Look, I leveled with you last week, and I’m going to do so again: there aren’t a lot of great things to talk about this week. The weekend’s best fights (well, almost all of them) are over and tonight’s fights are just that: they are. But we’re here and y’all have questions so we might as well get to it. Let’s talk about UFC Vegas 49 and the fallout from Jamahal Hil knocking out Johnny Walker.
Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green
How would you gameplan Bobby Green’s path to victory vs Makhachev?
— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) February 22, 2022
I know I’m in the minority here, at least among the hardcore fans, but I think this is a really tough style matchup for Bobby Green. Yes, he’s a great defensive fighter and yes, he’s proven difficult to keep down, but he’s also given up some takedowns to guys that aren’t good wrestlers and for as technically skilled as he is, Green doesn’t have much in the way of stopping power. This is an enormous liability for a man who comes to put you on your back and goes to work. It means that, even if Green can stall Makhachev’s takedowns quickly (a big if), Islam will still have plenty of time.
If I’m Green or his coaches, my game plan for Makhachev is based entirely on two simple principles: 1) push Makhachev backwards, and 2) hammer the body.
Makhachev is not a bad striker but, like 99% of fighters in MMA, he isn’t very good when he’s being pushed backwards. His wrestling is even more dangerous when he’s doing it in strikes, and his opponent is backing him up. Green needs to push Makhachev from his comfort zone and get in the fight early. Let’s see what Makhachev does after being knocked out of his A-game.
More importantly though, Green needs to smash the body, almost to the exclusion of anything else. Makhachev’s striking defense is excellent and, as discussed, Green isn’t a huge hitter so trying to land one kill shot is a fool’s errand. Instead, Green target the bread basket as often as possible which will serve both to slow Makhachev down over a five-round fight, and is a better way to avoid Makhchev’s clinch game. You can’t duck under a body jab after all.
To me, those two things are the foundation upon which you need to build a winning game plan here because the reality is, you’re not going to stop Makhachev from getting takedowns. Green has never been able do this to Islam Makhachev, so it doesn’t really matter. But if Green can punish Makhchev early, make him work, and frustrate him in the early rounds, more opportunities for sustained striking exchanges could open up in the later rounds.
What if Bobby Green wins?
What happens to the lw Division if Bobby Green wins Saturday’s race?
— Daniel Pompilio (@elpompilio) February 24, 2022
In a word: anarchy.
For the first time since Khabib retired, the lightweight division finally has a clear order. Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje are going to fight for the lightweight title and the winner of that was supposed to fight the winner of Islam Makhachev vs. Beneil Dariush. It was nice and tidy. Even with Dariush being forced out of the equation, Islam winning is still probably enough to keep things on track, with Makhachev getting the next crack. But if Green wins? Holy hell, anything could happen.
If Green wins tonight, I think the most likely outcome is that the winner of Oliveira-Gaethje just fights Conor McGregor. McGregor hasn’t won a lightweight title since the Obama administration and is coming off two losses to Poirier. But he’s Conor McGregor. Logic, reason, and the rules don’t apply to McGregor, and if Makhachev loses, there is no one at 155 with an undeniable claim to a title shot.
This is the point where people argue that Green can sneak into a title shot, but it’s not something I believe in. Green has gained popularity among his fans, but he is not a superstar and Makkahcev would win. Even with a relative shortage of obvious contenders, I can’t see Green getting fast-tracked to a title shot. My best guess is that if Green somehow pulls of the upset, he gets a No. 1 contender’s match against Michael Chandler next. That’s a good thing.
Do you think Jamahal Hill has a bigger potential than what we saw in Reyes a few years back?
