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  • How to bet UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Gaethje 👊

    How to bet UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Gaethje

    ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)


    When the UFC first began putting fight cards on mainstream television, it would often promote fighters with an elevated excitement factor, especially dynamic strikers. And as the UFC puts on its second event on ESPN in prime time, it has paired two of the most violent strikers the lightweight division has to offer, for what could be one of the largest live TV audiences ever for the sport. And the casual or first-time MMA observer is guaranteed to witness one thing this Saturday in the main event: ferocious leg kicks.

    Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethjeisn't a fight with immediate title implications given the crowded (and somewhat confusing) championship picture for that division. But the winner will advance in the rankings and at least become part of that conversation.

    The Brazilian opened as a mild betting favorite and saw some early support, but has since seen the line drop back closer to a pick 'em matchup. The American Gaethje is still the underdog, although just barely -- and there's still plenty of time for that betting line to evolve as the fight approaches.

    Lightweight matchup: No. 6 Edson Barboza (-145) vs. No. 8 Justin Gaethje (+125)

    Tale Of The Tape
    Last fight weight class Lightweight Lightweight
    Current age 33 34
    Height (in) 71 71
    Reach (in) 75 70
    Stance Orthodox Orthodox
    Analyzed minutes 228 41
    Standup striking offense
    Career knockdown ratio
    (Scored : Received)
    10:2 1:1
    Distance knockdown rate 5.0% 0.9%
    Head jab accuracy 25% 36%
    Head power accuracy 30% 38%
    Total standup strike ratio 1.0 0.7
    Striking defense
    Total head strike defense 71% 63%
    Distance knockdown
    defense ("Chin")
    99% 100%
    Wrestling and grappling
    TD attempts/minute
    (Standing/clinch)
    0.08 0.02
    Takedown accuracy 47% 0%
    Advances per
    takedown/top control
    0.3 N/A
    Opponent takedown attempts 76 10
    Takedown defense 80% 80%
    Share of total ground
    time in control
    29% 41%
    Submission attempts
    per trip to ground
    0.05 0.00
    These two strikers have contrasting styles, but both offer a violent arsenal of attacks. Barboza comes from a Muay Thai background, while Gaethje trains in kickboxing. The combined power and ferocity of their striking is perhaps why the market appears torn between the two, as either man is capable of finishing anyone in the division on any given night.

    Both have higher-than-average striking accuracy, though Gaethje's head-strike accuracy is superior, partly due to a lower mix of head kicks. And both men will mix in kicks to the body and legs. The share of strikes that are leg kicks are way above average for both fighters, but even more so for Gaethje. Finishing opponents via leg kicks is a rare gem within the sport, and here both fighters have accomplished that feat multiple times in their careers.

    However, it's also worth noting that both men have absorbed their fair share of cumulative damage. Combined with their offensive threats, this is why when prop odds were opened for this fight card, the main event was most likely to end inside the distance. Barboza has more than five times the Octagon minutes as Gaethje, and yet Gaethje has absorbed more than half the count of Barboza's cumulative distance head strikes. Being a glutton for punishment does not bode well for Gaethje's long-term success, but it does mean that he can take some shots before finding an opening, which is critical against an evasive striker like Barboza. These are all ingredients for a firefight on the feet -- one that could end violently.

    And on the feet is where it is likely to stay. Neither man prefers to take the fight to the ground, despite both having some grappling credentials. Barboza trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, while Gaethje got his athletic start in NCAA Division I wrestling. It's surprising then that Gaethje has yet to land an offensive takedown in the UFC with such a clear wrestling pedigree. That asset could eventually come into play here, but no doubt Gaethje will first test his hands against Barboza.

    Last week we conceded that Anthony Pettis would have an uphill battle against Stephen Thompson, who would likely get the better of point striking and scoring of rounds. And yet we still saw value on Pettis, especially inside the distance. The same factors appear to be at work here for the underdog Gaethje. Barboza could control the distance striking from the outside and has evaded plenty of seasoned wrestlers in his career. But he's also vulnerable in a firefight, and Gaethje likes to counter off of opponents' kicks. There's also the wild card of Gaethje's wrestling base, should he finally decide to use it in the Octagon. This could be wielded offensively to open up Barboza's striking defense, or defensively if Gaethje gets into trouble. This puts some value on the underdog for an upset.

    E+ recommends: The odds are currently tight. Barboza has the name, the ranking and the momentum to potentially draw more support heading into fight night, so you might eventually see even better value on Gaethje at higher plus money. A small moneyline bet on Gaethje is warranted, split with a flier on his inside the distance prop. And the "fight does not go the distance" will be parlay fodder for many.

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