Weekend Warrior: Barboza-Gaethje Boosts UFC on ESPN 2

Photo: Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC / Contributor and Jennifer Stewart / Contributor (Getty Images)

The mixed martial arts world shudders with figurative anticipation as two of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s foremost purveyors of violence head straight for one another.

Onetime Ring of Combat champion Edson Barboza will test his mettle against Justin Gaethje in the UFC on ESPN 2 main event this Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, former two-division World Series of Fighting titleholder David Brach locks horns with Jack Hermansson in the three-round co-headliner at 185 pounds.

Barboza last appeared at UFC on Fox 31, where he put the brakes on a two-fight losing streak with an epic beatdown of Dan Hooker on Dec. 15. The 33-year-old Brazilian operates out of the star-studded American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Florida, where he trains under former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Mike Thomas Brown and a litany of other top-shelf trainers. Barboza has compiled a 14-6 record since he joined the UFC roster in November 2010.

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Edson Barboza
Edson Barboza punches Dan Hooker. Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

An NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado, Gaethje started his MMA career with 18 straight victories across five organizations. The 30-year-old Trevor Wittman protégé last competed at UFC Fight Night 135 in December, when he delivered an 87-second knockout against The Ultimate Fighter 15 semifinalist James Vick. Gaethje has secured 16 of his 19 professional wins by knockout or technical knockout.

UFC on ESPN 2 “Barboza vs. Gathje”—which airs live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT—will also feature a women’s strawweight affair matching Karolina Kowalkiewicz with Michelle Waterson, a light heavyweight scrap pitting Paul Craig against Kennedy Nzechukwu and a pair of featherweight battles, as Josh Emmett meets Michael Johnson and Sheymon Moraes faces Sodiq Yusuff. ESPN (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT) and ESPN+ (3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT) will share coverage of the seven-fight undercard.

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Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje. Photo: Jennifer Stewart (Getty Images)

Outside the Octagon, Bellator MMA stages its second show in as many weeks, with Saad Awad battling Brandon Girtz in the Bellator 219 headliner on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Meanwhile, Daniel Straus returns to the cage for the first time in more than a year, as he tackles Shane Kruchten in the co-main event at 155 pounds. Bellator 219 “Awad vs. Girtz” will air live on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Finally, the Legacy Fighting Alliance holds sway over the regional scene with LFA 63 on Friday at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas. Winner of seven of his last nine bouts, Derrick Krantz confronts Justin Patterson in the welterweight headliner. LFA 63 “Krantz vs. Patterson” will air live on AXS-TV at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.