— Lungi05 (@lungikk) February 21, 2022
I do not. You can call me a hateful person, but Jamahal Hill as a light heavyweight fighter doesn’t seem to have a lot of future prospects. Although I don’t know what it might be, I can’t stand behind him. Honestly, it may just be his physique, which stands in stark contrast to the division of bricked up monsters, but he also hasn’t really beaten anyone good and so it’s hard to think he’s going to make much hay when he’s already 30 years old. If there’s a division to get a late start in though, it’s 205. The talent pool for light heavy is vast and anyone who can hit the ground hard has at most a chance of doing something.
On the other side of this coin is the Dominick Reyes conundrum. I still believe that Reyes could have a future at 205 because even though he’s lost three in a row, the three he lost to were pretty good. Jiri Prochazka is probably the future champion of the division, Jan Blachowicz was the champion, and Jon Jones is Jon Jones (also worth noting, Dominick Reyes should have beaten Jones but sometimes judges in MMA are turds). That’s about as defensible of a losing streak as there is and, for the limitations that Reyes does have, he’s still a very good athlete in a division that is shockingly short on them.
Anyway you slice it though, Reyes challenged for a UFC title twice and was EXTREMELY close to defeating Jon friggin’ Jones. If Jamahal Hill does half of that, I’d be surprised.
How much of last weekend’s spectacle was Jamahal Hill legitimate and how much was Johnny Walker overhyped by the media?
— chucklehuttzz (@chucklehuttzz) February 24, 2022
A better analogy would be Johnny Walker, who at one time had some hype but is now, most likely, Walker’s entire career.
Back in 2019, it was easy to get excited about Walker. Walker was an athletic, big, light heavyweight, who was full of confidence and did impressive stuff. But now the benefit of hindsight shows us that actually, Walker just had a good run over outmatched opposition. Khalil Rountree Jr. is a solid but unremarkable 205er, Justin Ledet is bad, and Misha Cirkunov is fighting tonight, at middleweight. When you stack those wins up against the people that Walker lost to, it paints.a very clear tale of Walker being a decent and fun fighter but one who will most likely lose to top-10 guys. Let’s not forget, that’s a great thing. Being one of the 25 best people in the world at something is incredible. Unfortunately, that is not how most people see fighting.
Walker is a victim of his own success in some ways. Because he burned so brightly so quickly, Walker got people excited about what he could be, and the myth of Johnny Walker is slower to die. Once he was 1-3 over four bouts, Walker should have been fighting some top-20ish guy to more accurately level set. Instead he got another top-10 to 15 guy and got bolted. Now, Walker is 1-4 over his last five and his career may never recover. Very few fighters are able to right the ship after a stretch like that and so we may have killed off a true unicorn in this sport — a fun 205er — because of the harsh matchmaking tendencies of the UFC. It’s unfortunate, but that is the reality.
And because it happened yesterday and I want to touch on it . . .
Mousasi will be the best fighter ever to fight in the UFC that will never be in its HOF https://t.co/JVxqEwiU7R
— E. Casey Leydon (@ekc) February 25, 2022
Yeah, he probably is/will be. There will be other fighters that are worse omissions from the Hall of Famer — Frank Shamrock being the most obvious — but Mousasi has put together a top-50, maybe top-40 career all-time and there’s next to no chance he ends up a UFC Hall of Famer. The only two other fighters I can think of who are reasonably in the conversation are Dan Henderson and Cris Cyborg. Hendo’s match with Shogun is clearly in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t know if he will ever be. For what it’s really worth, Henderson’s career is still my favorite over Mousasi at the moment. But that’s just six out of a dozen.
Cyborg’s question is interesting, though. Cyborg is as accomplished as any fighter ever, winning belts in four organizations, and her career is undeniably more important than Mousasi’s, but is it better? It’s hard to know. Mousasi, by virtue of the time period and weight classes he has competed in, has certainly fought and beaten the better opposition. However, that is not the problem of Cyborg. Her dominance must also be considered at one point. Although I do not know the answer, it is possible for Cyborg to be elected into the Hall of Fame. However, if that happens, she will still be in good company.
Thank you for reading, and for all the tweets. Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.