A lightweight number one contender matchup between Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush was meant to headline this event, however, an injury to Dariush has opened the door for long-time veteran Bobby Green to take his first UFC main event slot on short-notice. A Middleweight matchup between submission ace Misha Cirkunov and Brazilian Wellington Turman takes the co-headlining slot and promising prospects Arman Tsarukyan and Joel Alvarez meet in a very important lightweight bout.
Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green
Islam Makhachev has been on a tremendous run. With an overall 21-1 MMA record and a 10-1 record in the UFC, Makhachev is undoubtedly on the verge of his first title fight. Makhachev currently rides a nine-fight win streak into his bout with Green, with five of those having come by way of stoppage. 2021 was a particularly impressive year for the Dagestani, who pulled off submission victories over top Lightweights Drew Dober, Thiago Moises, and Dan Hooker. These submission victories, all coming via different methods, showed that Makhachev has further developed his game from emphasizing top control to notching submission finishes. Against Green, Makhachev will likely look to do exactly what he has done to nearly all of his previous foes – get on top, ground-and-pound, and then finish with a submission. While Makhachev is not a striking savant, he does possess some capabilities highlighted in his wins over Gleison Tibau and Davi Ramos. However, to rely on his striking for a second longer than necessary against the underrated Green could prove extremely costly. As long as Makhachev can secure a tenth straight victory, a shot at the title is virtually undeniable.
Bobby Green is a brave man. The unranked veteran has stepped up to face the fourth-ranked Lightweight on extremely short notice when most of the top Lightweights likely refused the opportunity. Green returns to action just two weeks after his most recent bout – a decision victory over Nasrat Haqparast. In that bout, Haqparast played right into Green’s style of slick boxing as he engaged Green in an entirely striking affair. Green now finds himself on a two-fight win streak and looks for a monumental upset that could see him shoot up the divisional rankings with a victory. Look for Green to keep the fight standing where he can pick Makhachev apart. Green hangs his hands low in order to box from unorthodox angles, however, his low hanging hands may also assist him in taking underhooks when Makhachev shoots in for his legs. While Green has succumbed to numerous takedowns in his UFC tenure, this is MMA and anything is possible.
Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman
Entering the bout this weekend on a two-fight losing streak, Misha Cirkunov will once again try his luck at the Middleweight division. In October of last year, Cirkunov made his Middleweight debut after a 6-4 run in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. Cirkunov faced long-time veteran Krzysztof Jotko and was on the wrong-end of a split decision. Cirkunov, known for his submission abilities, was largely unable to take Jotko down and barely lost the striking duel based primarily on volume. The bout also showed that at Middleweight, Cirkunov may have issues regarding conditioning as it was clear that as the bout progressed he was tiring. Against Turman, Cirkunov will likely look to get top position and hunt for some form of a choke – as he always does. However, with Turman having never been submitted and Cirkunov’s clear conditioning issues at the weight class, that may prove to be a very difficult task.
Wellington Turman finds himself in a co-main event position despite just a 2-3 record in the promotion. Turman owns notable victories over long-time UFC veteran Sam Alvey, former LFA Middleweight Champion Markus Perez, and TUF Brazil season 3 finalist Marcio Alexandre Jr. Turman does his best work when he is able to acquire top position over his opponent. From there, he typically seeks submission opportunities, having notched seven submissions in his 17 MMA victories. Turman’s key to victory over Cirkunov will be pressure and volume. As noted, Cirkunov clearly tired against Jotko. Should Turman be able to make Cirkunov match a high pace early, he may be able to take over the deeper the fight goes. From there, Turman may be able to get a takedown and do his best work later in the bout.
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira
South Korean Ji Yeon Kim looks to break a two-fight skid on Saturday against Priscila Cachoeira. Kim debuted in the UFC in 2017 and has acquired a 3-4 record in the UFC highlighted by a KO victory over Nadia Kassem and decision victories over TUF veterans Justine Kish and Melinda Fabian. Kim does her best work when she is striking, having shown ability to have a high output with good stopping power. In her most recent bout, she and Molly McCann combined for 249 total significant strikes landed – a feat which warranted their fight of the night honors. Against an opponent in Cachoeira who has not landed a takedown in her UFC career, expect Kim to unleash a volley of strikes throughout the contest.
