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By Dylan Ellis on 11/16/2017 10:29 AM

Makhachev v Tibao – UFC 220 Preview


A Lightweight bout between Islam Makhachev (14-1) and Gleison Tibao (32-12) has been confirmed for UFC 220 at Boston’s TD Garden on January 20.

Tibao, 34, is expected to return to the Octagon for the first time since his initial victory via submission over Abel Trujillo in November 2015 was overturned, after he tested positive for EPO and subsequently served a two-year ban.

This will be a fifth UFC bout for Islam Makhachev, a teammate of fellow lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov, having earned back-to-back decision wins over Nik Lentz and Chris Wade. Makhechev is a Combat Sambo specialist and won gold at the 2016 World Championships in Sofia in the discipline.

Forgotten man, Tibao, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, comes with pedigree though and holds the record for most UFC Lightweight division wins (16).

Source: Gleison Tibao via Facebook

Makhachev v Tibao – Fight Preview

Expect this match-up to be fought mostly against the fence, with the pair both grappling specialists and neither fighter having recorded a KO/TKO victory since 2011. Makhachev typically comes out on the offensive, but Tibau boasts an outstanding takedown defense.

It’s certainly an interesting match-up, with little to choose between the pair in sports betting markets - much like Michael Bisping (5/4) against Kelvin Gastelum (8/13) at UFC Fight Night 122, with the Englishman fighting just 21 days after losing his Middleweight belt to Georges St-Pierre.

Tibau is a southpaw, fighting out of Coconut Creek, Florida, but originally from Brazil, and is one of the strongest and heaviest fighters in the Lightweight division, having also fought at Welterweight.

But it is two previous fights involving the pair that could give some indication of how a Makhachev-Tibao bout could turn out: Tibao v Nurmagomedov at UFC 148 and Makhachev v Martins at UFC 192.

Tibao faced Makhachev’s teammate, Khabib, in 2012, with the Russian fighter earning the victory via unanimous decision – although many MMA fans argue that Tibao was unlucky not to earn a draw. Despite being on the front foot most of the fight, Khabib never looked like stopping Tibao early, who was controlled and measured in his performance compared to Khabib’s much wilder style.

Like Khabib, Makhachev has a wild over the shoulder punching style. So Tibao will likely be taking notes of Makhachev’s defeat to Adriano Martins at UFC 192.

With Makhachev punching wildly, the highly-experienced Martins knocked out the Russian with a brutal counter-punch, with Makhachev still off-balance from his previous swing. The lethal knockout is Makhachev’s only defeat to date, and the fighter, who is still just 26, needs to show that he has learned from the incident.


Betting Tips

Tibau showed he was comfortable dodging Khabib’s similar wild shot-style and will surely look to catch Makhachev on the counter – in the same way Adriano Martins did.

However, if Tibau doesn’t manage to land cleanly on Makhachev, the bout could well go the distance. In which case, expect Makhachev’s offensive style to give him the advantage if it goes to the judges.

Likely Outcomes:

  • Makhachev on points

  • Tibau to win via KO/TKO

The winner of this fight will likely shoot up the Lightweight rankings, but a title bout is way off for either fighter, in what is already the UFC’s most competitive and congested division.