The UFC heads to Philadelphia, PA for the second of their ESPN exclusive shows. Headlined by an absolute barnburner, this serves as an appetizer for UFC 236 in two weeks time.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Branch v Hermansson:
Former WSoF double champion, 185lbs and 205lbs, David Branch looks to rebound from a devastating knockout loss to Jared Cannonier in his hometown of New York City, New York at UFC 230. It was the fourth fight of Branch’s second spell with the UFC after a spectacular run in the World Series of Fighting (now Professional Fighters League, PFL). It was a loss that, in hindsight, will mean a lot more to Branch as he had only recently stopped Thiago Santos in a thriller, Santos will be fighting Jon Jones for the belt in July. Branch will forever look back and think of what might have been.
Fighting out of Stockholm, Sweden is Jack ‘The Joker’ Hermansson. Hermansson looks to extend his recent run to 3-0 (5-2 UFC) and attempt to crack the top 15 for the first time. Making his debut back in 2016 he holds notable wins over Brits Scott Askham and Brad Scott, as well has finishes of Alex Nicholson, Gerald Meerschaert and Thales Leites, with Leites being handed the first TKO loss in a 15-year career.
As Co-Main events go, this is rather uninspiring and not even the second-best fight on the card (Kowalkiewicz & Waterson I’m looking at you) and it feels like a showcase event for Hermansson. Branch isn’t getting any younger and his time at the top has surely passed, as illustrated by a 2-2 run in his second tenure at this level. Hermansson has a decent chin and has despatched opponents who are known to be more durable than Branch. I’ll be taking a play on ‘The Joker’ to finish this inside the distance.
Recommendation: Hermansson wins Inside the Distance – 2 units at +160 (8/5) @ 5Dimes
Barboza v Gaethje:
Edson Barboza looks to build on a solid win over Dan Hooker in his quest for UFC gold. Ranked #6 in the division the closest he has come to challenging for the belt is an eliminator loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, despite being one of the most accomplished fighters in the division.
Most casual fans will remember Barboza as the man who wheel kicked Terry Etim on the UFC highlight reel, yet the hardcore base will know him as a man with ferocious leg kicks, only matched by Jose Aldo at this level.
Standing opposite him in the octagon will be ‘The Highlight’ Justin Gaethje. Never has a man lived up to his nickname as much as this this. Gaethje truly is a highlight reel in himself; whether it be his trademark backflip off the cage or his relentless forward movement and knockout power, chances are you’ve seen a highlight of Gaethje even if you’ve never seen a full fight.
Gaethje has recently found himself in unknown territory as he experienced the first two losses of his professional career, back to back against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, the latter being a fight he was clearly winning at the time.
This fight is likely to showcase a smorgasbord of glorious ultra-violence and in the words of Oliver Twist, “please sir, may I have some more?” is what I expect to be saying irrespective of when/how it ends. While booked for 5 rounds, I’d be happy if it went 10 as both fighters will give 100%. Gaethje will move forward at all opportunities knowing fully well that he will be hit, but if he can hit back then he’ll just keep doing the same. Barboza will be the more technical of the two, looking to use his leg kicks to keep Gaethje at distance and this is where I see him coming undone. While Barboza has the better kicks, Gaethje employs the same tactic but will take a hit to get a hit and Barboza doesn’t like getting hit, not when the hits come in rapid succession. I think Gaethje gets the more damaging shots in early and I don’t see Barboza surviving 5 rounds. A Drs stoppage saw him fall short against Kevin Lee and Gaethje hits harder and with more volume than Lee.
Recommendation: Gaethje wins Inside the Distance – 2 units at +152 (6/4) @ 5Dimes