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Barboza vs. Gaethje Fight Breakdown

A post shared by Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@justin_gaethje) on Jan 22, 2019 at 1:16pm PST

The UFC returns to Philadelphia for the first time since 2011 for their second main card on ESPN. The headlining bout will feature what should be an all action, showcase of total and beautiful chaos between top 10 lightweights Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje. My guess is all of our legs will hurt a little after watching this fight.

A post shared by Edson Barboza Jr (@edsonbarbozajr) on Oct 20, 2018 at 11:39am PDT

This matchup, on paper, features a Muay Thai striker in Barboza against a wrestler in Gaethje. Again, ON PAPER. Is that the matchup we’ll get? Anything is possible, but if the past is any indication, it seems highly unlikely. Chances are we get a complete, all out war between two of the most exciting fighters the lightweight division has ever hosted. Edson Barboza has long been considered one of the most dangerous fighters in the lightweight division, primarily due to his lauded and legendary kicking technique, based in his Muay Thai training. Barboza is the only fighter in UFC history to get a stoppage win using each a head kick, body kick, and leg kicks. Barboza undoubtedly does his best work while at distance. In his most recent fight against Dan Hooker in December, despite having a reach disadvantage, Barboza was able to effectively keep Hooker at his desired range, primarily using front kicks and spinning kicks to the body. Barboza will use his kicks to maintain distance the same way the vast majority of fighters will utilize jabs and straights.

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on Mar 27, 2019 at 4:54pm PDT

Edson Barboza desires to keep the fight at distance. Justin Gaethje wants to do the exact opposite. Gaethje’s MO is to brawl. He is a committed brawler (I may coin that term). While he has an elite wrestling pedigree, Gaethje is known for his desire to brawl and make every fight as dirty as possible, phone box fighting if you will. Gaethje does an outstanding job of not only closing the distance on his opponents, but also keeping them right in front of them, preventing them from backpedaling or escaping laterally. While he has his opponents at his desired range, Gaethje then uses his most dangerous weapons, those being his overhand right, which he used to flatline James Vick in August, and his close range leg kicks, which gave both Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, two of the toughest fighters in all of MMA, serious mobility problems during his wars with both.

A post shared by Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@justin_gaethje) on Jan 30, 2019 at 10:21am PST

For my money, there are three big X-factors in this fight. The first is the aforementioned distance advantage. Not only will Barboza use his kicks to try and manage distance against the constant forward movement of Gaethje, but Barboza will also hold a reach advantage in this fight. It’ll be interesting to see if he mixes in some punches as well. The second X-factor is leg kicks. Yep, just leg kicks. Whose leg kicks will do more damage? There’s a very good chance that the fighter who lands the more consistently leg kicks early will be the one who’s able to dicatate the distance, and by default, implement their gameplan more effectively.  The third X-factor somewhat hinges on the first two, and that is Gaethje’s use of his wrestling. As I mentioned before, Justin Gaethje has an elite wrestling pedigree, being both a high school all-state wrestler in Arizona and an All-American wrestler in college at Northern Colorado. This will be Justin Gaethje’s fifth fight inside the octagon, and not once have we seen him implement any sort of wrestling in a fight. He is, again, a committed brawler. He’s a lot of fun to watch, he may in fact be the most fun fighter to watch, but in a fight against someone as dangerous as Edson Barboza, just brawling with no implementation of grappling might work against him substantially.

A post shared by Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@justin_gaethje) on Mar 28, 2019 at 6:11pm PDT

The bottom line is this: this is an AMAZING fight. This is a can’t miss fight if you enjoy just pure, unbridled, albeit regulated, chaos. This is the kind of fight you want to show a friend who’s never watched MMA before and wants to be entertained. It’s only March, but this bout will almost definitely be in contention for fight of the year honors down the line.

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