UFC On ESPN 2 takes place tomorrow night in Philadelphia and you can see our predictions for all the fights below.
Main Card (ESPN)
Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza
Two deadly strikers on display here, and with Gaethje on-board that should lead to fireworks as he never takes a backwards step as he goes all-in with constant offense in search of a finish, even if that means he has to eat big shots along the way.
Barboza doesn’t fight at the same frenetic pace, but he is a clinical technical striker with particularly brutal leg kicks and can produce more spectacular spinning attacks at the drop of a hat.
However, the Brazilian’s effectiveness can diminish somewhat when he’s put on the backfoot, and though he could certainly picks his moments to punish Gaethje on the counter, I think that overall its ‘The Highlight’ whose pace, pressure and violent intent that will get the better of the striking action, while he can also switch to wrestling if neccessary.
With that in mind I see Gaethje having the upper-hand here and emerging with a third round TKO victory.
Justin Gaethje wins by decision.
David Branch vs. Jack Hermansson
David Branch’s strong top game and submission threat helped him become a two-division champion in the WSOF promotion, but he’s not found the going so easy during his second stint in the UFC so far.
While he’s not a big name in the UFC, Hermansson could be someone that poses him problems as he’s aggressive on the feet and has a much higher output offensively than Branch, while on the mat he’s got good wrestling and has vicious ground and pound.
I expect Hermansson to be aiming to keep this one standing for the most part where I believe he’ll have a significant edge and eventually trouble Branch enough to secure a third round TKO stoppage.
Jack Hermansson wins by TKO in Rd3.
Josh Emmett vs. Michael Johnson
Relative to his skills Johnson’s UFC record has seemed underwhelming, but while there might be some questions whether his mental game is really all there, he’s still a talented fighter with terrific handspeed, good movement and solid technical ability on the feet.
Emmett on the other relies a bit more on athleticism and power, moving in with flurries of dangerous hooks that can be fight-enders, but can also leave him open to being countered.
I prefer Johnson’s more refined approach on the outside here to win out, landing more consistently and finding openings in Emmett’s defense, and while I don’t think he’ll get a stoppage inside the distance, that should lead him to a decision victory.
Michael Johnson wins by decision.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Michelle Waterson
We should see two distinctly different strategies at play here. Kowalkiewicz is tougher than she looks and will march forward with a high output of punches, while she is also strong in the clinch. On the mat however she’s more likely to be looking for a way back upright rather than tangle for extended periods with ‘The Karate Hottie’.
As for Waterson, she is more mobile, operating on the outside with kicks and short flurries, while on the mat she’s a good scrambler and can find openings for finishes by submission.
It’s possible Waterson may frustrate Kowalkiewicz with her movement, but I think Kowalkiewicz’s straight-ahead no-nonsense approach will pay dividends over three rounds as she lands more strikes and also uses her strength to cause Waterson problems in the clinch too in order to secure a win on the scorecards.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz wins by decision.
Paul Craig vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Craig may be a somewhat limited fighter who doesn’t have a great deal to offer standing, but he’s tenacious and never out of a fight thanks to his dangerous submission skills that can see him turn a fight around in the blink of an eye, even from his back.
On the other hand, Nzechukwu is all about striking, and with a whopping 83″ inch reach (just 1.5 inches less than Jon Jones) and standing 6ft 5″ tall, he’ll be looking to ensure he keeps Craig at bay, and he has knockout power to go along with it.
There are questions about how Nzechukwu will handle the ground game as he’s still relatively green with just 6 fights to his name, but Craig’s takedowns aren’t the best and I think he’s going to get punished moving into range and eventually be stopped by his lanky opponent’s strikes inside of ten minutes.
Kennedy Nzechukwu wins by TKO in Rd2.
Sheymon Moraes vs. Sodiq Yasuff
Yasuff is a relative newcomer to the UFC and is still something of a work-in-progress, but he’s got a lot of potential already and his mixture of power and athleticism has to be respected.
The more experienced Moraes is better equipped on a technical level though and will bring the fight to Yasuff on the feet, and he’s battle-hardened enough not to be phased by his opponent’s heavy hands.
This fight could go either way, but I think Moraes will prove to be the more savvy fighter at this stage in their respective careers and outstrike Yasuff to win by decision.
Sheymon Moraes wins by decision.
Prelims (ESPN) (Predicted winners in bold)
Jessica Aguilar vs. Marina Rodriguez
Ross Pearson vs. Desmond Green
Enrique Barzola vs. Kevin Aguilar
Kevin Holland vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Ray Borg vs. Kyler Phillips
Sabina Mazo vs. Maryna Moroz
Alex Perez vs. Mark De La Rosa