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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 60: Makhachev vs. Green

Getting prepared for UFC action this Saturday? Here’s everything you need to know in our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 60: Makhachev vs. Green.

UFC on ESPN+ 60
Date: February 26, 2022
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+

160 lb. Catchweights- #4 LW Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green

Overall Records: Makhachev 21-1, Green 29-12-1
UFC Records: Makhachev 10-1, Green 10-7-1
Last Fight: Makhachev def. Hooker–R1 SUB–UFC 267 (10/30/21), Green def. Haqparast–UDec–UFC 271 (2/12/22)
Last Five Fights: Makhachev 5-0, Green 3-2
Betting Odds: Makhachev -900, Green +600
Background: The main event isn’t what is was supposed to be two weeks ago, but it’s still an interesting fight as Green steps up on ten days’ notice when a lot of other fighters wouldn’t to take on the ultra-tough Makhachev in a pivotal bout that will take place at a 160 lb. catchweight. Makhachev was originally slated to fight Beneil Dariush in what many thought would be a title eliminator here, but Dariush suffered a leg injury that forced him out. Several other ranked lightweights were called, but Green, who just fought at UFC 271 on February 12, was the first guy to step up, despite the fact he was on vacation and already up to 195 lbs. when the call came. Makhachev didn’t have to take the fight, but he’s on a nine-fight win streak and very close to a title shot, and turning it down would’ve affected that status. Makhachev is coming off a dominant 2021 campaign, scoring submission finishes of Dan Hooker, Thiago Moises and Drew Dober, and this will be his fourth fight in the last eleven months. Green has been even more active, as this will be his fourth fight in just six months as he looks to extend his two-fight win streak. He scored a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast just two weeks ago, arguably his best performance inside the Octagon, and many, myself included, were clamoring for him to get a main event spot next, or at least a high-profile bout next. No one saw it coming two weeks later, but Green has that old school mentality of saying yes whenever a fight offer comes in, whether it’s on ten weeks’ notice or ten days’ notice like this one.

How they match up: Stylistically, this is a much worse match-up for Makhachev, and a dangerous one at that. Green has a style of constantly coming forward and throwing strikes, keeping his hands low at all times, and talking trash to you while he is on the offense. He is going to have the speed edge on the feet over Makhachev, and his craftiness could keep Makhachev from getting a groove going. Makhachev likes to stalk his opponents on the feet and use pressure to set up takedowns, but Green is going to be the one coming forward, though Makhachev doesn’t get hit a lot. Makhachev’s primary offense is going to be the takedown and smothering on the mat, but Green has a strong grappling game that is often overlooked. He is very hard to take down, defending 72% of takedowns attempted on him, and he’s only been submitted twice in his career, both times coming in 2009. Makhachev does have grappling at a level Green might have never seen, but Green is still going to be difficult to maneuver around the Octagon. Conditioning could come into play here. Makhachev does tend to fade later in fights, and Green has an outstanding gas tank and going 25 minutes under normal circumstances would be no issue for him. However, on ten days’ notice and having to cut a lot of weight, it could impact Green’s gas tank. Makhachev is a massive favorite, and there’s money to be made on Green there, and it’s a much closer fight than the odds are giving it, despite the late notice. I still see Makhachev scoring the win, but it isn’t going to be easy.

What’s at stake: Makhachev surely will be next to challenge for the UFC Lightweight Championship should he score a win here. I mean, he has to, right? It would be ten straight wins and he would be the highest-ranked fighter yet to get a title shot. However, his coach, Javier Mendez, isn’t overly confident about that as he thinks Conor McGregor will get a title shot over Makhachev. I doubt it, but Makhachev has to leave no doubt that he’s next. A loss would cripple him, though. Green is in a freeroll position here. No one really expects him to win, but he has every opportunity to be able to do so. A win would shoot him from the outside of the rankings well into the top ten, and possibly into the top five. It would also put him on track to possibly getting a title shot, something that seemed improbable just six months ago. Green has everything to gain here, and absolutely nothing to lose, while Makhachev has everything in the world to lose.

