UFC on ESPN 2: Barboza vs. Gaethje Odds, Tickets, Predictions, Pre-Weigh-In Hype

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2019

LINCOLN, NE - AUGUST 25:  Justin Gaethje prepares to fight James Vick in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pinnacle Bank Arena on August 25, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

A Justin Gaethje fight is guaranteed violence, and that alone is enough reason to tune in to UFC on ESPN 2. 

Never mind that his opponent is dynamic striker Edson Barboza and the 7 p.m. start time on the East Coast means you won't be nodding off as the two main draws of the card make their way to the cage. Gaethje alone is appointment television. 

If that's not enough reason to tune in, there's intrigue elsewhere on the card.

Michelle Waterson and Karolina Kowalkiewicz will square off in an important women's strawweight bout.

The Karate Hottie has had extra attention with a recent E:60 special on ESPN, but we will see if she can deliver against former title challenger Kowalkiewicz.

Here's a look at the complete card along with the latest odds courtesy of BestFightOdds.com.


Main Card (ESPN, 7 PM ET)

  • Justin Gaethje (+115, bet $100 to win $115) vs. Edson Barboza (-135, bet $135 to win $100)
  • David Branch (+105) vs. Jack Hermansson (-125)
  • Josh Emmett (-110) vs. Michael Johnson (-110)
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-155) vs. Michelle Waterson (+135)
  • Paul Craig (+160) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (-185)
  • Sheymon Moraes (+125) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (-145)

Preliminary Card (ESPN, 5 PM ET)

  • Jessica Aguilar (+280) vs. Marina Rodriguez (-340)
  • Ross Pearson (+355) vs. Desmond Green (-445)
  • Enrique Barzola (-115) vs. Kevin Aguilar (-105)
  • Kevin Holland (-200) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+170)

Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 3:30 PM ET)

  • Ray Borg (-320)  vs. Casey Kenney (+260)
  • Sabina Mazo (-155) vs. Maryna Moroz (+135)
  • Alex Perez (-330) vs. Mark De La Rosa (+270)

Tickets: StubHub


Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza Look to Live Up to the Hype

Gaethje is a man programmed to go forward and apply pressure until there is nothing left in front of him, while Barboza is one of the most dynamic kickboxers in the sport. There will be blood. 

At least that's the expectation when these two knockout artists enter the cage on Saturday.

Gaethje has been involved in the Fight of the Night or the Performance of the Night bonus in all four of his UFC appearances. His Brazilian opponent has been involved in six Fight of the Night awards, one Knockout of the Night and one Performance of the Night. 

In short, this one's a Fight of the Year candidate:

Dana White @danawhite

There is NO WAY that this doesn’t end up being a Fight of the Year candidate!! @Justin_Gaethje vs @EdsonBarbozaJR LIVE and FREE on ESPN this Saturday. https://t.co/e7v5NKRYUs

Gaethje's straight-ahead style might be risky, but it's tough to deal with. He acknowledges that he's going to leave himself open to Barboza at times, but he's more than willing to take a strike to give one. 

"I'm sure they're doing their homework but there's really no stopping someone going forward other than putting their lights out," he said, per Damon Martin of MMA Weekly. "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."

This is an intriguing battle not only because Barboza has traditionally struggled with pressure fighters and Gaethje is one of the best there is, but both fighters are also particularly keen on leg kicks.

The intersection of their styles is a penchant for chopping down their opponents over the course of the fight. 

ESPN MMA @espnmma

🦵 kicks leave ‘em ⚫️ & 🔵 @EdsonBarbozaJR and @Justin_Gaethje headline #UFCPhiladelphia on ESPN https://t.co/0aCQ985rDj

It's going to be fun while it lasts, and the striking exchanges are likely to wind up on both of their highlight reels.

However, Gaethje's pressure feels like the difference here. He'll be able to swarm the Brazilian, cut off the space he needs for his kicks and wear him down with volume. 

Prediction: Gaethje via third-round TKO


Michelle Waterson out to Prove She Belongs in Title Picture

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 27: Michelle Waterson works out prior to her fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz at 2300 Arena on March 27, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)
Drew Hallowell/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

This is not a card with a lot of title implications. There aren't many fighters who are ranked in their respective divisions, but the women's strawweight fight between No. 9 Waterson and No. 6 Kowalkiewicz feels like an important bout in the division. 

If Kowalkiewicz wants to get a second crack at the title, this is a must-win. She is the last person to defeat current champion Rose Namajunas, but since that title eliminator, she is just 2-3 including a submission and TKO loss. 

At 33, it's questionable whether the Polish Princess will improve much on her game.

Meanwhile, Waterson—also 33—will look to build on back-to-back wins over Cortney Casey and Felice Herrig. 

She recently got a little marketing push from the UFC's newest broadcasting partner at ESPN. With her receiving some spotlight on ESPN's E:60 and making an appearance on the main card of an event on the channel, this could be a big weekend for her. 

E:60 @E60

Being a fighter is selfish...being a mother is selfless. How @ufc trailblazer @karatehottiemma is balancing both. https://t.co/XALvoxc7FU

That's something that isn't lost on the former Invicta champion. 

"The only thing is that there are so many things that I do here, at home, in the comforts of the gym, that I would love to be able to display under the lights and that's what I'm going to try to do,” she said, per E. Spencer Kyte of UFC.com.

"I'm going to go out there and have fun. I think the stand-up will be pretty fun because Karolina is a pressure fighter and a scrambler on the ground, so wherever the fight goes, I'm prepared to dominate and take control of every situation as it comes to me."

Kowalkiewicz is a well-rounded fighter and should make this a competitive bout. However, she hasn't looked quite as sharp in her last few appearances, while Waterson has built some confidence against lesser opponents. 

Prediction: Waterson via decision