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MMA ODDS AND ENDS FOR THURSDAY: UFC BOOKS GAETHJE VS. BARBOZA, BLAYDES VS. WILLIS

A pair of high profile bouts in the UFC lightweight and heavyweight divisions have been added to forthcoming fight cards, and I will give my first thoughts on those brand new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza, UFC Fight Night 148
An intriguing lightweight bout between strikers Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza is being targeted at UFC Fight Night 148, which takes place March 23 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Farah Hannoun broke the information, although ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported the fight may occur at UFC Fight Night 149 the next week at Philadelphia. In any event, it looks like this struggle is going to take place, which is fantastic news for MMA fans as it pits two of the most dangerous and exciting strikers from 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 due to his ability to put on an amazing show. He’s already racked up five bonus awards, including three»Fight of the Night» awards along with two»Performance of the Night» awards, such as a bonus because of his KO over James Vick last August. He’s been more prone to being knocked out in the UFC because he lost to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez, but as he demonstrated against Vick and Michael Johnson, he has unbelievable knockout power himself. Barboza (20-6) is 14-6 overall in the UFC and in his last fight he place about the 2018″Beatdown of the Year» because of his barbarous TKO win over Dan Hooker. Barboza is famous for his deadly leg kicks and amazing knockout power, but like Gaethje he has been prone to the knockout as well.
This looks like an wonderful fight on newspaper, and the fact it is place for five rounds is just tremendous. Both men are excellent fighters and I’m expecting a close betting line. At this point, it seems like near a Pick ’em fight, but considering how great Barboza looked in his last fight he might find more assistance from bettors due to recency bias.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis, UFC Fight Night 148
A heavyweight matchup involving Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis can also be set for UFC Fight Night 148. FloCombat’s Nolan King broke the news. Blaydes (10-2, 1 NC) is 5-2, 1 NC at the UFC and in his last fight suffered a brutal knockout loss to Francis Ngannou. He had won four consecutive fights before that, though, like a TKO over Alistair Overeem, and may easily get back to the heavyweight title talks with another few wins. Willis (8-1) is 4-0 at the UFC and in his final fight picked up the biggest win of his career to date over Mark Hunt. The problem with Willis has been that he has not shown off considerably finishing ability in 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 strong favorite as soon as the chances come out.
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