Pick: Makhachev

Middleweights- Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman

Overall Records: Cirkunov 15-7, Turman 17-5
UFC Records: Cirkunov 6-5, Turman 2-3
Last Fight: Jotko def. Cirkunov–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21), Turman def. Alvey–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)
Last Five Fights: Cirkunov 2-3, Turman 2-3
Betting Odds: Cirkunov -120, Turman +100
Background: A middleweight bout takes place in the co-main event slot as Cirkunov welcomes the short-notice challenge of Turman in this one. Turman took this fight on about four weeks’ notice after Makhmud Muradov was forced out due to a hand injury. It’s kind of a quick turnaround for Turman, who was scheduled to compete at UFC 270 on January 22, but his fight against Rodolfo Vieira was cancelled the night before weigh-ins. Cirkunov is making his second appearance at middleweight as he looks to end a two-fight losing skid. He started his UFC career off with an impressive 4-0 run that saw him become a title contender at light heavyweight, but has gone 2-5 in his last seven, and hopes that a win at middleweight here will turn his career around to where he can make a fresh title run in a new division. Turman is gunning for his second straight win after scoring a decision over Sam Alvey in August, though he was lucky to escape with the win after being deducted multiple points due to repeated eye pokes during the fight. His UFC career has been up-and-down, as he’s just 2-3 in the promotion, but he still has potential at 25-years-old.

How they match up: Cirkunov comes from a solid background as he has experience in wrestling, judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and can mix it all well when he’s at his best. However, his run of bad luck at light heavyweight saw four losses by knockout, all in the first round, all in less than three minutes, with three in 71 seconds or less. It made him a patient fighter in his middleweight debut, but he didn’t do much against Krzysztof Jotko in the loss. He has to do more here and Turman is a favorable match-up for him. Turman likes to fight in the clinch and he likes to try the takedown where he can smother from the top. He’s only connected on 22% of his takedown attempts, though he has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon. His striking leaves a lot to be desired and Cirkunov is going to have a five-inch reach advantage here. Turman has to find a shot quick and early to win this one as his strengths play into the much stronger strengths of Cirkunov. Turman is going to want to play on the ground, but Cirkunov is a strong submission fighter as he has eight wins by submission, including five of his six UFC wins. I see Cirkunov almost baiting Turman to the mat before submitting him inside the first two rounds.

What’s at stake: Honestly, there’s an argument a roster spot could be on the line in this one. They are trimming the roster at the moment, maybe not at the rate they were at one point last year, but cuts are always being made, especially when you consider new editions of The Ultimate Fighter and Dana White’s Contender Series are coming. A loss for Cirkunov would move him to 2-6 over his last eight, which wouldn’t be good for a guy who was a title threat years ago. A Turman loss would move him to 2-4 during his UFC career. Turman might have a longer leash since he’s 25-years-old while Cirkunov turns 35 the day after the fights on Sunday. This is a must-win for both.

Pick: Cirkunov

Women’s Flyweights- Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira

Overall Records: Kim 9-4-2, Cachoeira 10-4
UFC Records: Kim 3-4, Cachoeira 2-4
Last Fight: McCann def. Kim–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 49 (9/4/21), Robertson def. Cachoeira–R1 SUB–UFC 269 (12/11/21)
Last Five Fights: Kim 2-3, Cachoeira 2-3
Betting Odds: Kim -160, Cachoeira +140
Background: A women’s flyweight bout that, if I’m being honest, I have a hard time seeing being worthy of the main card takes place here as Kim and Cachoeira both look to get back into the win column. Kim was supposed to fight in January against Poliana Botelho, but Botelho pulled out just over a week before the fight, and Kim was quickly re-booked into this bout. She enters this looking to end a two-fight losing skid after losing a decision to Molly McCann in September. Kim has actually lost three of her last four, so this is a big fight for her. Cachoeira gets a surprising quick turnaround in this one and she likely knows she needs to win. She’s coming off a first-round submission loss to Gillian Robertson in December in controversial fashion. Cachoeira gouged the eyes of Robertson multiple times during the fight, a blatant violation of the rules, and many thought she should be cut after the fight for doing so. She wasn’t, with a lot of it likely having to do with taking this short-notice fight, and she’s been very vocal about those who called for her release after that incident, so she isn’t doing herself many favors. She has just two wins in her six UFC appearances.

