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Hot Tweets: Discussing Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green, the fallout from UFC Vegas 48

UFC 271: Bobby Green v Nasrat Haqparast Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Hello, friends!

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 best bouts of the weekend (well, most of them anyway) have already happened and the fights tonight are ... well, they are what 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

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. That’s a huge liability against a guy who is coming to plant you on your ass and go to work because it means that even if Green is able to stall Makhachev’s takedowns early (a huge if), Islam is still going to have plenty of time to keep working for them.

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. This also applies to his wrestling which is substantially more threatening when he is chaining it off strikes and has his opponent backing up. Green should try to force Makhachev out of his comfort zone early and take the initiative and see how Makhachev reacts to having been knocked off 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. It doesn’t matter that no one has really been able to do that to Green, Islam Makhachev isn’t just anyone. 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?

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. Sure, McGregor doesn’t have a relevant win at lightweight since the Obama administration, and he’s coming off back-to-back losses to Poirier, but he’s also 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 where some people have argued that Green could sneak his way into a title shot but I just don’t buy it. Green is gaining traction among fans but he’s not a star and Makkahcev would be one 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. And really, I think I can live with that.

Jamahal Hill

I do not. Call me a hater, maybe it’s true, but I just don’t see a big future for Jamahal Hill at light heavyweight. I’m honesty not sure what it is, but I simply cannot get 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. Light heavy is a wasteland of talent and so a guy who can hit hard at least has a chance to do something I guess.

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.

Johnny Walker

A better analogy for the previous question would have been Johnny Walker who, at one point, certainly did have some hype about him but that is all gone, as is, probably, Walker’s career.

Back in 2019, it was easy to get excited about Walker. He was a big and athletic light heavyweight who did flashy stuff, was brimming with confidence, and was stacking highlight reel knockouts. 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. And let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that. Being one of the 25 best people in the world at something is incredible. But that’s not really how people view fighting, unfortunately.

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. That’s a shame but it is what it is.

And because it happened yesterday and I want to touch on it . . .

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 fight with Shogun is obviously already in the Hall of Fame but he himself is not and I have no idea if he ever will be. Also, for what it’s worth, I still think I slightly favor Henderson’s career over Mousasi’s at this point, but that’s six of one, half dozen of the other really.

I do think Cyborg is an interesting question 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? I honestly have no idea. Mousasi, by virtue of the time period and weight classes he has competed in, has certainly fought and beaten the better opposition. But that’s no really Cyborg’s problem and her level of dominance also has to factor in at some point. I don’t know the right answer and it’s possible that Cyborg does eventually get inducted into the Hall of Fame, but if she doesn’t, at least she’ll be in some pretty good company.

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in 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.

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