UFC title matchup projections: Why our model loves Islam Makhachev as the new lightweight champion

Islam Makhachev, right, will take on Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 280. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

There are less than three months left in 2022 and the UFC currently has four of its champions set to put their belts on the line at UFC 280 and UFC 281. With UFC 282 currently lacking a main event and co-main event, could any title fights be added to that card as well?

But how would each of these title matchups really play out in the cage? Using predictive models agnostic of betting lines, we examined how each champion's matchup appears from a favorability view. Essentially, is this a good matchup for the champ?

The inputs consider each fighter's performance metrics inside the Octagon and select factors about the fighter outside the cage. The higher the score, the more favorable the incumbent champ matches.

These scores don't indicate how to bet the fight, but just the relative favorability running from the riskiest to the best matchup.

Reed Kuhn and Ian Parker look at the four title fights scheduled for the next two months, along with two fantasy-booked matchups that we'd love to see happen in December: Jiří Procházka defending his light heavyweight title against former champ Glover Teixeira and Jon Jones facing Stipe Miocic for the interim heavyweight title. Kuhn provides the model projections for each fight, while Parker details the betting perspective.

Note: In this exercise, for the interim heavyweight championship, we're using Jones as the "incumbent" champ due to having more title defenses in the UFC.

And new?

Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev: 33% favorability for the champion