pat sabatini ufc

UFC 295 takes place at Madison Square Garden this Saturday and opening the main card will be the featherweights as Pat Sabatini takes on Diego Lopes.

Diego Lopes quickly became a fan favorite with his signature hairdo and more so after nearly upsetting Movsar Evloev on short notice at UFC 288. His opponent, Pat Sabatini, was viewed as one of the top prospects in the division before a knockout loss to Damon Jackson in 2022. In his return in June of this year, he earned a dominant victory over Lucas Almeida that has put him back in contention for a shot at the rankings should he earn a win this weekend.

Sabatini vs Lopes Betting Odds

The line has been nearly even since it opened with Sabatini being a slight favorite.

  • Pat Sabatini: -120 (BetUS)
  • Diego Lopes: -110 (BetUS)

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Sabatini vs Lopes Fight Breakdown

Saturday night will be Diego Lopes’s third UFC bout and already his second main card appearance on a pay-per-view. The 28 year old is 1-1 in the promotion and 22-6 overall with 20 of those wins coming by way of stoppage. Lopes has found success mostly with his submissions in the UFC, giving Movsar Evloev a few scares in their short notice bout at UFC 288 and submitting Gavin Tucker in under two minutes his last time out.

The grappling of Lopes is dangerous regardless if he’s in the dominant position. He doesn’t rely a lot on his takedown defense because he’s so confident off his back with his submissions and for good reason. Off his back, he utilizes his legs in his guard and is constantly throwing them up towards the shoulders of his opponent, waiting for them to react and attacking armbars, leg locks, triangles, and pretty much any other submission you can imagine.

From the top position, Diego looks just as dominant. He has quick transitions and rains down ground n pound to again draw out defensive reactions from his opponent so he can pick a submission and attack. He does get a bit too reliant on these submissions when he’s in the defensive position and when he doesn’t get the tap, it can come back to hurt him. As he targets different submissions, he allows his opponent to do damage from the top position and, if he’s facing a grappler who can keep themselves out of any serious danger, he’ll drop these rounds because he chose to attack submissions over trying to return to his feet.

When Diego Lopes is standing, he’s more than willing to engage in the striking. He has a good straight right hand from orthodox but can be inconsistent with it and swing wildly if his opponent throws first. He has a tendency to back out of range initially before covering up and taking the shots to his guard where they often find their way through. He’s tough and fires back heavy counter shots but as he gets deeper in the fight, these strikes become slower and easier to avoid. He does have a good right kick as well that he used to target the leg and body early but seemed to abandon after round one against Evloev.

His opponent, Pat Sabatini, is another high level grappler with five wins in the UFC. Sabatini is a tremendous wrestler with heavy top control and ground n pound. He’s very good at staying safe when he’s in top position and advances positions smoothly. He has good submissions but likes to throw punches and elbows until his opponent gives up their back where he latches in the body triangle and attacks the choke.

The takedowns of Pat Sabatini are some of the best in the featherweight division. He has a variety of ways to get his opponent down but his best work comes along the fence where he can work for underhooks and grab the body lock. This negates the upper half of his opponent’s defense as he methodically wraps up their legs and works for trips that often see him land in half guard. If he isn’t getting the takedowns along the cage, he relies either on timing his opponent’s entries or dipping his head and looping some heavy strikes before shooting for the hips.

The strength of Sabatini lies in his grappling but on the feet, he’s capable of doing some good damage. He mainly fights from the conventional stance but likes to go southpaw to blast the left kick to the open side of fellow orthodox fighters. His punches are often counter hooks that he throws after level changing which opens up the counter takedowns later on. This constant up and down movement can get a little telegraphed and was a large part of his knockout loss to Damon Jackson. Though he likes to time his opponent’s kicks and catch them for takedowns, he can be caught by these same strikes.

Diego Lopes should be ready to defend the takedowns of Sabatini in this matchup. Though Lopes has good submissions off his back, Sabatini does a very good job of keeping his opponent out of positions where they can do so. He controls wrists constantly and often lands his takedowns in side control where he’ll negate a majority of Diego’s submissions. If we’re to go off of previous performances, Lopes will welcome a fight off his back if and when Pat shoots for a takedown.

For Sabatini, he’ll likely find plenty of takedown opportunities due to the reactions of Lopes on the feet. Diego can freeze up to feints and level changes which often leads to him getting tagged or taken down. If he can take advantage of those opportunities to get in tight and clinch with Lopes, he can work towards taking him down along the fence to avoid the guard.

Sabatini vs Lopes prediction

Lopes will have a legitimate shot of winning this one if he can keep this on the feet and force Sabatini to strike at range. However, even if he’s able to keep Sabatini off of him early, the gas tank of Lopes begins to deplete after round one while Pat Sabatini can fight at a high pace for a full fifteen minutes. As the fight goes on, it’ll be easier for Pat to find openings to land heavy shots before finding a takedown. Sabatini’s top pressure and wrist control from half guard should negate the submission game of Lopes and force him to rely on returning to his feet (which isn’t something we’ve seen him attempt too much). I like Sabatini to get it done by submission or decision, but with the odds nearly even, I’ll take him on the moneyline.

Prediction: Pat Sabatini to win (-120 at BetUS)

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