A pair of high profile bouts from the UFC lightweight and heavyweight divisions are added to forthcoming fight cards, and I will give my initial thoughts on these brand new matchups in today's MMA odds and ends.
Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza, UFC Fight Night 148
An intriguing lightweight connection between strikers Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza has been targeted for UFC Fight Night 148, which takes place March 23 at Bridgestone Arena at Nashville, Tennessee. Farah Hannoun broke the news, although ESPN's Brett Okamoto reported the fight may take place at UFC Fight Night 149 another week at Philadelphia. In any event, it looks like this struggle is going to happen, which is good news for MMA fans because it pits two of the very dangerous and exciting strikers in the lightweight division against each other.
Gaethje (19-2) is 2-2 so far in the UFC but is now a household name to MMA fans as a result of his ability to put in an remarkable show. He has already racked up five bonus awards, including three"Fight of the Night" awards and two"Performance of the Night" awards, such as a bonus for his KO over James Vick past August. He has been prone to being knocked out at the UFC as he lost to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez, but as he demonstrated against Vick and Michael Johnsonhe has unbelievable knockout power himself. Barboza (20-6) is 14-6 overall at the UFC and in his last fight he put on the 2018"Beatdown of the Year" because of his brutal TKO win over Dan Hooker. Barboza is known for his mortal leg kicks and amazing knockout energy, but such as Gaethje he has been prone to this knockout too.
This looks to be an amazing battle on paper, and the fact it is set for five rounds is just tremendous. Both guys are terrific fighters and I am expecting a close gaming lineup. Now, it seems like close to a Pick Celtics struggle, but thinking about how great Barboza looked in his last fight he may get more support from bettors due to recency bias.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis, UFC Fight Night 148
A heavyweight matchup involving Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis is also set for UFC Fight Night 148. FloCombat's Nolan King broke the news. Blaydes (10-2, 1 NC) is 5-2, 1 NC in the UFC and in his last fight suffered a brutal knockout loss to Francis Ngannou. He had won four consecutive fights before that, however, including a TKO over Alistair Overeem, and could easily get back into the heavyweight title talks with another couple of wins. Willis (8-1) is 4-0 in the UFC and in his final fight picked up the biggest win of his career thus far over Mark Hunt. The problem with Willis has been that he has not shown off considerably finishing ability from the UFC, and his wrestling is likely to be negated in this matchup against Blaydes. It is heavyweight so that you can not ever count anyone out, but on paper that seems like Blaydes' fight to win and I expect him to be a solid favorite as soon as the chances come out.
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