UFC Fight Night 202 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green
Makhachev has undeniably marked himself out as one of the dominant forces at lightweight following his nine-fight winning streak and after his original opponent Beneil Dariush pulled out due to an injury he’ll now face a late replacement in Green instead.
Green fought just two weeks ago, picking up a dominant decision win over Nasrat Haqparast that caught people’s attention, but his reward for that feels somewhat of a poisoned chalice, going up against one of the division’s best so sooner afterwards with no time to adequately prepare for either his opponent or the fact this will be a five-rounder.
Still, the unranked 35-year-old has a wealth of experience to draw on and is always in good shape, and will have the benefit of the fight being at a 160lb catchweight, making his weight-cut a little easier.
Green is also well-rounded, with his striking in particular being a potential thorn in the flesh of Makhachev as he has a very effective defense, while still offering up a good volume of strikes and being sharp on the counter.
However, though Green is also a good wrestler, Makhachev is one of the sport’s elite in that field and is absolutely relentless in his pursuit of takedowns and is very dominant on top while also posing a real submission threat.
That, on top of the fact that he has excellent cardio and has been preparing for a five-round fight puts him at a major advantage over Green and I see him getting this fight to the mat early and often, gradually wearing down his opponent and securing a fourth-round submission finish, if not sooner.
Pick: Islam Makhachev wins by submission in Rd4.
Wellington Turman vs. Misha Cirkunov
This fight gets co-main event honors but both fighters have been struggling of-late, with Turman coming in as a late replacement with just two wins from his five UFC fights so far, while Cirkunov has only managed two wins from his last seven fights.
The 34-year-old Cirkunov is a powerful grappler with a deadly submission game that accounts for five of his six UFC wins so far. His achilles heel however has been his weak chin as he’s now been TKO’d or KO’d four times in recent years, making him a liability on the feet, and there’s a big question mark as to whether his recent drop down to 185lbs will be a help or a hinderance in that regard.
Turman is almost a decade younger at 25, but he will be able to relate to Cirkunov’s struggles on the feet given that not so long ago he suffered back-to-back first round KO losses. He’ll also be at a 3″ height and 5″ reach disadvantage here, but nevertheless I do think he’s still more durable than the aging veteran here and has more to offer in the striking department.
Turman also has a decent submission game, but he’s just not at the same level as Cirkunov in that regard and I think this could be one of those fights where Cirkunov is able to get the early takedown he needs to quickly lock in a fight-ending first-round submission.
Pick: Misha Cirkunov wins by submission in Rd1.
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira
This fight in particular stands out as a strange choice for the main card given that Kim has just a 1-3 record of late, while Cachoeira has gone 2-4.
Cachoeira is a scrappy striker who doesn’t have a polished skill-set and eats a lot of punches, but she does have heavy punches and both her UFC wins came via strikes.
Kim isn’t as heavy-handed despite having a win via strikes in the UFC, but she has a whopping 7″ reach advantage here and has the better technique and greater volume, while also being better on the mat too.
As such I think there’s just significantly more upside to Kim’s game, even if she is a somewhat flawed fighter, and she’ll get the better of Cachoeira on the scorecards here.
Pick: Ji Yeon Kim wins by decision.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez
Now this is a good match-up with both Tsarukyan and Alvarez being talented fighters who are each riding a four-fight unbeaten run heading into this clash.
The size difference between these two lightweight is stark as Alvarez is 8″ taller and has a 4.5″ reach advantage. Alvarez is somewhat effective on the feet and appears to be improving in that regard, but he has his greatest success when he’s able to utilize his BJJ skills as though he can be taken down, he’s adept at then punishing his opponents for that, with no less than 16 finishes by submission from 19 career victories.
That will make things very interesting as like Alvarez, Tsarukyan is well-rounded and can mix things up to an extent on the feet, but really excels when it comes to his wrestling ability.
With that being the case he may well have to put himself in harms way if he does opt for a wrestling-based strategy, but I do still think that’s his best chance to win and he is both clean enough technically and also stifling enough on top to really limit Alvarez’s opportunities to seize upon a submission, so I’ll take him to win by decision here.
Pick: Arman Tsarukyan wins by decision.
Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues
A KO win on the Contender Series gave Petrosyan a chance to compete in the UFC and he’ll make his debut against Rodrigues, who is also coming off a KO victory, leaving him with two wins in a row in the promotion so far.
A former muay thai champ, Petrosyan has demonstrated that striking ability in his 6-1 MMA run so far, with all his wins coming via strikes.
So he has plenty of offensive weapons on the feet, but his ground game is far more questionable at this stage and that could be an important factor here, as though Rodrigues is heavy-handed and applies a lot of pressure on the feet, he also incorporates takedowns into his strategy and has a solid jiu-jitsu game to go alongside hard-hitting ground-and-pound.
So this one could well be closely contested on the feet, but I think Rodrigues grappling advantage gives him a way to unsettle Petrosyan and will lead him to a TKO finish in the second round.
Pick: Gregory Rodrigues wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Rong Zhu vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Josiane Nunes vs. Ramona Pascual
Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Hannah Goldy
Alejandro Perez vs. Jonathan Martinez
Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Micheal Gillmore
Victor Altamirano vs. Carlos Hernández