UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Gaethje Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Philadelphia.
Updated: March 27, 2019 • 7:55 PM ET
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia will host this weekend's UFC Fight Night event.
A UFC event will take place in Philadelphia for the first time since 2011 this Saturday, while it will also be just the second card ever to air live on ESPN. A lightweight bout that should be filled with action will headline UFC Fight Night, as No. 6 ranked lightweight Edson Barboza will take on No. 7 Justin Gaethje in a clash featuring two of the most exciting fighters in the division. Both fighters are coming off a win and looking to get into the title picture.
Barboza rebounded from two straight losses with a third-round knockout of Dan Hooker in December, and he’s considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the lightweight division. Aside Hooker, the 33-year-old Brazilian has scored some of the most memorable knockouts in recent memory, including his spinning wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim at UFC 142 in 2012 that is still considered as one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history.
Barboza also has key victories over Beneil Dariush, Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and Paul Felder. A victory over a dangerous opponent such as Gaethje would be exactly what he needs to remain in the title picture in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions.
Barboza believes he’ll have an advantage on his feet this Saturday.
“Definitely (my striking is better),” Barboza recently said via MMA Junkie. “I have knockout with a punch, with a body kick, low kick, head kick, spinning back kick, knees – on paper I’m definitely the most dangerous striker in the UFC.”
Gaethje will fight in his fourth main event in five fights since joining the UFC in 2017, going 2-2 in the organization thus far. He entered the UFC as an undefeated champion from the World Series of Fighting; and after experiencing his first two losses following the step up, Gaethje rebounded with a first-round knockout of James Vick in August. He was already a fan favorite because of his go-for-broke style; and despite his inconsistency, his popularity has translated over to UFC fans.
Since joining the UFC, Gaethje has finished two fights and has been finished in two bouts, but both losses were back-and-forth wars with former champion Eddie Alvarez and title challenger Dustin Poirier. The 30-year-old Gaethje knows that it will take a lot for Barboza to get a win on Saturday.
“You’ve just got to prepare your mind, body soul for what you have to go in there and go through,” Gaethje recently said via MMA Weekly. “Both the guys that beat me went through absolute hell.”
Gaethje added, “Obviously, he’s been mentally preparing for the task at hand. He’s no slouch, he’s one of the best in the world and he comes from one of the best camps in the world. I’m sure they’re doing their homework, but there’s really no stopping someone going forward other than putting their lights out.
“I’ve said it so many times, if we fight 100 times, he knocks me out 20 and the other 80 I take his soul. So I’m going out there to play that game.”
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Saturday’s co-main event will be a middleweight fight between No. 11 David Branch and Jack Hermansson.
Like Gaethje, Branch is a former champion in World Series of Fighting, but in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Since returning to the UFC in 2017 after an eight-month stint back in July 2010 through March 2011, Branch has experienced mixed results.
Branch is 2-2 in the company since his return and coming off a second-round TKO loss to Jared Cannonier in November. The loss followed an impressive first-round knockout victory over Thiago Santos last April, so Branch will have a golden opportunity to get back on track in Philadelphia.
The 37-year-old Branch (22-5 overall) is in need of a win to be considered a threat to anyone in the top 10 of an extremely competitive middleweight division. He can win fights in different ways, so a win would put him right back in the conversation of challengers at middleweight.
The Swedish-born Hermansson is 5-2 in the UFC and riding two straight victories, most recently defeated Gerald Meerschaert by first-round submission in December. While he has a notable win over Thales Leites, Branch would represent the biggest win of Hermansson’s career and announce the 30-year-old’s presence in the division.
The rest of the main card
Featherweight bout - No. 10 Josh Emmett vs. Michael Johnson
Women's strawweight bout - No. 6 Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. No. 9 Michelle Waterson
Light heavyweight bout - Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Paul Craig
Featherweight bout - Sodiq Yusuff vs. Sheymon Moraes
Women’s strawweight bout - Marina Rodriguez vs. Jessica Aguilar
Lightweight bout - Ross Pearson vs. Desmond Green
Featherweight bout - Enrique Barzola vs. Kevin Aguilar
Middleweight bout - Kevin Holland vs. Gerald Meerschaert
ESPN+ early prelims
Bantamweight bout - No. 3 Ray Borg vs. No. 15 Casey Kenney
Women's flyweight bout - Sabina Mazo vs. Maryna Moroz
Bantamweight bout - No. 7 Alex Perez vs. Mark De La Rosa