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Sabatini vs Lopes Prediction: Grappler’s Delight at the Garden



Sabatini vs Lopes Prediction: Grappler’s Delight at the Garden

Although the main and co-main event of UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden have stolen most headlines, hard-core fans and grappling practitioners alike know that the Sabatini vs Lopes featherweight matchup that's kicking off the main card will be must-see TV. Read on for our Sabatini vs Lopes prediction.

Having won five of his six UFC fights so far, Pennsylvania’s Pat Sabatini brings a wrestling-centric style that seems to stymie every opponent he's locked in the octagon with. Brazil’s Diego Lopes, on the other hand, has only had two UFC fights — but has already endeared himself to UFC fans due to his always-game attitude, world-class jiu jitsu, and fancy hairstyle.

While both of these featherweights are known for their grappling prowess, it could be the striking skills shown during Saturday’s Pat Sabatini vs Diego Lopes fight that will leave New York City buzzing. Rea

UFC 295: Sabatini vs Lopes Prediction

Pat Sabatini Preview

Pat Sabatini enters this matchup against Diego Lopes at a slight -120 favorite, in the middle of what might be his final chance at obtaining UFC glory. Having just turned 33 years old, Sabatini (who has a 18-4 record with 12 submission victories on his resumé) is coming off the biggest win of his career to date, submitting Lucas Almeida with an Arm Triangle Choke during round 2 of a UFC fight back in June.

After that dominant performance, Sabatini used his post-fight interview to tell fans that he isn’t paid by the hour, and is always trying to put on a good show. We hope he keeps his word come Saturday.

While Sabatini won his last fight with superior grappling, he might have met his match in the jiu jitsu department when he enters the cage against Diego Lopes. However, Sabatini will most likely have a striking advantage against the Brazilian grappling specialist. For that reason, it seems a likely game plan for Sabatini to keep this fight on the feet for as long as he can, using straight punches to close the distance and set up his wrestling takedowns.

Despite his pristine submission record, if Sabatini manages to get Lopes on the ground, it would be wise for him to ground and pound the Brazilian rather than attempt to submit him — or at least use ground and pound to set up a submission, like he did against Lucas Almeida. And if he can do so, a performance of the night bonus is well within reach.

Diego Lopes Preview

Although Diego Lopes didn’t win his short-notice UFC debut against undefeated Movsar Evloev back in May, Lopes certainly won the respect of the MMA community.

Then, just three months after that debut, Lopes (who has a 22-6 record with 12 submissions and 8 knockouts) secured a sensational first round Triangle Armbar submission against Gavin Tucker at a UFC Nashville event. Ever since that submission, fans have been clamoring for Lopes — who trains with women’s flyweight champ Alexa Grasso at Lobo Gym in Mexico — to enter the octagon once again.

Diego Lopes (who enters this fight as a narrow +105 underdog) doesn’t try to hide his gameplan, as he believes he’s the superior grappler against anybody that the UFC gives him. He has a way of luring his opponent to the ground like a boa constrictor hunting its prey, and once he gets there, he seeks — and usually sinks in — a submission in short order.

Despite Sabatini’s own impressive grappling credentials, there’s no question in our Pat Sabatini vs Diego Lopes prediction that Lopes hopes to use this same strategy Saturday.

Yet, every fight starts on the feet — hence why Diego Lopes would be smart to utilize his height and reach advantage in this fight, stick to his jab, and try to soften Sabatini’s body and legs with kicks early on. If Lopes can manage to do so, a second or third round submission may start the UFC 295 main card.

Pat Sabatini vs Diego Lopes Prediction: Three Rounds of Featherweight Warfare

Our Sabatini vs Lopes prediction for this fight is that Pat Sabatini will win by unanimous decision, at +250 odds.

It’s common in MMA fights between two elite ground technicians that each fighter’s grappling cancels their opponent’s grappling out. We expect that to be the case in this fight. While Sabatini and Lopes both have 12 submission victories on their respective records, neither of them have ever been submitted in a professional fight.

With such excellent submission defense from both fighters, it seems unlikely that either guy will end this fight by tapping out — unless they’re injured on the feet first.

The reason we predict Pat Sabatini will win this fight is because he’ll likely have the striking advantage over Diego Lopes. Although Lopes has eight KO/TKO’s on his record (compared to just one for Sabatini), a simple eye test shows that Sabatini has much crisper, sharper boxing than Lopes does.

Sabatini should have little issue entering boxing range, landing some solid shots, and keeping Lopes on his back foot for enough of the 15 minute fight to earn a decision win and leave New York City with his win bonus.

Yet, Lopes clearly has more knockout power than his opponent. So while we like the Sabatini decision line, the +350 line for Diego Lopes to win by KO/TKO is appealing as well.

Regardless of how our Sabatini vs Lopes prediction unfolds, we expect Madison Square Garden will be on its feet by the time that final bell rings.

Grant Young is a sports writer from San Francisco. He has had two professional Muay Thai fights: he got knocked out in one, and got a knockout in the other. When it comes to his favorite fighters, it's Israel Adesanya, and then it's everyone else.