How they match up: Cachoeira is honestly one of the worst fighters on the roster, but she has been capable of picking up a couple of wins due to some solid punching power and decent cardio. She gets hit a lot and her striking defense is very poor, and she’s not very accurate on the feet either. She is durable, so she should get credit for that. Kim’s recent struggles have come in fights against very solid wrestlers, so battling a striker like Cachoeira may be what she needs to get back into a groove. She’s a scrapper with some good durability, and she likes to do some damage in the clinch. She will also have a seven-inch reach advantage over Cachoeira. Neither are going to be major takedown threats as neither has scored a single takedown inside the Octagon. It’ll come down to who gets the edges on the feet, and from a pure striking standpoint, Kim is more talented. She should be able to land more and make it a difficult night for Cachoeira.

What’s at stake: This is a must-win fight for both, as there is a strong case the loser could be on their way off the roster, much like several fights on this card. I absolutely think Cachoeira should be cut with a loss- she should’ve been cut after the eye gouging incident, and if you couple that with the recent domestic violence charges against her, another loss should signal the end. A loss for Kim would make her 1-4 over her last five, and that might just not be enough to cut it in the flyweight division. This is a must-win for both.

Pick: Kim

Lightweights- #13 Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez

Overall Records: Tsarukyan 17-2, Alvarez 19-2
UFC Records: Tsarukyan 4-1, Alvarez 4-1
Last Fight: Tsarukyan def. Giagos–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 50 (9/18/21), Alvarez def. Moises–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Tsarukyan 4-1, Alvarez 4-1
Betting Odds: Tsarukyan -220, Alvarez +180
Background: This is honestly the second-best fight on the card and really should be the co-main event as it’s a battle between two lightweight prospects where the winner could put themselves right into the title mix. Both men come into the fight with 4-1 records and four straight wins inside the Octagon. Tsarukyan has found himself ranked inside the top 15 at lightweight, as he’s the 13th-ranked UFC lightweight. He debuted in April 2019 in a losing effort to Islam Makhachev, which was only the second loss in his career and first since 2015. He’s won four straight since then and is coming off a first-round finish of Christos Giagos in September. Alvarez also debuted in 2019, dropping a decision to Damir Ismagulov, his second career loss and first since 2015. He also has won four straight since, with all four coming by finish, three inside the first round. He’s coming off a first-round finish of Thiago Moises in November. The only issue with Alvarez has been the fact he’s missed weight for his last two fights, which has likely been the only thing keeping him from being ranked at lightweight.

How they match up: The size between these two is going to be noticeable right from the get-go. Alvarez is eight inches taller than Tsarukyan and will also have a five-inch reach advantage. Both like to use their size in fights, as both tend to cut a lot of weight to fight at lightweight. Alvarez will probably have the overall size edge in this one and he will definitely have the power edge in this fight. Tsarukyan has a strong wrestling game, which he showed off in taking Matt Frevola down ten times when they fought, but it’s something he’s going to need to have awareness of in this one. If he lunges in from deep for a takedown, it is quite possible that Alvarez could find a fight-ending strike or turn it into a submission. Alvarez has 16 submission wins, and, in fact, he has only gone the distance once in his career, which was the loss to Ismagulov. However, Tsarukyan has strong enough wrestling to where he can put Alvarez on his back often, and Alvarez could have lots of trouble from it. This will come down to where each man can keep the fight- a battle on the feet favors Alvarez and a grappling battle goes to Tsarukyan. It’s a high-level fight but I like Tsarukyan in this one.

What’s at stake: The winner of this one is going to find themselves right in the title picture in the lightweight division. Not only would it be five straight wins for the winner, but a spot in the rankings will happen, or, in the case of Tsarukyan, he could move inside the top ten considering he’s already 13th in the division. The winner should get a high-profile fight next, possibly in a main event status, while the loser shouldn’t fall too far down the ladder. This is a very strong fight and it should be a very good one.

