Islam Makhachev moved his record to 9-1 in the UFC on Saturday with a submission win over Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31. During the contest, which ended in the fourth round, Moises tied the record for most significant strikes landed against Makhachev during a UFC fight. Moises now shares that record with Arman Tsarukyan and Nik Lentz. Each man landed 13 significant strikes against Makhachev. Each man also lost to Makhachev.
Makhachev made his eighth straight win in the UFC look easy. Like his coach, friend and mentor, former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev is a dominant fighter on the mat. He rarely puts himself in dangerous positions and his patience is one of the most impressive aspects of his fight game. He used that patience to force an opening in Moises’ ground defense and when that opening presented itself, he sunk in the fight ending choke.
Makhachev reportedly had a hard time getting an opponent for this card. I don’t expect that to change for his next outing. One thing that could make other lightweights more interested in facing him is the opportunity to headline an event — and more money. Other than that, Makhachev might spend a fair amount of time waiting for his next fight.
In the co-main event, former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate returned to action after nearly five years away from the octagon. Tate, who retired in November 2016 after a decision loss to Raquel Pennington, looked excellent in earning a TKO win over Marion Reneau.
Read on for the winners and losers of UFC Vegas 31, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Islam Makhachev: Islam Makhachev did his thing on Saturday night. Using a calm, patient and calculated approach he broke down his opponent, Thiago Moises over four rounds and waited for Moises to provide him with the opening he needed to finish the fight. That opening came at the 2:38 mark of the fourth stanza when Makhachev secured a rear-naked choke — without hooks — for his eighth straight win in the UFC lightweight division.
One issue Makhachev might have in the future is how easy he made this win look. Although he gets compared to Khabib Nurmagomedov, I think their style differs in aggression and power. Nurmagomedov’s ground game was heavy, but it was also crushing when it came to striking. Makhachev does not have the power on the mat that Nurmagomedov did, but his technical ability and patience make up for that lack of striking.
A fight against Rafael dos Anjos makes sense and that would be an excellent test for Makhachev. Dos Anjos might be in a bit of a rough patch, but he is not someone who will be in awe of Makhachev or reluctant to test him. For those who remain unsold on Makhachev’s talent, that fight would be a good one.
Miesha Tate: Miesha Tate did not come back to the UFC to just participate. She came back to reclaim the bantamweight belt she lost to Amanda Nunes in July 2016. Tate took the first step toward that goal on Saturday with a third-round TKO win over Marion Reneau. Tate showed little, if any, cage rust after nearly five years out of action. Her striking was crisp, her wrestling base was still there and the win over a ranked opponent in her return to the octagon will be an enormous boost in confidence for the 34-year-old Tate.
Mateusz Gamrot: Mateusz Gamrot added a second straight stoppage victory to his record when he scored a quick and efficient kimura win over Jeremy Stephens. Now 19-1 with 11 stoppage victories, Gamrot, a former KSW champion, announced his plan to become lightweight champion within two years and then called for a top-15 opponent in his next outing. Gamrot looks like a confident fighter who can do good work on the mic. I’d be shocked if the UFC didn’t give him a bump up in competition.
Rodolfo Vieira: Rodolfo Vieira had a terrible outing in his last UFC bout. In February, Anthony Hernandez scored a submission win over the gassed out grappler. Vieira bounced back from that setback on Saturday with a submission win over Dustin Stoltzfus. Vieira looked as if he had worked on his striking before this contest. He was much more comfortable on his feet and didn’t rely solely on his grappling skills. That change in focus allowed Vieira to save his energy. With some gas in the tank, Vieira had the energy to wrap up a choke in the third stanza after taking his opponent’s back while standing. Vieira showed he is working on becoming a better mixed martial artist in this bout.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Billy Quarantillo: The featherweight bout between Gabriel Benitez and Billy Quarantillo was an exciting one. Quarantillo, who has been an all-action fighter since he made his promotional debut 2019, was involved in another must watch fight. Quarantillo opened the contest with powerful striking and a nasty slam to break free from an armbar attempt. From there, Quarantillo showed he was a better wrestler than his opponent when he scored takedowns and used his skills to work from back control. Benitez, despite sporting a nasty swollen eye, never gave up. He even scored a late knockdown, which was impressive considering he had two visits from the doctor and a warning from the referee about stopping the fight before he earned that knockdown in the third stanza.
