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 upcoming fight cards, and I will give my initial thoughts on these brand new matchups in the current MMA odds and ends.
Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza, UFC Fight Night 148
An intriguing lightweight connection between strikers Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza is being targeted for UFC Fight Night 148, which takes place March 23 in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Farah Hannoun broke the news, though ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported the fight may occur at UFC Fight Night 149 another week at Philadelphia. Either way, it appears like this struggle is going to take place, which is fantastic news for MMA fans because 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 has become a household name to MMA fans due to his ability to put in an amazing show. He’s already racked up five bonus awards, including three”Fight of the Night” awards and two”Performance of the Night” awards, including a bonus for his KO over James Vick last August. He has been more prone to being knocked out in the UFC as he lost to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez, but as he demonstrated against Vick and Michael Johnsonhe has unbelievable knockout power himself. Barboza (20-6) is 14-6 overall at the UFC and in his last fight he put about the 2018″Beatdown of the Year” because of his brutal TKO win over Dan Hooker. Barboza is known for his deadly leg kicks and amazing knockout power, but such as Gaethje he’s been prone to this knockout as well.
This looks to be an wonderful battle on newspaper, and also the fact it is set for five rounds is just enormous. Both guys are terrific fighters and I am anticipating a close betting line. At this point, it looks like near a Select ‘em fight, but considering how good Barboza appeared in his last fight he may get more support from bettors because of recency bias.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis, UFC Fight Night 148
A heavyweight matchup involving Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis can also be place for UFC Fight Night 148. FloCombat’s Nolan King broke the information. 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 straight fights before that, however, like a TKO over Alistair Overeem, and could easily get back into the heavyweight title talks with another couple of wins. Willis (8-1) is 4-0 at the UFC and in his last fight picked up the biggest win of his career thus far over Mark Hunt. The problem with Willis has been that he has not shown off much finishing ability in the UFC, and his wrestling is very likely to be negated in this matchup against Blaydes. It’s heavyweight so that you can not ever count anyone out, but on paper this looks like Blaydes’ struggle to win and I expect him to be a solid favorite as soon as the odds come out.
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