Ariel Helwani was the first to break the news of Dariush pulling out of the fight. Dariush is citing an ankle injury as the reason for his withdrawal. Hours later, ESPN confirmed that Bobby Green will serve as Dariush’s replacement in what will now be a catchweight bout at 160 lbs.
The Feb. 26 headliner between Makhachev and Dariush was expected by many to serve as a lightweight title eliminator to determine who would challenge champion Charles Oliveira next.
Beneil Dariush has won seven consecutive fights and was considered to be a very challenging stylistic matchup for Makhachev. Dariush has proven that he is more than willing to stand and bang with bonus-worthy performances, but what made this pairing most intriguing is the fact that Dariush is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and is considered one of the best grapplers in the UFC. Given Makhachev’s grappling-heavy style, this match was considered a strong example of “something’s gotta give.”
Islam Makhachev is currently enjoying an incredible nine-fight winning streak. A win here would have not only made for a 10th straight victory but would have finally included that elusive win over a top-5 opponent that many have demanded of him. During this winning streak, Makhachev has defeated names like Thiago Moisés, Drew Dober, and most recently Dan Hooker.
Enter Bobby Green. Green is currently unranked but he has just turned in two exceptional back-to-back performances, including TKOing Al Iaquinta in the first round at UFC 268 and then putting on a striking showcase at the expense of Nasrat Hasparast last weekend at UFC 271.
Coincidentally, the UFC 271 commentating team had lobbied for Bobby Green to be booked in his first UFC main event. Perhaps the MMA gods listened as this idea gained public backing before they granted their own official approval.
While it is unclear if a win for Makhachev would be enough for a title shot, it is certain that a win for Bobby Green here would be career-changing and earn him a strong presence in the lightweight rankings.
Who do you think will win between Islam Makhachev and Bobby Green on February 26?