On the subject of all-action fights, few permutations might be put collectively that might beat out UFC on ESPN 2’s most important occasion, which can as effectively be dubbed the Battle of the Leg Kicks.
That’s as a result of light-weight headliners Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje haven’t solely lengthy established themselves as two of probably the most violent males within the UFC’s most talent-rich division, but additionally two of probably the most fearsome leg-kick practitioners in all the sport. The 2 have surgically slashed away the limbs of numerous hapless foes prior to now, and even earlier than their March 30 battle was ever made official, Gaethje was already promising to do the identical to the Brazilian as soon as Barboza’s time got here. And now that UFC on ESPN 2 is almost upon us, Barboza is very happy to welcome Gaethje to attempt to stay as much as his phrases.
“Quite a lot of guys don’t speak about that,” Barboza instructed MMA Combating with a smile, “as a result of I come from Muay Thai. Everyone tried to complete me with a leg kick, however no person completed me but with a leg kick. You’ll be able to say no matter you need.
“I’ve two finishes within the UFC with leg kicks. He doesn’t have any finishes within the UFC with the leg kicks. It’s completely different. You see my type and his type, it’s very completely different. His leg kicks work effectively too, he’s an awesome fighter, however positively I don’t have solely the leg kicks. I’ve finishes with physique kicks, I’ve finishes with excessive kicks. I’m positively one of the best kicker within the sport.”
Barboza could solely have two official finishes by way of leg kicks on his UFC résumé — the final of which got here all the way in which again in 2013 towards Rafaello Oliveira — however don’t let the numbers idiot you. If his most up-to-date win towards Dan Hooker is any indication, the Brazilian’s low-kicking sport has by no means been extra ferocious than it’s at this time.
Gaethje’s type, then again, is quite dissimilar regardless of typically resulting in related outcomes. Whereas Barboza likes to make use of his kicks in explosive, whip-like bursts which may immediately cripple an opponent’s limbs, Gaethje tends to take a extra methodical strategy, unloading a continuing stream of heavy low kicks that quantity to a wilting and torturous death-by-pressure for foes when mixed along with his suffocating standup ways. It’s a method that may be a nightmare matchup for any light-weight on the planet, and one which has quick made Gaethje into one of many UFC’s foremost fan-favorites.
“He’s a enjoyable man to observe,” Barboza mentioned. “Folks like him. And me too, I’m an enormous fan of [his] fights. I like to observe his fights. It’s going to be a enjoyable evening for us. … He has a number of coronary heart. He’s a real fighter. He walks ahead, he goes to bang. That makes me very excited as a result of this battle’s going to be an enormous warfare.”
That forever-walk-forward strategy has turned Gaethje’s fights into considerably of coin-flip affairs within the UFC. Although he’s solely 2-2 in his 4 Octagon appearances, he may very effectively be Four-Zero if just one or two additional breaks had fallen his approach. That very same strategy has additionally had the aspect impact of creating him turn out to be the posterchild of ‘Battle of the 12 months’ lists internationally. On this web site alone, he has owned the class in back-to-back years for his legendary wars of attrition towards Michael Johnson and Dustin Poirier.
However Barboza isn’t any stranger to ‘Battle of the 12 months’ lists himself, and he welcomes Gaethje to return and attempt to make it three straight years at UFC on ESPN 2.
“I really feel very comfy that I’m a special Edson Barboza the final couple of fights,” Barboza mentioned. “You guys have seen [my] final battle towards a man who places stress on everyone? Dan Hooker, he places stress on everyone, however I ended that man.
“I don’t fear concerning the harm,” added Barboza. “If I believed concerning the harm, I’d go to be a health care provider or, I don’t know, do one thing completely different. I’m a fighter. That is my entire life. I’ve [been taking] harm my entire life. I’m a Muay Thai fighter. I feel I’ve had near 1,000 stitches in my face. I’m positively not fearful concerning the harm. A pair years in the past I bear in mind I had my fights towards Tony Ferguson and Paul Felder, [they were in conversations for] fights of the 12 months. I’ve them too. That makes me very excited.
“I’m prepared for ache, 25 minutes.”
A win for Barboza would offer a pivotal increase up the ranks in a UFC light-weight division that’s slowly figuring itself out, starting with UFC 236’s interim title battle between Barboza’s teammate at American High Crew, Dustin Poirier, and featherweight champion Max Holloway. Due to his sensational fourth-round stoppage of Gaethje final 12 months, Poirier has been a useful useful resource for Barboza to lean on within the lead-up to UFC on ESPN 2.
But when he wanted any additional motivation, Barboza has actually discovered it at house. His spouse Bruna is 38 week pregnant, he mentioned, and the arrival of the couple’s new child daughter Victoria is imminent. Barboza mentioned medical doctors have predicted April fifth as the large day, however each he and Bruna have made livid preparations in case Victoria tries to shock them by exhibiting up a bit early. Bruna’s household have already traveled to Florida to assist her if one thing occurs whereas Barboza is away for battle week in Philadelphia.
Barboza admits the entire course of has been motivating, if not disturbing and even a bit of scary to determine as he prepares for battle towards a real wildman. However he’s additionally excited for what’s to return, and is ensuring to maintain his focus affixed squarely on the longer term.
And that future begins with a dance date towards Gaethje that ought to have the mouths of battle followers watering on the thought.
“It’s going to be an enormous warfare,” Barboza vowed. “And I’ll win.”
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