Pick: Tsarukyan

Middleweights- Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues

Overall Records: Petrosyan 6-1, Rodrigues 11-3
UFC Records: Petrosyan 0-0, Rodrigues 2-0
Last Fight: Petrosyan def. Kolev–R1 KO–Dana White’s Contender Series 44 (10/19/21), Rodrigues def. Park–R2 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Petrosyan 4-1, Rodrigues 4-1
Betting Odds: Petrosyan +135, Rodrigues -155
Background: A middleweight bout kicks off the main card as Petrosyan makes his UFC debut against Rodrigues, who will be making his third appearance inside the Octagon. Petrosyan earned his UFC contract on this past season of Dana White’s Contender Series when he scored a first-round knockout of Kaloyan Kolev. It was just his seventh career MMA fight, but he’s scored six wins, with all six coming by knockout, three inside the first round. He’s been fighting as a light heavyweight, a division he was under-sized in, and he drops to a more natural 185 lbs. in this one. Rodrigues comes into this fight riding a four-fight win streak, including wins in his first two UFC bouts over Dusko Todorovic and Jun Yong Park. He’s scored nine of his eleven professional wins via stoppage, with five knockout wins and four submission wins. He had a very active 2021, fighting four times and competing in some late-year grappling tournaments.

How they match up: Petrosyan is a kickboxer with a lot of power in his hands and feet. He has tons of Muay Thai experience and a really crisp stand-up game. He also has shown that he can handle losing the wrestling end of a fight as he has a good gas tank and has made some late-fight comebacks in scoring late finishes. Rodrigues is primarily a grappler, but he has had moments of violence on the feet during his career. He carries decent power, though he likely won’t have the power edge over Petrosyan due to the fact Petrosyan is coming down a weight class. Rodrigues does land some damaging blows in the clinch, and the pressure and dirty boxing could get to Petrosyan if he’s not careful. I see this fight ending in a finish and with Petrosyan having the power edge of the two, I see him scoring a brutal knockout in the first half of the fight.

What’s at stake: This was an interesting fight for Rodrigues. He probably shouldn’t have been given a debuting opponent in this one considering his impressive start to his UFC career, but this is some solid matchmaking. A win for Rodrigues would be a big one and could get him someone who is either ranked or close to being so. Petrosyan wants to have a solid debut and show he is a great addition to a growing middleweight division. He’s past the age of 30, so a title run has to start right now, so he’ll need an impressive showing if he wants to be a future challenger to Israel Adesanya.

Pick: Petrosyan

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+

Lightweights- Rong Zhu vs. Ignacio Bahamondes

Overall Records: Zhu 19-4, Bahamondes 12-4
UFC Records: Zhu 1-1, Bahamondes 1-1
Last Fight: Zhu def. Jenkins–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 50 (9/18/21), Bahamondes def. Roberts–R3 KO–UFC On ESPN 29 (8/21/21)
Last Five Fights: Zhu 4-1, Bahamondes 3-2
Betting Odds: Zhu +165, Bahamondes -195
Background: A pair of lightweights in search of their second win inside the Octagon square off in the featured prelim as Zhu and Bahamondes get their 2022 season kicked off. Zhu made his UFC debut in April 2021 at UFC 261 on the heels of an eleven-fight win streak, but came up short in dropping a decision to Kazula Vargas. He rebounded in his last fight, scoring a third-round knockout of Brandon Jenkins in September, his 12th win by knockout. Bahamondes is also looking for his second straight win. He earned his UFC contract with a brutal knockout of Edson Gomez on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020, which was a no-brainer decision. His UFC debut was a disappointment, dropping a split decision to John Makdessi, but he bounced back in impressive fashion with a third-round knockout with a spinning wheel kick on Roosevelt Roberts in August in one of the best knockouts of 2021. Bahamondes has scored nine of his twelve wins by knockout.

