Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises Odds
|Over/Under||4.5 (-148 / +114)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via PointsBet.|
Many people think that the No. 9 ranked Islam Makhachev is already the best active lightweight on the planet; a take that is becoming so mainstream, it is more of a hot take to suggest that he’s not.
Dustin Poirier opened as a -165 favorite for a presumed title fight with champion Charles Oliveira, and many bettors and bookmakers would favor Makhachev over both of those fighters.
The Master of Sport in Combat Sambo is a difficult matchup for any fighter, but he isn’t invincible. The Dagestani suffered a knockout loss in his second UFC fight against Adriano Martins in 2015, and anyone has a puncher’s chance in a fight.
Still, the odds for Saturday’s main event suggest that the outcome is almost predetermined, implying that Makhachev wins this fight close to 90% of the time.
No. 14 ranked Thiago Moises could pose new challenges for the grapple-heavy Makhachev with his jiu-jitsu, but is the improving, 26-year-old Brazilian worth betting as a significant underdog, or should we look for a way to play Makhachev in the prop market at more enticing odds?
Below I preview the matchup and odds for Saturday’s main event. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can check out my projections for the entire slate and the best bets from our MMA writers.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||9:38||12:07|
|Weight (pounds)||155 lbs.||155 lbs.|
|Date of birth||10/27/91||3/23/95|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||2.00||2.85|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||0.77||3.88|
|Take Down Avg||3.46||1.06|
The championship rounds are new territory for the big favorite in this spot — that fact alone should make you pause before laying all of that juice.
Makhachev might justify this price tag in a three-round fight, but he’s not a big finisher and has never fought for more than 15 minutes. Moises, who has never been stopped, has made it to the fifth round on three occasions in his career.
Makhachev has shown excellent cardio in his three-round fights, with dominant top control over his opponents (more than 65% of his fight time) and excellent takedown skills (68% accuracy).
Makhachev doesn’t offer the same vicious ground and pound as his long-time friend and training partner Khabib Nurmagomedov. He tends to prioritize position over submission too, which enhances that control, but he remains active enough to keep the fight there and avoid any intervention from the referee.
If Moises can have any amount of success denying takedowns (63% defense) or force Makhachev to expend additional energy in the grappling realm, he could create a path for himself against a tiring opponent in the late rounds.
Moises has the power advantage on the feet, but Makhachev is the far more efficient and calculated striker. He’s excellent at avoiding big pocket exchanges and tends to outland his opponents from a distance due to the constant threat of the takedown.
Though he’s been caught once in the past, Makhachev’s striking defense (70%, 0.77 absorbed per 15 minutes) is otherwise excellent.
Islam Makhachev's first and only loss was a KO at the hands of Adriano Martins pic.twitter.com/IYKIzjJCKK
— Neil Butcher (@MMAassault1) March 15, 2020
I was against Moises in each of his past two fights, on the heels of his comeback win against Michael Johnson last May. He scored a controversial win against Bobby Green (lost 82-45 on significant strikes, taken down twice) last October, but his striking was more impactful in his win over Alexander Hernandez (won 53-50 on significant strikes, 76% defense) in February.
Moises is still young and improving while training with a top camp (American Top Team). His high-level jiu-jitsu might be able to keep him out of danger off of his back – because Makhachev will land takedowns — and he’s durable enough to survive on the feet.
Still, Makhachev should win the majority of minutes in this contest, and it’s hard to see a path to victory for Moises here unless he finds a finish. I think there’s a higher likelihood that happens late rather than early, if he’s able to expose a hole in Makhachev’s gas tank.
I think Makhachev has five-round gas, but you don’t know it until you see it — and I certainly wouldn’t bank on it as a certainty at a 90% price tag.
Makhachev vs. Moises Pick
To assume that Makhachev justifies his odds, you need to be certain that he wins this matchup close to 95% of the time — and it’s nearly impossible to make any professional fighter that big of a favorite in a sanctioned fight; particularly a matchup involving two ranked contenders.
I projected Makhachev as an 85% favorite in this fight, and I don’t see value on either side of the moneyline. Furthermore, I have this fight going the distance 58% of the time (-138 implied), and I only see slight value on the distance prop (Yes listed at -137) but not enough to make a play.
Makhachev by points (listed -115) is just out of range compared to my projection (-111), but that was my initial read on the fight, and I don’t see value on his odds to win inside the distance (projected +209, listed +145) either.
PointsBet offers Makhachev to win by Unanimous Decision at +160, and I think that’s the best way to play this fight.
Moises’ win condition is largely tied to a finish (projected 65%), and Makhachev should be the clear minute winner for the duration. You’re mostly banking on Moises’ durability and his defensive jiu-jitsu from bottom position.
Still, it’s a relatively small bet compared to the rest of my card for Saturday.
The Pick: Islam Makhachev wins by Unanimous Decision (+160)