UFC on ESPN 2: Barboza vs Gaethje – Tips & Preview

The UFC heads to Philadelphia this weekend for the second installment of the new UFC on ESPN series. We’ve got a cracking main event to headline this card, as strong lightweight contenders Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje do battle. David Branch and Jack Hermansson is a Co-Main of immense quality, whilst Karolina Kowalkiewicz will round out this card nicely. Let’s take a look at each of the top 3 fights on this card, providing our best bet in the process.

Edson Barboza vs Justin Gaethje, Lightweight, Main Event
Gaethje to Win $2.35

Edson Barboza

The Brazilian veteran has been a strong lightweight contender for the better part of a decade, winning 20 of his 26 professional MMA fights. He has some very impressive recent wins over Dan Hooker, Gilbert Melendez, Beneil Dariush, and Anthony Pettis. Renowned for his elite kicking ability, 12 of his 20 MMA wins have come via knockout. He enters this one as a relatively solid favourite, however Gaethje definitely won’t be a pushover.

Justin Gaethje

Gaethje has had a very solid MMA career to date, winning 19 of his first 21 professional fights. He admittedly hasn’t been as successful as part of the UFC, winning just 2 of his 4 fights. The victim of brutal knockouts to both Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, he redeemed himself with a clinical win over James Vick last time out. Definitely a knockout specialist, 16 of his 19 wins have come by KO/TKO.

Prediction: Gaethje to Win $2.35

The underdogs have been having great success in main events over the past few weeks and I can see that trend continuing here. Barboza doesn’t necessarily have the strongest chin and could fall victim to a powerful Gaethje punch. I expect Gaethje to build on his momentum with a win here, likely by KO.

David Branch vs Jack Hermansson, Middleweight, Co-Main Event
Hermansson to win $1.80

David Branch

Branch has had a very successful MMA career to date, winning 22 of his first 27 professional fights. Most of this damage was admittedly done in the WSOF, as he is just 2-2 in the UFC. Having lost to both Rockhold and Canonier in two of his last 3, he’ll be looking to get back to the form that saw him KO Thiago Santos last year.

Jack Hermansson

The Swedish veteran enters this fight with an accomplished 18-4 record, going 5-2 since joining the UFC. He won both of his fights in 2018, finishing both of Thales Leites and Gerald Meerschaert. Hermansson definitely has a penchant for the finish, with 15 of his 18 wins coming by KO or submission.

Prediction: Hermansson to win $1.80

Whilst this is a relatively close fight, I expect Hermansson to just edge it here. He has more UFC experience and a more versatile game than his opponent. In what likely ends up as a decision, I’m comfortable taking the slight favourite here.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs Michelle Waterson, Women’s Strawweight
Kowalkiewicz to win $1.65

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Whilst she was nearly at the top of the division in 2016, things have gone downhill for Karolina of late. She lost her title shot against compatriot Joanna, having been finished by Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade since. Having managed decision victories in 2 of her last 3 fights, she is however going in the right direction.

Michelle Waterson

Definitely an accomplished opponent, Waterson has managed wins in 16 of her 22 professional MMA fights. She was especially impressive last year, winning both of her fights against Courtney Casey and Felice Herrig. With 9 submissions under her belt, Karolina definitely needs to watch out for the ground game.

Prediction: Kowalkiewicz to win $1.65

This is a solid matchup on paper but I expect Karolina’s striking ability to prove too much here. She has a noticeable speed and athleticism advantage here and should be able to avoid Waterson’s takedowns. Getting $1.65, I think Karolina is definitely solid value here.