Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 170 Prediction: Zach Makovsky vs. Josh Sampo

In most weight classes in the UFC, aspiring contenders have a lot of work to do to climb the ladder towards a title shot. In the flyweight division, a couple wins could be all it takes to earn that opportunity. Ask John Moraga, who received a title shot against Demetrious Johnson based on victories against Ulysses Gomez and Chris Cariaso. For Zach Makovsky and Josh Sampo, fighters who are both 1-0 in the UFC, this fight could turn out to be a top contender battle.

Makovsky reminds me a lot of Jacob Volkmann, a fighter who wins fights with a lot of takedowns and top control, and not a lot of strikes or submissions. Makovsky lands more significant strikes than Volkmann did, but he doesn’t land strikes with much meaningful power and isn’t a real threat to win by knockout. Instead, Makovsky goes all-in for takedowns. Sometimes he puts himself in a position to finish the fight by submission, but more often he simply lands strikes from inside his opponent’s guard and grinds out a decision victory.

Volkmann frustrated UFC fans by winning a series of fights this way, but for a fighter who was so good at getting top position, Volkmann was surprisingly vulnerable to being submitted. The same is true of Makovsky, who has lost three fights by submission despite his ability to control the takedown game. When Makovsky is in his opponent’s guard things are fine… but too often, Makovsky’s opponent has been able to out-grapple him, put him in a vulnerable position, and threaten to finish the fight with a submission hold.

That makes this fight very tricky to predict, because Sampo has a very good submission game. He’s won six out of 13 fights by that method including his UFC debut against Ryan Benoit. Sampo has shown an excellent ability to methodically advance position, achieve a dominant position such as full mount, and finish the fight from there. If Sampo is ever able to take such a position against Makovsky, he could definitely threaten to finish this fight.

The problem for Sampo is that I doubt he’ll be able to find much success in the takedown game against Makovsky. In a fight against a very tough wrestler in Alexis Vila, Sampo wasn’t able to control the takedown game, and as a result was behind on the scorecards when he found a way to finish Vila with a fifth-round guillotine choke.

The result is that I can’t favor Sampo to win this fight. Sampo is not a terrible wrestler by any means but it will be very difficult for him to land a takedown on Makovsky. That means this fight will likely come down to Makovsky’s takedowns and top control vs. Sampo’s guard game and overall grappling ability. There’s a distinct possibility that Sampo will find a way to sweep Makovsky or come up with a submission hold some other way, but I just don’t see him having a better than 50-50 chance of winning.

Pick: Zach Makovsky by decision

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

I’ll probably stay away from this fight unless I can get high plus money on either side. There are no odds up for this fight yet but I doubt it will be too lopsided either way.

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