How they match up: Bahamondes is going to have a big size edge as he’s six inches taller than Zhu and has a four-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. Both men like to engage on the feet, so this should be pretty entertaining. Zhu has a wrestling edge he can fall back on if he gets into trouble on the feet as I see Bahamondes using his length to keep Zhu out of range. Zhu should apply pressure and follow a similar gameplan to what Makdessi did against Bahamondes. He should rush forward often and clinch against the fence, which could lead to takedowns. Bahamondes is going to win a long range striking battle and volume will be a key to this one. Bahamondes also has terrific takedown defense. This feels like a fight where the volume and reach of Bahamondes will be the significant difference.

What’s at stake: Zhu is a Chinese prospect who is still just 21-years-old, so he’s going to get a lot of chances inside the Octagon. I don’t see him going anywhere with a loss, but a win would show he’s ready to start moving up the ladder. Despite his age, he does have a lot of fight experience. Bahamondes was a solid signing but doesn’t seem like a guy who will ever be in the title contention, but he can bring some solid undercard fights with his entertaining style. A two-fight win streak is on the line, which would be good for both.

Pick: Bahamondes

Women’s Featherweights- Josiane Nunes vs. Ramona Pascual

Overall Records: Nunes 8-1, Pascual 6-2
UFC Records: Nunes 1-0, Pascual 0-0
Last Fight: Nunes def. Malecki–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 29 (8/21/21), Pascual def. Peshewa–R1 TKO–Invicta FC 45 (1/12/22)
Last Five Fights: Nunes 5-0, Pascual 4-1
Betting Odds: Nunes -210, Pascual +175
Background: They often say the third time is the charm, and three different opponents is what it took to keep Nunes on this card as she welcomes Pascual to the Octagon for the first time in this featherweight bout. Nunes was originally slated to fight Wu Yanan, but she was forced out due to a knee injury. In stepped Jennifer Gonzalez, but a confrontation with a USADA drug testing official and a refusal to take a drug test led to her being taken out of the fight and ultimately released from the promotion. Pascual ends up taking this on about a week’s notice. Nunes is coming into her second UFC appearance, and she scored an impressive first-round knockout of Bea Malecki in August. That was her seventh straight win, the last six of which have come by knockout. Pascual just fought last month at Invicta FC 45, scoring a win over Shamir Peshewa in just a minute. She’s won four straight, the last three of which have been via a finish, all inside the first round.

How they match up: Nunes is a small bantamweight but she brings a ton of power behind her frame. She’s a high-volume striker, but she does tend to get hit often. She’s not afraid of being hit, though, because she trusts the power in her hands. Due to the short-notice nature of this one, it’s going to be at 145 lbs., so her power might not translate as well as it does in the lower weight class. Pascual should have a massive size advantage that could lead her to a win, and she does have some solid power and good submission skills. Nunes tends to be sloppy early, which is something Pascual can take advantage of if she chooses to mix it up. Ultimately, this one will come down to the hands, and Nunes’ power and technique will lead her to an early stoppage.

What’s at stake: Nunes has some potential to make some noise in the bantamweight division with her power and a second win here should get her a bigger fight in a shallow division. I’m not sure if Pascual’s future is at bantamweight or featherweight as she’s fought in the higher division more lately. She’s going to need to fight at 135 lbs. if she wants a UFC future, regardless of the outcome of this fight. This is a low stakes fight.

Pick: Nunes

Lightweights- Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam

Official Records: McKinney 11-3, Ziam 12-3
UFC Records: McKinney 1-0, Ziam 2-1
Last fight: McKinney def. Frevola–R1 KO–UFC 263 (6/12/21), Ziam def. Vendramini–MajDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21)
Last five fights: McKinney 4-1, Ziam 4-1
Betting odds: McKinney -105, Ziam -115
Background: A fight that was going to happen in November until it was cancelled the day of the fight sees a re-booking here as exciting lightweight McKinney makes his second UFC appearance in this one when he battles Ziam in this 155 lbs. affair. McKinney is coming into this fight off a seven-second knockout win over Matt Frevola in his UFC debut at UFC 263 in June. It was McKinney’s fourth straight win, with all four wins coming in 72 seconds or less, and three have come in 17 seconds or less. He’s scored all eleven of his wins by a finish, with ten coming in the first round, but he’s also been finished in all three of his losses. Ziam makes his fourth appearance inside the Octagon, and all three of his past fights have gone the distance. He’s won two straight and is coming off a win over Luigi Vendramini at that same UFC 263 event in June. He did score nine of his ten wins by stoppage in his pre-UFC days.

