Often in blended martial arts, there is a battle during which it actually doesn’t matter what influence it might need on rankings, its division, the speedy way forward for both fighter concerned. None of that issues. It is only a battle you have to watch. Saturday’s light-weight bout between Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje, which headlines UFC Battle Night time in Philadelphia, is a type of fights.
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To be truthful, any Gaethje battle most likely suits that description, however this one specifically is a primary instance.
The UFC’s light-weight title image continues to be very unclear — Khabib Nurmagomedov is suspended, Conor McGregor is retired, Tony Ferguson’s future is unsure and the UFC is about to create an interim championship. That makes it nearly not possible to outline what’s actually at stake Saturday.
The excellent news is all of that’s secondary to the bout itself. This battle is value waiting for the stylistic matchup alone. It is potential that nobody could have any concept by the top of the night time what the end result means for the division — and equally potential that nobody will care.
Justin Gaethje has been recognized to place opponents to sleep contained in the cage, as has Edson Barboza — between them, they’ve 28 profession KOs. Steven Branscombe/USA Right this moment Sports activities
By the numbers
1: Variety of fighters in UFC historical past with knockouts by head kick, physique kick and leg kick. That one fighter is Barboza. He is also the one fighter to complete two UFC bouts with leg kicks. He has ended 5 UFC fights with kicks or knees, tied for second in promotion historical past (behind Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s seven).
Each Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza are recognized for his or her high-volume offense, however Gaethje’s head-strike accuracy far surpasses that of his UFC Battle Night time most important occasion foe.
Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje are arguably essentially the most prolific leg kickers within the sport. 4 earlier opponents clarify to ESPN why that’s and the way they recovered from the leg ache endured throughout their fights.
zero: Variety of Gaethje fights within the UFC that haven’t ended by KO/TKO. The man has fought within the UFC 4 instances, incomes a postfight bonus every time. (Because the UFC started awarding bonuses in 2006, no fighter has received one for every of his or her first 5 fights.)
28: KOs by Gaethje (16) and Barboza (12) amongst their mixed 39 profession wins. Seven of Barboza’s KOs got here in UFC light-weight bouts — tied (with Melvin Guillard) for essentially the most in division historical past.
125: Leg kicks landed by Gaethje within the UFC — essentially the most by any fighter of their first 4 UFC fights.
126: Important strikes landed by Barboza in his most up-to-date battle (TKO over Dan Hooker in December) — a profession excessive.
2011: Final time the UFC was in Philadelphia.
Supply: ESPN Stats & Data analysis
ESPN Stats & Data
“I do not care should you’re an informed fan or uneducated, you watch that man battle and you recognize he is scary. His kicks, for one factor, are very technical. The person is simply good. He is been round and fought the most effective. I am simply attempting to problem myself in opposition to him.”
–Gaethje, talking with ESPN about Barboza
“He can end anyone. In the event you give Gaethje an opportunity, he’ll finish the battle. That is it.”
–Barboza, talking with ESPN about Gaethje
The leg kicks of Barboza (yikes!):
Edson Barboza places his kicking prowess on full show with these wins over Rafaello Oliveira and Gilbert Melendez.
The leg kicks of Gaethje (ouch!):
Take a look at the injury Justin Gaethje inflicted to the entrance leg of Dustin Poirier throughout their bout final April.
And the winner is …
Barboza will get off to the quick begin, however Gaethje weathers it and his strain wears on Barboza because the battle unfolds.
Brett Okamoto’s prediction: Gaethje by way of TKO, third spherical.
Past the primary occasion: What to observe for
Going through challenges
Ray Borg (11-Three), who takes on Casey Kenney (11-1-1) in a flyweight battle throughout the early prelims (ESPN+, Three:30 p.m. ET), has been out of the Octagon for a 12 months and a half. In that point, Borg has been by means of so much, from a bout-canceling eye damage suffered throughout final 12 months’s Conor McGregor bus assault in Brooklyn, New York, to the continued well being points going through his younger son, who has been out and in of surgical procedure throughout his first 12 months of life. That is why it was particularly heartwarming to see Borg put up this on Instagram this week:
Placing the nickname to the check?
Kevin Aguilar is simply 4 months faraway from a victory in his UFC debut, which ran his win streak to eight in a row. The 30-year-old Texas featherweight is 16-1 total, his solely loss coming in opposition to former UFC powerful man Leonard Garcia. And, oh sure, he is often known as “The Angel of Dying.” Let’s have a look at if he lives as much as that nickname in his prelim in opposition to Enrique Barzola (15-Three-1) throughout the prelims (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET).
Most in want of a win …
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-Three) has been both inside or on the periphery of the ESPN pound-for-pound ladies’s prime 10 for seemingly eternally, however her latest outcomes haven’t borne out that lofty standing. Since 2016, the Polish strawweight has misplaced three of 5 fights, together with her two victories coming in opposition to fighters nicely outdoors the rankings. On Saturday’s most important card (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET), she clashes with Michelle Waterson (16-6), who ranks No. 9 in ESPN’s 115-pound rankings (three spots beneath Kowalkiewicz). It is a fork within the highway for Kowalkiewicz. Is she headed again towards the highest, or is she a dead-end afterthought?