John Makdessi is a striker who has been somewhat protected in the UFC. Most of his fight time in the UFC has been against fellow strikers. Makdessi’s last three fights were against Daron Cruickshank, Sam Stout, and Anthony Njokuani, all of whom are strikers first. When Makdessi fought a grappler in Dennis Hallman, he was taken down, beaten up, and submitted in the first round.
I would like to see Makdessi tested by a grappler again, but his opponent in this fight (Renee Forte) is not nearly in the same class of grappler as Hallman. In his brief UFC career so far, Forte has been a striker more than a grappler, but a lot of that is because his debut opponent was Sergio Moraes, a fighter with excellent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There wasn’t any incentive for Forte to take Moraes down.
In Forte’s second fight against Terry Etim, he showed a little more grappling, but was once again a striker first. My fear is that Forte will try being a striker first against Makdessi. If he does, he should expect to get out-pointed and at high risk of losing by TKO. Makdessi is a much better striker than anybody Forte has faced before.
Forte’s path to victory is to take Makdessi to the ground – but it remains to be seen if he will pursue that strategy, or if he can execute it. While Makdessi has not faced many grapplers in the UFC, he has had 18 takedowns attempted against him with only two succeeding, for a takedown defense rate of 88 percent. It’s very important for a striker to stay off his back, and to Makdessi’s credit, he’s been able to keep fights standing for the most part.
I expect Makdessi will win this fight because he’s performed at a higher level than Forte, against a tougher slate of opponents. However, if Forte tests Makdessi’s takedown defense and grappling, it’s possible we could see a surprising result. The frustrating thing about a fighter like Makdessi is that, as experienced as he is now in the UFC, I just don’t have a lot of information about how good he is on the ground.
For now, what I know is that Makdessi is a good striker with a very good history of defending takedowns. The best prediction I can make is that he’ll defend Forte’s attempts to take him down and win a striking match.
Pick: John Makdessi by TKO