Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green
With a very impressive nine wins in a row, No.4 ranked Makhachev had been heading into a major fight with potential title implications against the No.3 ranked Beneil Dariush this weekend, but an injury to his opponent has left him facing a short-notice replacement in Green instead at a 160lb catchweight over five rounds.
Green is currently unranked, but is coming off an impressively dominant decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271 earlier this month that won him a lot of plaudits.
While this is a big opportunity for the 35-year-old Green, it really does feel like something of a poisoned chalice to have gained a little momentum and now be rewarded by facing one of the most dominant forces in the division with barely any time to prepare for his opponent or the fact that it’s a five-rounder, just two weeks removed from going three full rounds.
That being said, as well as having a great deal of experience, Green is also a well-rounded fighter whose striking in particular will test Makhachev as he is very sound defensively yet still lets his hands go frequently and is sharp on the counter.
Green is also a solid wrestler too, but there’s levels to that game and it’s now well established that Makhachev is one of the very best in that regard. He’s relentless with his takedown attempts and has dominating control on top, while his submission game is another valuable asset.
So, Green could have some success on the feet early, but I don’t think he’s got the raw power to really scare Makhachev off from doing what he does best, which is closing the distance and ragdolling his opponents to the mat. Also, while Green’s cardio is generally good, I think his opponent’s tireless grappling exchanges will wear on him the longer the fight goes and lead to a submission victory in the fourth round, if not earlier.
Prediction: Islam Makhachev to win by submission in Rd4 – Bet @ Sportsbet
Wellington Turman vs. Misha Cirkunov
Turman comes in as a late replacement after earning a split decision win over the downward-spiralling Sam Alvey last time out, but that was only one of two wins he’s produced in five Octagon outings so far, while Cirkunov’s record is worse with just two victories from his last seven fights.
The 34-year-old Cirkunov has become something of a liability on the feet in the later years of his UFC run as his chin has deteriorated badly, with four of his five losses in the promotion coming via strikes.
Nevertheless, the powerfully built Cirkunov’s ground skills still make him a serious threat as he has good wrestling and a deadly jiu-jItsu game, with all but one of his six wins in the UFC coming on the mat via submission.
The 25-year-old Turman will perhaps sympathize with Cirkunov’s stand-up woes as he suffered two first-round KO losses in a row prior to that win over Alvey. Nevertheless, while he’s not particularly potent there, it still feels like Turman has more to offer in the striking department than Cirkunov, though he will be at a 3″ height and 5″ reach disadvantage.
Like his opponent, Turman has found some success on the mat via submission, but I think it would be a big mistake to try to lock horns with Cirkunov on the mat at any stage in the fight. I think that’s going to be easier said than done though and that’s why I’m going to pick Cirkunov to win by submission in Rd1.
Prediction: Misha Cirkunov to win by submission in Rd1 – Bet @ Sportsbet
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira
This is a curious candidate for the main card given that Kim has lost three of her last four fights in the promotion, while Cachoeira only has two wins from her total of six Octagon appearances so far.
Cachoeira is a scrappy battler on the feet who has limited technique and gets hit all-too-often, but to her credit she does punch hard and indeed both her wins in the UFC came via strikes.
Kim also had a finish via strikes in the promotion, but that flatters to deceive as she’s not really known for her stopping power. That being said, she has better striking technique than Cachoeira and will throw out more volume, aided by a 7″ reach advantage, while she’s also more capable on the mat too.
So neither of these fighters is really making much of an impact in the UFC, but I do think there’s more upside to Kim’s game and I’ll take her to get the better of Cachoeira on the scorecards here.
Prediction: Ji Yeon Kim to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez
Someone’s winning streak has to end on Saturday night with both Tsarukyan and Alvarez currently enjoying a four-fight unbeaten run in the UFC.
There’s an enormous size difference between these two lightweights, with Alvarez being no less than 8″ taller and with a 4.5″ reach advantage over Tsarukyan. With that in mind it’s perhaps no surprise that Alvarez has actually missed weight for his last two fights and could well be forced up to welterweight if he doesn’t reach the 156lb limit this time out, but it’s also worth noting that Tsarukyan also came in overweight just a couple of fights ago.
It’s actually on the mat where the lanky Alvarez has had the most success as while he can be taken down, once the fight hits the mat he has demonstrated a tremendous knack for using his BJJ ability to catch his opponents in submissions – no less than 16 times in 19 career victories.
Alvarez’s striking has also improved over time too, so there’s certainly a lot to like here. That being said, the same can be said about Tsarukyan who isn’t as big of a fight-finisher as his opponent here, but has impressed with his well-rounded abilities, and even gave a good account of himself in his only UFC loss to date, which came in his promotional debut against the high-flying Islam Makhachev.
There’s no doubt that wrestling his Tsarukyan’s best suit and even though it will be risky putting Alvarez where he is at his most dangerous, I think he’s both strong enough and technically sound enough on top to give him few opportunities to get the space he needs to work in a submission, so I’m taking Tsarukyan to stifle him on the mat and win by decision.
Prediction: Arman Tsarukyan to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues
After a KO win on the Contender Series, Petrosyan now makes his official UFC debut against Rodrigues, who just notched up a KO win of his own to go two-fights unbeaten since joining the UFC last year.
Petrosyan is not the kickboxing star who shares his name, but he was a former muay thai champ who has since transitioned to MMA and picked up a 6-1 record so far, with all his wins coming via strikes.
So he’ll clearly be a threat on the feet with his strong kicks and punches, but his ground game is more of a question mark. Meanwhile, his opponent Rodrigues will apply plenty of pressure on the feet and he’s heavy-handed, but he’s also shown a willingness to mix in takedowns into his gameplan and has good jiu-jitsu to go with his ground-and-pound.
This will be very competitive on the feet, but Rodrigues grappling will be a key factor to put Petrosyan out of his comfort zone and I think he’ll finish him via strikes before the end of the second round.
Prediction: Gregory Rodrigues to win by TKO in Rd2 – Bet @ Sportsbet
UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Green Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Rong Zhu vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Josiane Nunes vs. Ramona Pascual
Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Hannah Goldy
Alejandro Perez vs. Jonathan Martinez
Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Micheal Gillmore
Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Hernández
About the Author: Ross Cole
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process. You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.