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UFC Vegas 49 preview, ‘Makhachev vs. Green’ predictions

UFC Fight Night: Open Workouts Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the APEX facility this Sat. night (Feb. 26, 2022) for the UFC Vegas 49 mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card, which now features a brand-new lightweight main event between streaking 155-pound contender Islam Makhachev and grizzled division veteran Bobby Green. Makhachev was originally scheduled to bang with fellow lightweight contender Beneil Dariush; however, a late injury put an end to that booking and opened the door for “King” to step in, just two weeks removed from his UFC 271 victory over Nasrat Haqparast.

LIVE! Stream UFC San Diego On ESPN+

PIVOTAL BANTAMWEIGHT CLASH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to San Diego, Calif., on Sat., Aug. 13, 2022, for the first time since 2015 with a pivotal battle between top-ranked Bantamweight contenders that will see No. 5-ranked Marlon Vera take on former champion and No. 8-seeded Dominick Cruz. In San Diego’s co-main event, Nate Landwehr and David Onama will collide in a Featherweight showdown between dynamic 145-pound hopefuls.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the middleweight showdown between Latvian bruiser Misha Cirkunov and Brazilian banger Wellington Turman, check out Patrick Stumberg’s point-by-point UFC Vegas 49 preliminary card breakdowns here and here. In addition, resident MMA hero Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 49 main card right here.

For the latest “Makhachev vs. Green” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s get to work.

155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green

Islam Makhachev

Record: 21-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -720
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.21 | Striking accuracy: 58%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 0.79 | Striking Defense: 70%
Takedown Average: 3.37 (68% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 88%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Submission win over Dan Hooker

Bobby “King” Green

Record: 29-12-1 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +500
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 8 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.93 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.65 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 1.36 (38% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 72%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Nasrat Haqparast

I know all the cool kids are taking a big steaming shit on Islam Makhachev but he deserves just as much credit as Bobby Green for saving the UFC Vegas 49 main event, which nearly dissolved after a late injury to Beneil Dariush. It’s a risky fight because defeating the unranked Green doesn’t guarantee him the next shot at the lightweight championship — soon to be decided between Charles Oliveira (c) and Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 — because “King” is unranked and a massive betting underdog. In addition, a loss validates the Doubting Thomases and sends Makhachev to the back of the line for the foreseeable future. The Dagestani grappler earned his spot in the Top 5 of the division by winning nine straight, five of them by way of stoppage, but much like Leon Edwards at 170 pounds, Makhachev was able to circumnavigate some of the lightweight landmines in the Top 10, including Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje, just to name a few. Dariush was a satisfactory springboard as far as I’m concerned and now that opportunity has gone by the wayside, as well. Defeating Green will be another mark in the win column, but it will do little to answer many of the questions we had about Makhachev’s place among the 155-pound elite.

Bobby Green wants to be known as the lightweight “BMF” because he’s stepping up on short notice to face a very dangerous opponent. Sometimes it feels weird celebrating when an athlete does what they’re paid to do, like hearing thunderous applause when a fighter makes weight. Green has an opportunity to vault himself into title contention, bag his second payday this month, and completely revitalize his brand. To be frank, he’d be a total moron to turn this fight down. If he loses ... so what? Green is a +500 underdog and still gets some shine for being a short-notice stud. That kind of freedom will actually play to his favor because it affords “King” the flexibility to fight loose inside the cage. Let’s face it, all the pressure is on Makhachev (and for good reason). Green has been with the promotion for over nine years and hasn’t really done anything to move him up the ladder; however, “King” has bagged five performance bonuses during his tenure which is why UFC has made a concerted effort to keep him around. Expect more of the same on Saturday night in Vegas.

This fight has all the makings of an upset and I will admit to getting caught up in the Green machine. For the purposes of this column, I have to separate that buzz from the metrics we have to work with. Makhachev comes from a great camp, splitting his time between Eagles MMA and American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). He’s also been nearly perfect inside the cage, and if you want to exhume his long buried loss to Adriano Martins, you can’t then overlook the struggles Green had against hot-and-cold journeymen like Thiago Moises — who was two for three on takedowns against the lightweight “King.” That’s really what this fight boils down to — with only two weeks to prepare. Lando Vannata and Clay Guida had great success when wrestling Green and I expect Makhachev will, as well. It’s what happens in between those ground exchanges that will make or break the former Strikeforce “Challenger,” who turns 36 in September. I’m not sure a decision win over the unranked Nasrat Haqparast or a technical knockout finish over a washed Al Iaquinta is enough to pick the underdog. Makhachev is favored for a reason and I believe he’s here to make a statement, not unlike the one he made against Dan Hooker.

Prediction: Makhachev def. Green by submission

185 lbs.: Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman

Misha Cirkunov

Record: 15-7 | Age: 34 | Betting line: -125
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 4 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.77 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.08 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 4.48 (44% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 70%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split decision loss to Krzysztof Jotko

Wellington Turman

Record: 17-5 | Age: 25 | Betting line: +105
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.04 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.96 | Striking Defense: 43%
Takedown Average: 2.22 (22% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split decision win over Sam Alvey

When Beneil Dariush got injured there was a brief moment where I thought UFC might promote this middleweight showdown to the UFC Vegas 49 main event, much like they did for Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill when Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev was yanked from last week’s offering. Thankfully, Bobby Green stepped up to save the day because Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman is not worthy of a main event. It might not even make co-main event status but in the era of ESPN+ and weekly fight cards, the promotion has to look outside the Top 15. And just as a side note: I can’t be the only one who heard “Wellington Turman” and expected some kind of British aristocrat with a top hat and curly mustache — only to find out the former welterweight was born in Curitiba, Brazil. I know this has nothing to do with the fights but A) I have to hit a certain word count and B) you people are the only friends I have, so who else am I going to share this crap with? Anyway, What happens in this co-headliner won’t impact the Top 15 but it could spell doom for either Turman or Cirkunov.

The Latvian lug jumped out to a 4-0 run under the UFC banner with four finishes and even had famed knockout artist Anthony Johnson looking over his shoulder, a streak good enough to land him at No. 8 in the official rankings. Then came a one-punch knockout loss to fellow contender Volkan Oezdemir and Cirkunov has never been the same. If you include his first-rounder against “No Time,” Cirkunov is just 2-5 since his hot start and got stopped in four of those five losses. At age 34, I’m not sure he’s in a position to make another run regardless of how he performs this weekend in “Sin City.” The optimist in me believes the promotion will give Turman another chance considering he’s just 25; but let’s face it, his UFC record leaves a lot to be desired and a loss against Cirkunov could be his last. The Brazilian has five fights inside the Octagon and has only managed a 2-3 record, though I’m not sure anyone is breaking out the party hats for a split-decision victory over the free-falling Sam Alvey. It’s also concerning that Turman holds consecutive knockout losses to Andrew Sanchez and Bruno Silva, because Cirkunov — even with his recent woes — still hits like a Mack truck.

It’s hard to feel confident in a Cirkunov pick based on what we’ve seen over the last few years. That said, I feel even less confident in picking Turman, a former welterweight who gives up a whopping five inches in reach and three inches in height. Tipping the scale at 185 pounds at the official weigh ins does not make you the same size and Cirkunov is built like a brick shithouse. Turman is a crafty submission specialist but in order to implement his ground game he must first get this fight to the floor. I believe he will, just not the way he was expecting.

Prediction: Cirkunov def. Turman by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 49 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 49 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 49 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Makhachev vs. Green” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.