UFC on ESPN+ 60: Makhachev vs Green - Predictions - 2/26/22
Bobby Green vs Islam Makhachev
Islam Makhachev (21-1) would enter the UFC with a perfect 10-0 record back in 2015. He continued those winning ways by choking out Leo Kuntz in the second round for a successful debut. The combat sambo world champion would then face some adversity during his next fight in the form of Adriano Martin’s fist. This would mark both the first loss and first time separated from consciousness for the Khabib Nurmagomedov protege. The Dagestan grappler would get back on track however, rattling off 9 straight UFC victories (1 KO, 4 Decisions, 4 Submissions). He would headline his first fight night card last year against Thiago Moises and then use that success to get a fight with top contender, Dan Hooker, in his most recent bout. He submitted both opponents (Moises in the 4th and Hooker in the 1st). He welcomes Bobby Green to the cage on about 10 days notice.
Bobby Green (29-12-1) is a long-time staple in the lightweight division, having fought under the UFC banner for the past 9 years. His UFC record stands at 10-7-1. If you’ve been watching the UFC over the past couple weeks, you would recognize Green as the fighter who was styling on Nasrat Haqparast en route to a unanimous decision very recently. This will be the third time in his UFC career where he’s been on a winning streak of 2 or more. “King” holds wins over notable competition such as Clay Guida, James Krause, Lando Vannata, Al Iaquinta, and the aforementioned Haqparast, while succumbing to divisional standouts in Dustin Poirier, Edson Barboza, and Rafael Fiziev.
Both men are the same height but Green will hold 1 inch of reach over his southpaw opponent.
How They Match Up
Well we know what Makhachev wants to do here - get the fight to the ground and lock up a submission. One thing I think Makhachev is excellent at is top control. He really prioritizes position over submission and the fact that he usually gets his opponent down early in the round means he doesn’t really have to rush anything. We saw in the Dober fight a smothering half guard for most of the first round before methodically getting the mount and transitioning to an arm bar. We saw later in the fight a repeat process but finishing it this time via arm triangle (actually if you are a BJJ fan this arm triangle was pretty special and I would recommend checking it out). We really see a lot of Khabib in his game - that suffocating top control with a world class sambo game. I’d argue that Makhachev is a bit lighter on the ground and pound and heavier on control but ultimately the results have ended up the same. He also hits takedowns from a wide variety of ways. We’ve seen him wrap up and finish single-legs, hit incredible foot sweep body lock takedowns, as well as just simply pick his opponent up in the clinch and slam them (Moises).
In the striking department Makhachev is fundamentally solid as well. If you watch back his fight with Moises, he really showcases excellent footwork, angling off his opponent, as well as good distance management. I also like that he wasted no time taking Dober down (who is a very real power punching threat on the feet), but kept things standing against Moises more often (who’s a very real grappling threat). This to me shows great fight IQ and a penchant to listen to his coaches. He also wasted no time taking another savvy striker down in Dan Hooker last time out. With all this praise you are probably seeing the reason behind the monstrous favorite price tag. He is going to want to get this one to the ground quickly as well since Green is as slick a striker as any.
We mentioned that we know what Makhachev wants to do, but the beauty of this one is we also know exactly what Green wants to do. Stand there with his hands low, slipping shots and piece his opponent up with crisp hands and off-beat timing. He put on a boxing master class against Haqparast a couple weeks ago, landing 188 significant strikes en route to a wide decision. That’s what Green is capable of when he gets the exact fight he wants.
Unfortunately he’s not going to get the fight he wants here. His low hands have helped him fend off takedown attempts in the past but his penchant for being on the outside against the cage could be trouble. Makhachev is sensational at grappling along the cage. Green has been incredibly solid getting fights back to his feet but he often gives his back and hand fights to shortcut back up. I’d be worried about trying that against Makhachev who has a solid rear-naked choke game. But, to play devil’s advocate in favor of the dog here, Green has a ton of experience and has a very underrated grappling game. We haven't really ever seen him dominated on the mat either so this makes this fight pretty interesting despite what the oddsmakers would have you believe. He also has no problem dealing with southpaws so there's plenty of good things going in Green's favour.
However, to pick an underdog of this magnitude you really want to have the surprise finish potential in your back pocket. And for me at least, Green hasn’t one shot finished someone since 2009 and I’m not putting much stock in his TKO over Iaquinta. With that route being unlikely, he would have to defeat Makhachev on points and that’s a tall order. I’ll side with Makhechev to continue his climb through the lightweight rankings.