Nobody puts on Fight of the Year contenders as consistently as Justin Gaethje. Sorry, Robbie Lawler. No dice, Conor McGregor. Jon Jones? Please. When it comes to forcing the type of violence that belongs in an Eli Roth movie, Gaethje is in a league of his own.
You know comes close though? Edson freakin’ Barboza. One of the most explosive lightweights of the generation, the Brazilian owns a Knockout of the Century and authored plenty Knockout of the Year entries. Any UFC highlight reel starts and ends with his spinning wheel kick of Terry Etim.
Now, these two are scrapping in a main event this Saturday on ESPN. The network seriously might want to put a graphic violence warning before the bell rings. That’s not hyperbole. You can’t not wince when Barboza sledgehammers a leg with kicks. And in four UFC fights, Gaethje has pretty much broken Fightmetric, accounting for over eight significant strikes landed and over 10 absorbed a minute. That should not be possible.
Oh yeah, there’s other fights too. A women’s strawweight fight between Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Michelle Waterson promises to be one of those gritty dittys where it comes down to who wants it more. Featherweight Michael Johnson, no stranger to epic clashes himself, meets Josh Emmett, a banger who has already upset a perennial contender at 145 pounders.
Great stuff, with some solid betting options here. Let’s take a look at the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu and break down your best picks.
Main Event, Lightweight
Justin Gaethje +110 vs. Edson Barboza -140
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +380 / -570
Whose Life Bar Drains First?
On paper, Barboza has all the tools to win this fight. But does he got the heart? What’s holding him back from being a bigger favorite here is that he tends to crumble against ultra-aggressive fighters – the best example being the Tony Ferguson fight. Gaethje is the very definition of kill-or-be-killed. The man simply does not stop until his chin gives out or his opponent is curled up in the fetal position.
The question for Gaethje is how deep he can drag this fight. Nobody can eat too many shots from Barboza, whether it’s leg kicks, punches, flying knees or every spinning strike in the book. Don’t forget that Gaethje eats over 10 significant strikes a minute, and his first two career losses came under the UFC banner after absorbing ungodly amounts of punishment from Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez. What did those fights take out of him?
Our pick: Barboza to win at -140
We love the price on Barboza. Considering how porous Gaethje’s defense is, there’s a great chance that the Brazilian lands something that the Gaethje just can’t recover from. It’s gonna be a wild ride, but five rounds is a long time to go nuclear.
Safe pick: Fight doesn’t go to decision -570
Duh. This is your parlay booster, although it won’t do much to your bottom line. Still, it’s free money.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz -160 vs. Michelle Waterson +127
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -320 / +240
Can Waterson Finally Break Through?
Waterson is already a star – she’s got the look, personality and the charisma. What she doesn’t have a is a signature win in the UFC. That part isn’t gonna come easy, as the natural strawweight gives up size and strength to pretty much every fighter she steps into the octagon with. That’s a tough deal, though The Karate Hottie has managed some solid wins against bigger women.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz has faced pretty much every elite 115-pounder out there, and her UFC losses came against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade. Against the Brazilians, she was outmuscled. Against JJ, she was outstruck by a Muay Thai ace. But she does own a win over current champion Rose Namajunas in a matchup where she overpowered in the clinch. The easy assumption is that she could do the same to Waterson.
Our pick: Kowalkiewicz to win at -160
Honestly, a price under -200 is excellent for Kowalkiewicz. On the feet, her range and durability gives her the striking advantage. And as good as Waterson is in the scrambles, she doesn’t have the power to force KK into bad positions.
Michael Johnson -110 vs. Josh Emmett -120
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -320 / +240
Another Relapse from Michael Johnson?
There’s a recurring theme in Johnson’s losses: he makes a serious mental gaffe and ends up losing a fight he could’ve won. It happened against Nate Diaz, Justin Gaethje and Darren Elkins. But he’s got elite talent – mainly in those lightning quick hands of his. And it takes a special type of fighter to force him off his game.
So what’s Emmett got for “The Menace”? For starters, he’s an awesome wrestler – and Johnson was grounded into fine powder against Khabib Nurmagomedov. But others have had serious trouble taking down the athletic Johnson, so that doesn’t seem to be a reliable option. Emmett knocked out Ricardo Lamas, so he’s got power, but can he hang skillswise in a kickboxing match?
Our pick: Johnson to win at -110
There’s always the risk that Johnson completely goes off the rails, but we’re not sure Emmett is the type of dude that can trigger a collapse. He’s still relatively new to MMA, and hasn’t shown enough layers in his standup to garner much confidence.
Check out the latest UFC on ESPN betting odds for today.