How they match up: McKinney is a fast starter who has explosive striking and solid wrestling. He was coached by Michael Chiesa when he was in high school. He also empties his gas tank fairly quickly, which means if he doesn’t finish you quickly, he could be finished early. Ziam seems like an opponent that is going to accommodate McKinney, as he’s a very low-volume striker. He’s only landed just slightly over two significant strikes per minute during his three UFC bouts, and he gets overwhelmed by pressure and explosiveness. McKinney should be firing punches right away and pushing Ziam against the fence to look for takedowns. Ziam needs to weather an early storm and take advantage against a tired opponent as his paths to winning aren’t very clear.

What’s at stake: McKinney has plenty of potential to be a threat in the lightweight division. He was one of the most-talked about stories coming out of UFC 263, and he has a great life story in general. If he can score impressive wins, he’ll get a following and could be a highlighted fighter for quite some time. Ziam hasn’t shown to be as good as his record indicates, and he’s far from an exciting fighter. His style has prelims written all over him, and he may never advance to main cards unless he starts to rack up finishes. A win here keeps his UFC career going, while a loss could see a non-renewal of his contract.

Pick: McKinney

Featherweights- Alejandro Perez vs. Jonathan Martinez

Overall Records: Perez 22-8-1, Martinez 14-4
UFC Records: Perez 8-3-1, Martinez 5-3
Last Fight: Perez def. Eduardo–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21), Martinez def. Lazishvili–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Perez 3-2, Martinez 3-2
Betting Odds: Perez +200, Martinez -250
Background: A battle between two of the more experienced fighters on the card, a fight that could easily be on the main card, is down deep in the prelims as Perez and Martinez meet in what is now a featherweight bout. They were supposed to fight at 135 lbs., but a late change during the week now sees the fight at 145 lbs., which must mean someone is having a rough time with their weight. Perez was the original winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America at bantamweight at UFC 180 in November 2014, beating Jose Quinonez, but followed that up with a loss to Patrick Williams. He then went on to be unbeaten in his next seven fights, with six wins and a draw, but then lost his next two bouts. He got back into the win column in October with a second-round submission of Johnny Eduardo. Martinez has had a solid UFC run thus far, going 5-3 over his first eight bouts, but has yet to have a win streak of more than two. He’s looking for his second straight win after scoring a decision over Zviad Lazishvili in October.

How they match up: Martinez has some excellent kickboxing coming from the southpaw position and he mixes his punches and kicks with great fluidity. He’s the higher-volume striker of the two and Perez isn’t all that accurate on his feet to begin with. Perez is also giving up some reach and doesn’t have the chin that Martinez does. Martinez has solid takedown defense as well, though Perez isn’t that strong of a wrestler and will likely let it play out on the feet. The late change in weight makes me concerned, and while we don’t know the actual reason, I’m suspecting it had to do with Martinez, who has fought at featherweight and missed weight at bantamweight before. That could become a huge factor as whomever it is will bring more power into the fight. It will come down to output and Martinez should win solely on activity. Perez could decide to make this an ugly fight if he’s able to get inside the pocket, but I don’t see it happening.

What’s at stake: The winner could get a ranked opponent next, so this is a pretty important fight for both. Perez did take two years off after his losing skid and he bounced back strong in his return just over four months ago. He’s been closed to being ranked, and may have been at one point during his seven-fight unbeaten streak. Martinez is trying to get a groove going and a win here would go a long way. Both are entertaining fighters with solid futures in the promotion, but the winner will take a big leap forward.

