UFC Fight Night 202: Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green staff predictions, picks, odds
Bobby Green steps in on short notice to face Islam Makhachev tonight at UFC Fight Night 202 at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Makhachev was expected to fight Beneil Dariush but Dariush withdrew from the main event bout after injuring his ankle last week.
Green is the replacement fighter and returns to action just two weeks after defeating Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271. This weekend’s fight will be contested at a catchweight of 160 pounds.
See our full Makhachev vs. Green staff predictions and the latest betting odds below.
- Makhachev: -800
- Green: +550
Although both men are complete martial artists, their specialties definitely clash in a fight that leans towards the striker vs. grappler archetype. Bobby Green’s best elements surround his boxing game, and the weapons outside of this are typically used to direct the fight to this area. For example, Green’s kicking game is not one that typically looks to cause much damage in itself, his use of stomps to the knee and teeps are not impactful shots but they disrupt momentum and range while frustrating his opponents. Their real purpose is to draw out counters so that Green can engage in boxing exchanges, where he is likely the best at using pure head movement and upper body management to evade while maintaining range and countering with a variety of punching techniques. He is a southpaw who keeps his hands low, his confidence in his head movement makes it easy for him to throw punches upwards at angles difficult to read, especially because he is rarely the one constantly pressing forward, instead countering off of the backfoot as he lets his opponents advance.
Expect Makhachev to be the one using more forward movement, but also utilizing a lot of kicks. He has good basic striking everywhere but not at the educated level of Green in the pocket. One of Makhachev’s better weapons is his left kick, often to the body but also to the leg and head. Green stands heavy on the lead leg so attacking the leg and body will be imperative.
That being said, his striking is for the most part used to set up the takedown or extended in order to gain enough respect that the takedown can come less expected eventually. Makhachev’s takedowns span a wide variety but notably are his inside trips from the body lock, as well as his ability to transition from the deep single leg into elevation and then the outside trip. When on top Makhachev has immense pressure, he stays tight to the chest giving his opponent no room to elevate his upper body, essentially maintaining the pin. He leaves no room as he passes the guard which often leads to his opponents over-exerting their movement in an attempt to get anywhere, which allows Makhachev to then float and maintain top position and transition to submissions. Basically, Makhachev is a master at implementing so much pressure his opponents make mistakes that he can then capitalize on by releasing that pressure. Unlike his teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov whom he is constantly compared to, ground and pound is less an important element of Makhachev’s game as he leans a bit more towards going with a pure grappling style once the fight hits the mat.
Bobby Green’s chances will be catching Makhachev as he tries to close the distance. For him, because kicking isn’t a large part of his game he can focus on his base and staying heavy enough to sprawl while trying to catch Makhachev, however, Makhachev’s chain wrestling will make things difficult as Green will have to constantly adapt to the style of takedown being thrown at him. Overall, while Makhachev may have to work through more adversity than he has yet to in the UFC, I still think at some point over the main event fight, he manages to get the fight to the ground where he wins.
Prediction: Islam Makhachev to win
Makhachev went from being one of the most feared, hyped up, and exciting lightweights in the division to taking a backseat in popularity and coverage in this fight. That is because he is facing one of the most game opponents in the division- Bobby Green. “King” fought a mere 2 weeks ago where he outclassed a highly-touted prospect in Haqparast. Then, when Dariush had to drop out of the fight due to injury, Green stepped up to fight a man in Makhachev that many fighters have reportedly ducked with full-fight camps. It’s clear to see why Green is gaining so much fanfare ahead of his first UFC Main Event.
From a technical perspective, on paper, this fight is more interesting than the lopsided odds suggest. Green, as showcased 2 weeks ago, has crisp boxing, a lightning-quick jab, and the cardio to push a high pace for all 3 rounds. Even in a 5-round fight, his cardio and volume should continue. More importantly, in this matchup, is Green’s defensive wrestling and take-down defense. He has a solid wrestling background and holds a 72% takedown defense in the UFC. As we saw recently, Green strikes like a boxer- high volume, in combination, and most of his shots follow a stiff jab that helps him keep his range. Further, his defensive head movement, relying mainly on shoulder rolls, allows him to strike from odd angles. Lastly, because of Green’s boxing style, he keeps a wide and low base that allows him to stick his punches; but, also, combined with his low hands, be in prime position to defend takedowns. Like I said, on paper, Green is an interesting matchup for Makhachev.
