One of the most experienced men at 155 pounds, Bobby Green, will step up versus Combat Sambo master, Islam Makhachev, this Saturday (Feb. 26, 2022) at UFC Vegas 49 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
If I know just one thing about the fight game, it’s this: Bobby Green is awesome.
Previously, I’ve compared the resurgence of “King” as a lesser version of Jorge Masvidal’s career renaissance. Like “Gamebred,” Green has been a hugely skilled fighter for about as long as anyone can remember, but a certain x-factor was missing that prevented him from consistently beating great fighters, though he did rise well into the Top 10 back in 2014. At 35 years of age, something has clicked. Green is sharper than ever, and throwing in a higher volume than ever before. He’s noticeably more dangerous, and now, he’s hunting for his Ben Askren moment ...
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Green has one of the more unique striking styles in mixed martial arts (MMA), one that relies heavily on his boxing skill to keep him safe. Notably, he often makes use of the Philly shell — or at least, the closest MMA equivalent — for defense, hiding behind his lead shoulder with his right hand glued to his temple and rolling with punches.
Lots of fighters keep their hands low at distance, when there’s lot of time to move away or read an opponent’s attack. Far fewer do so in the pocket, and the group that is actually difficult to hit is even slimmer still.
That’s why Bobby Green stands out.
There is, of course, method to Green’s style, as should be expected from a man with 42 professional fights. Green drops his hands and postures to draw out his opponent’s offense with the intent of countering. If they refuse to take the bait, Green is happy to work behind his jab, looking to split the guard and dig the body. When leading, Green does a lot of work lining up the cross, commonly doubling up the jab before trying to find his opening through or around the guard. In general, Green is great at attacking what’s open, rather than forcing a strike into the guard.
What’s interesting about Green’s active range boxing — that trickery of poking high and low with the jab, threading the power hand, occasionally hooking off the jab — is that he can do it with equal fluidity and craft from either stance (GIF). Again, lots of fighters switch stances, but few can flick a jab, show off good defense (rather than just back off), and fire back from their non-dominant stance.
Green can flow from either.
Green largely does his best work from his back foot against opponents attempting to walk him down, a notable example being the smackdown he laid on Nasrat Haqparast just a couple weeks ago. Green is so successful from his back foot as a result of his footwork, which allows him to constantly line up straight shots.
While moving backward, Green is always taking little angles, either by switching stances or by taking small L-steps to one side of the other. Simultaneously, Green is shifting where his weights at, often keeping his head balanced over one leg or the other. As his opponent follows, Green is looking for a chance to snap a jab or cross, depending on which of his shoulders is closest to his foe’s chin. In addition, Green can quickly pull his head from one leg to the other, meaning he’s ready to slip if his opponent fires first.
Often, this slip and fire occur at the same time (GIF).
There are also offensive benefits to keeping one’s hands low. When Green fires his jab from the back foot, it often catches his opponent beneath the chin, raising their jawline. This has a couple consequences, both of which are positive for Green. For one, it’s difficult to fluidly continue a combination after getting jaw-jacked, so if his foe does keep throwing after taking a crisp jab, Green has an additional half-second to react. In addition, if the jab freezes his foe with his chin raised, he’s likely to absorb the follow-up cross in the mush of his face.
In addition to interrupting his opponent with straight shots, Green will also look to slip inside and come over the top with his right hand, the classic cross counter. Lastly, Green will occasionally stop his movement and angle-chasing to stand his ground and fire back hard, an effective change in rhythm that can produce big collisions (GIF).
A solid percentage of Green’s offense comes in the form of punches, but the rest of his kickboxing arsenal is solid. On the whole, Green tends to kick more often when he switches Southpaw. Against a right-handed opponent, Green will rip the inside thigh well or attack the liver.
There are defensive risks to Green’s style, of course. For one, his boxing-oriented head movement can leave his legs vulnerable to low kicks, though he typically wears the damage well. In addition, Green’s shoulder rolling and low hand position occasionally sees him misread the situation and lean into a blow.
Notably, Dustin Poirier shifted stances and doubled up on one side, catching Green leaning backward and out of position to absorb the blow.
A high school wrestler, Green does not limit himself to being a boxer. Green will shoot for takedowns, and historically, he’s scrambly as hell and difficult to control on the canvas. In fact, Green’s resurgence beginning in 2020 also coincides with a more active offensive wrestling game.
A fair percentage of Green’s takedowns come when his opponent tries to shoot on him, at which point Green is happy to reengage with his own offense. Sometimes, that means Green stuffs a double leg, works off the fence, then changes levels against the cage himself. Perhaps a bit more often, Green will work from the upper body clinch, fighting for underhooks until he’s able to secure a body lock. Once there, Green looks to win the outside knee position and slam his opponent to the canvas.
Green has slammed talented wrestlers from the body lock, it’s definitely a strength.
Of course, ahead of this match up versus Makhachev, defense is the more pivotal issue. Fortunately for anyone betting on the underdog, Green has defended a stout 72 percent of the takedowns he’s faced, and he rarely offers up much control time on bottom. This is the first true wrestling specialist Green has faced since Jacob Volkmann way back in 2013, however, so Makhachev is definitely a different challenge.
Speaking of Volkmann, Green’s third round rear-naked choke opposite the would-be presidential candidate is his most recent submission win. In that bout, Green was taken down a few times, but he consistently forced Volkmann to work incredibly hard to hold onto him. By the third, Volkmann’s tank was empty. Green denied a shot, took his back, and strangled him.
Outside of that win, Green has really only shown front chokes inside the Octagon. When his opponents hang around his legs for a bit too long, Green will start wrapping up the neck, often with the intent of forcing them to change position rather than jumping guard.
Green is a well-rounded and talented fighter who appears to be in great shape even on short-notice. It may not be ideal circumstances, but this is Green’s moment to completely change his position at 155 pounds and finally put himself in title contention.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
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