1) vs. Kevin Aguilar (16-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Barzola -115; Aguilar +105
Pick: Aguilar by decision.
Kevin Holland (13-4) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (28-10) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Holland -180; Meerschaert +160
Pick: Holland by (T)KO.
Ray Borg (11-3) vs. Casey Kenney (11-1-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Borg -300; Kenney +250
Pick: Borg by decision.
Sabina Mazo (6-0) vs. Maryna Moroz (8-3) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Mazo -140; Moroz +120
Pick: Mazo by decision.
Alex Perez (21-5) vs. Mark De La Rosa (11-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Perez -330; De La Rosa +300
Pick: Perez by (T)KO.
Enjoy the fights!