Pick: Martinez

Welterweights- Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Michael Gillmore

Overall Records: Brahimaj 9-4, Gillmore 6-4
UFC Records: Brahimaj 1-2, Gillmore 0-1
Last Fight: McGee def. Brahimaj–UDec–UFC On ESPN 32 (1/15/22), Petroski def. Gillmore–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)
Last Five Fights: Brahimaj 2-3, Gillmore 3-2
Betting Odds: Brahimaj -380, Gillmore +290
Background: A welterweight bout sees Brahimaj stepping up on short notice to take on former TUF competitor Gillmore in this one. Brahimaj takes this fight on about a week’s notice, replacing Jonny Parsons, who withdrew due to undisclosed reasons. It will be the second fight of 2022 for Brahimaj as he’s looking to bounce back from a decision loss in January to Court McGee. He’s rotated losses-and-wins during his three UFC bouts, which means he should be due for a win in this one. I’m honestly surprised that Gillmore got a second UFC bout as it was a surprise he even got a first one. He was submitted in the third round by Andre Petroski in August, ending his three-fight win streak. He’s going back down to his natural weight class at welterweight for this one as he looks for his seventh career win.

How they match up: This is your standard battle between the striker and the grappler. Gillmore is the striker and Brahimaj is the grappler. Gillmore has well-rounded skills on the feet though he doesn’t bring too much power behind his shots. He should feel more comfortable back at his natural weight class where he won’t be giving up size to Brahimaj. Brahimaj didn’t look great against veterans like McGee and Max Griffin, but his lone UFC win was a quick finish of Sasha Palatnikov, and Brahimaj’s experience level is comparable to Gillmore. Brahimaj should be looking for the takedown early and often as Gillmore gave up multiple takedowns to Petroski before being submitted. I sense something similar happening only with Brahimaj getting a quicker finish.

What’s at stake: I don’t see the loser of this fight being on the roster after this one. I was surprised they gave Gillmore another fight to begin with, but I get wanting to give him a fair shot in his natural weight class. He has to win this if he’s going to have a UFC future. The same is to be said about Brahimaj, though taking the fight on a week’s notice might give him some leeway. A loss would move him to 1-3, which isn’t a good start to a UFC run at all. This is a must-win fight for both.

Pick: Brahimaj

Flyweights- Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Hernandez

Overall Records: Altamirano 10-1, Hernandez 7-1
UFC Records: Altamirano 0-0, Hernandez 0-0
Last Fight: Altamirano def. Candelario–SpDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 37 (8/31/21), Hernandez def. Barez–SpDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 42 (10/5/21)
Last Five Fights: Altamirano 4-1, Hernandez 5-0
Betting Odds: Altamirano +125, Hernandez -145
Background: The show gets kicked off with a flyweight bout between two fighters who earned UFC contracts on this past season of Dana White’s Contender Series with exciting fights, and Altamirano and Hernandez are determined to pick up where they left off. Altamirano scored a split decision win over Carlos Candelario on the show in August, which was his fourth straight win. He’s won ten of his eleven fights overall, with his lone loss coming to UFC veteran Jarred Brooks. He’s in search of his sixth win by finish. Hernandez also scored a split decision win on the show, defeating Daniel Barez in October. It was the seventh straight win for Hernandez, who hasn’t tasted defeat since his professional debut. He has four wins coming by submission.

How they match up: Altamirano is a fast-paced fighter who will come at his opponents throwing a lot of strikes, but he does leave himself open to being taken down multiple times. He can also take his opponents down multiple times. Hernandez can also fight at a fast pace and has a well-rounded approach. He can fight everywhere, whether it’s on the feet, in the clinch or on the mat. He does better on the top on the mat, which might be trouble as Altamirano is very capable and works a lot off his back. Altamirano will still likely have trouble stopping the takedowns of Hernandez. Altamirano is going to have the edge on the feet as he’ll be able to pepper Hernandez with flurries, but Hernandez does have the slight power edge. This is going to be a close fight, and will likely have lots of action and be an early front-runner for Fight Of The Night. I’m going to lean slightly toward Hernandez, though both are capable.

What’s at stake: With lots of additions being made to the flyweight division, both men are solid signings who could quickly move their way up the ladder at 125 lbs. into the rankings. It’s the first fight for both since signing their deals, so no one is going to be cut with a loss. The winner will likely get a solid match-up for their next fight. This is a low stakes fight with high rewards.

Pick: Hernandez

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