Priscilla Cachoeira had a rough beginning to her UFC career, going 0-3 highlighted by a hellacious beating at the hands of current Flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. With a rare fourth opportunity, Cachoeira made the most of it with a sub-minute KO victory over TUF veteran Shana Dobson. Cachoeira then picked up a second-round TKO victory over a tired Gina Mazany only to lose her next bout to Gillian Robertson by first-round submission. The Robertson loss was further marred by what appeared to be an eye gouge attempt by Cachoeira while she was in the fight-ending submission. Cachoeira clearly has power and is capable of KO’ing her opposition. Like Cachoeira, Kim has not recorded a takedown in her UFC career which bodes well for Cachoeira’s power striking gameplan.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez
Arman Tsarukyan looks to be a future title contender. Debuting in 2019 on short-notice against Islam Makhachev, Tsarukyan gave the top contender all that he could handle in a losing effort. Since then, Tsarukyan has picked up four straight victories over TUF Nations finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier, former ADCC world champion Davi Ramos, Matt Frevola, and Christos Giagos. Tsarukyan’s last victory over Giagos was his first finish in the promotion. Still just 25 years of age with a 17-2 MMA record, the sky is the limit for Tsarukyan who exemplifies incredible grappling/scrambling ability and very good distance striking as well. Against Alvarez, who has a 100% finish rate, look for Tsarukyan to extend the Spaniard past the first round and exhaust him with a grappling heavy strategy – possibly in the clinch against the fence given Alvarez’s penchant for submission victories.
Joel Alvarez is an incredibly dangerous out for anyone in the Lightweight division. The 28-year-old has an overall MMA record of 19-2 with all 19 of those victories coming by way of finish. 16 of those victories come by way of submission. Additionally, Alvarez is enormous, standing 6’3” with a 77” inch in the Lightweight division. Since joining the UFC in 2019, Alvarez has gone 4-1 with stoppage wins over Danil Belluardo, Joseph Duffy, Alexander Yakolev and most recently Thiago Moises. With all but three of his victories coming inside the first-round, expect Alvarez to go after Tsarukyan early in the contest with heavy strikes, front chokes on Tsarukyan takedown attempts, and submissions from the guard. However, given Alvarez’s lack of experience in the later rounds as well as his difficulties making the weight class (having missed weight his last two times), conditioning may be his kryptonite if he is unable to get the early victory.
Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Armen Petrosyan made an impressive statement in his Dana White’s Contender Series bout last year. Renowned for his extensive kickboxing background, Petrosyan found himself constantly fighting off takedown attempts from his undefeated opponent Kaloyan Kolev in the early portions of the first-round. However, at every instance that there was distance, Petrosyan was uncorking powerful strikes. Eventually, a head kick found its mark and Petrosyan was subsequently awarded a contract. At just 6-1 in MMA, Petrosyan is largely untested in MMA. However, with all six of his victories coming by way of KO as well as his background in kickboxing, it appears clear as to what his gameplan will be against a talented grappler in Rodrigues – stop the takedown and engage in a striking battle at distance.
Gregory Rodrigues has looked great since a 2020 loss to Jordan Williams on Dana White’s Contender Series. Following that loss, Rodrigues picked up stoppage victories over Al Matavao and Josh Fremd in the LFA before being picked up by the UFC. Since then, he has notched victories over Dusko Todorovic and Jun Yong Park – the latter being a blistering standing TKO. Rodrigues has also kept busy with grappling, having taken part in the UFC Fight Pass Invitational in December where he represented team LFA – the team that ultimately won the competition. Despite his grappling acumen, Rodrigues has acquired most of his victories via strikes. However, against Petrosyan it would be advisable for Rodrigues to revert back to his grappling base and avoid taking part in Petrosyan’s strength. Given Petrosyan’s takedown defence in his last bout, Rodrigues may be forced to keep the fight close in the clinch until Petrosyan wilts enough for Rodrigues to get him down.
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