Quarantillo also showed his resiliency when he took the fight to the mat after getting back to his feet from the knockdown and finishing the fight with ground strikes.
Both fighters gave a great showing in this matchup.
Daniel Rodriguez: Daniel Rodriguez had to face Preston Parsons, a late replacement for Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Rodriguez did exactly what he needed to do in that fight. He showcased his powerful striking and scored a first-round knockout win. Rodriguez is due a step up in competition.
Amanda Lemos: Amanda Lemos earned the second fastest finish in strawweight history with a 35-second knockout of Montserrat Conejo. The knockout was her second in a row and Lemos is now on a four-fight winning streak. Lemos was ranked No. 14 in the division at the start of this fight. She should head up those rankings after her knockout win at UFC Apex.
Sergey Morozov: Sergey Morozov dominated Khalid Taha in a bantamweight scrap. He showed power in his strikes, smart counters, heavy work against the cage and excellent chain wrestling. Morozov is a true mixed martial artist, and he’s someone to watch in the bantamweight division.
Malcolm Gordon: Malcolm Gordon fought Francisco Figueiredo like a man who was 0-2 in the UFC and competing for his career. The 31-year-old was aggressive from the opening seconds of the fight. That aggression might have made all the difference in this fight, well, that and a mistake from Figueiredo in the first seconds of the third round. Gordon’s pressure kept Figueiredo on his back foot and prevented him from launching offensive attacks of his own.
Gordon got a favor in the opening seconds of the third stanza when Figueiredo missed a flying knee, which allowed Gordon to take control on the mat without using any energy.
Thiago Moises: Thiago Moises did what he could against Islam Makhachev and what he could do was not much. Moises landed 13 significant strikes and was taken down three times before Makhachev submitted him in the fourth round. Moises should get some credit for taking this fight, but he was not on Makhachev’s level.
Marion Reneau: Marion Reneau finished her MMA career on a 0-5 run. The 44-year-old, who made her UFC debut with a win over Alexis Dufresne in 2015, lost to Miesha Tate in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 31. Despite a TKO loss in her final UFC performance, Reneau seemed to have no regrets in her post-fight interview with UFC commentator Paul Felder.
Jeremy Stephens: Jeremy Stephens, who shouldn’t have been fighting tonight (in my opinion) called Mateusz Gamrot an “ankle biter” before they faced off on Saturday and while Gamrot used his wrestling skill to get the fight to the mat (with ease), it was not Gamrot’s wrestling that finished the fight, it was a nasty kimura that forced Stephens to tap 65 seconds into the fight.
Stephens has not won a UFC fight since February, 2018 and he is on a 0-5-0-1 run.
Khalid Taha: Khalid Taha had powerful striking, but outside of that, he had little to offer Sergey Morozov, who was just the better mixed martial artist.
Francisco Figueiredo: Francisco Figueiredo is a talented fighter, but his lack of urgency and sometimes questionable decisions didn’t help him on Saturday night. He was a bit too laid back against Malcolm Gordon, and his decision to throw a flying knee at the start of the third stanza was not smart.
Alan Baudot: Alan Baudot’s striking looked excellent in the early going of his heavyweight bout opposite Rodrigo Nascimento. However, his inability to end the fight in the first five minutes left Baudot with an empty gas tank in the second stanza. His striking technique and mixture of targets was decent in the first round, but Baudot’s pacing let him down in a big way.
UFC and NSAC: Allowing Joe Schilling to work a corner. That’s a bad move considering Schilling recently beat up some dude in a bar.
Mark Smith: C’mon now, a fence grab from Marion Reneau prevented a takedown. Referees need to stop the fight in those instances and award the position.
Rodrigo Nascimento: Rodrigo Nascimento started far too slowly against Alan Baudot and it looked like the favorite in this heavyweight matchup was on his way to a knockout loss. However, Baudot seemed to overestimate his cardio and that allowed Nascimento to take control of the fight and end things in the early going of the second stanza via strikes. The slow start in the first round and the lack of defensive striking acumen showed by Nascimento needs to be addressed.