Unfortunately, this fight is taking place on a canvas, not paper. On canvas, Makhachev has done little to create doubt in his abilities. His striking is focused more on defense and setting up takedowns than it is on inflicting damage. Makhachev will strike from range, minimally, and snap out leg kicks regularly to hone in his range. Once that range is set, Makhachev suddenly and explosively shoots a takedown. From here, the fight is all but over. Time and time again we’ve seen the same outcome, Makhachev locks his hands, gets his opponent to the mat, and then finds the finish. In the UFC, only 5 fighters have bucked this trend, and 4 still lost by decision. So long as Makhachev isn’t baited into an ill-advised striking match with Green, his patch toward the belt should be uninterrupted.
I am one of the biggest Bobby Green supporters you’ll find and have happily cashed winning tickets on his last two fights. However, in this matchup, Makhachev is simply too much. I fully believe Makhachev wouldn’t just beat but would be favored over every lightweight in the UFC. He is that great. Green, although commended for taking the last-second fight, doesn’t have much of a chance here. I see Makhachev getting the fight to the mat early, round 1 or 2, and getting the submission finish soon after.
Prediction: Makhachev by submission
Islam Makhachev has and continues to be, a perceived future titleholder of what is arguably the toughest division in the UFC. His impressive 21-1 record combined with the knowledge of him being Khabib’s protégé is perhaps all that is needed to explain why so many view him as the most dangerous lightweight currently in the UFC. As one would expect for a protégé of Khabib, Islam has elite wrestling. Once on the ground, the resemblance to Khabib begins to separate, as Islam often uses ground and pound to set up a submission – 10 of his 13 finishes have come via submission. This slight difference on the ground is accompanied by a slightly larger difference on the feet when compared to Khabib, as Islam has a greater affinity to remain in a striking affair, as he is quite confident in throwing kicks to all levels and landing his hands in a straight down the barrel action. For fans of Islam, his impressive striking with evident elite grappling is what makes him the elite fighter he is. For individuals who love the Khabib-style of success, Islam’s striking attributes present a liability in the octagon, as he is far more willing to strike than Khabib did, even though Daniel Cormier, a close friend, and former training partner of each, has stated that in a strict, non-octagon style of wrestling, Islam would likely beat his cousin Khabib. This viewpoint of wishing he would seek grappling right away over establishing success on the feet is perhaps the only negative of Islam, given he is truly elite with near title-holder written all over him.
Bobby Green is taking the Islam fight on short notice, having fought and won just two weeks ago. Taking a fight on short notice combined with having just been a 15-minute fight is extremely impressive in its own right; but, when the added point of the opponent being viewed as the most dangerous fighter in the lightweight division, the result is Green gaining the respect and admiration of the MMA community. Having the utmost respect for Green is expanded to include his style as a fighter, as he puts forth a consistent and competitive style each and every time he enters the octagon. During his fights, Green uses a boxing style that is quite unique, as he stands with his hands completely down, fully trusting his head movement will negate strikes thrown by his opponent. The benefit of the style is throwing punches from a direction that is hard to see. This, combined with throwing at an impressive frequency given his cardio is off the charts, enables him to have great success in a standing affair. Often, his fights remain standing, given Green possesses strong takedown defense – 72%. In this bout, the critical component for Green is if he can keep the fight standing over a 5-found affair; if so, he will have the best chance to keep the fight competitive against the elite prospect in Islam.
Bobby Green’s consistency as a fighter, both in terms of cardio and output, parlayed with his demonstrated no-fear approach to fighting, results in him being one of my favorite fighters to bet on. The issue is that Islam Makhachev has next-level skills, to the point I believe he will be the likely champion of the lightweight division come to the end of 2022. For this specific bout, I anticipate the first round to be quite competitive, with each man having success in exchanges on the feet. As the fight ensues, Islam will, yes will, secure a takedown. Once on the mat, Islam possesses a significant difference in skills when compared to Green, as such, I expect him to earn a finish. Islam by finish is currently a -230; Islam by submission is currently priced at even money. Given the price disparity accompanied with Islam finishing 10 of his 13 fights by submission, results in the single-fight, nor parlay play, being Islam by submission.
Bet: Islam by Sub