All fight week UFC lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov has talked up Islam Makhachev as the heir apparent for the space he vacated at the top of the 155 lb division. In the main event of UFC Vegas 31 Makhachev showed he just might live up to those lofty expectations.
In his first ever main event the Dagestani thoroughly outclassed Thiago Moises on both the ground and the feet on route to a fourth round submission victory. When it was all said and done, Makhachev called out Rafael dos Anjos and asked the rest of his division to stop “running” from him.
Also on the main card, which saw all finishes, former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate returned after nearly five years and did something no fighter has ever done—finish Marion Reneau. There were also highlight reel finishes for Mateusz Gamrot and Rodolfo Vieira and a barnburner between Billy Quarantillo and Gabriel Benitez.
In the main event Makhachev took the center of the cage from the opening bell and looked to control the action (something he would successfully do over the next 20 minutes). Moises opted to hang back, at first, and wait for a counter. After each man flashed kicks at each other and Moises missed on a rushing punch combo, a clinch broke out against the fence, with Moises pushing the Dagestani up against the mesh. After breaking free Makhachev again took the center and this time did a better job of walking down Moises and landing hard shots. Moises responded by initiating another clinch and then looking for a takedown. Makhachev stayed standing, though, and landed knees to the body before elevating Moises, turning and planting him on his back in the center of the cage. Makhachev only had around 45 seconds to work from that position, though.
In the second Moises opened up more with his striking, landing good leg kicks and putting Makhachev off balance with some nicely timed jabs. The Brazilian again went for a clinch, this time he was able to get a quick takedown. However, Makhachev immediately popped up and was able to get on Moises’ back. This time Makhachev had over two minutes to work, but Moises was able to defend well, only getting tagged with light short punches and never looking in serious danger of being submitted.
In the third Moises again tried to establish the clinch game. However, he was again unable to land any real offence in the position. In that position it was Makhachev who was most threatening, as he landed knees to the body and legs and attempted to trip and throw Moises. With a minute left in the round Makhachev hoisted Moises and took him down against the fence. From there Moises tried his luck with a leglock. But Makhachev was wise to it and was able to protect himself until the round ended.
By the fourth round Moises knew the only way he could win was with a stoppage. However, despite that urgency, he looked frozen in there. Makhachev again backed him into a corner and, this time, picked him up and slammed him in down with authority. Makhachev then upped his activity on the ground, throwing more punches and elbows. After softening Moises up, he slid in the rear naked choke and got the tap.
Round one of the co-main event between the returning Miesha Tate and retiring Marion Reneau started tentatively. Both women spent time measuring their offence and looking to land potshots without overly committing. However, with a minute left in the period Tate blitzed Reneau and was then able to muscle her to the mat. But Reneau’s defence nullified much of what Tate was able to do from top position as the round came to an end.
Both women looked sharp in the second round, as they each took turns landing shots. Tate may have landed the harder punches and it was her again who switched up the dynamic, diving in for a takedown, which Reneau initially blocked with a pretty egregious fence grab. Despite that illegal move, Tate was able to wrestle Reneau away from the fence and get her down on the ground. From there Reneau went for a kimura, which hampered much of Tate’s attempts to land ground and pound. Tate wriggled out of that hold and stood up, she ate an upkick and then came back down to the ground to try more ground strikes, one of which busted open Reneau’s nose.
Tate looked in the zone to start the third. She cracked Reneau with the cleanest shot of the fight, forcing her to take an awkward backwards step. The former champ then went for a takedown and eventually got it against the cage. Tate then peppered away with ground and pound, to which Reneau had no answer. The referee stepped in and gave Tate a TKO win.
Matuesz Gamrot took his fight with Jeremy Stephens to the ground early. From there the former KSW champ isolated an arm and, at first, looked as though he was attempting an armbar. But as Stephens scrambled, Gamrot adjusted and cranked on a kimura hold. Stephens tapped twice before Mike Beltran swooped in and stopped what would have been a serious injury if left any longer. The official finish came at just over the minute mark.
BJJ ace Rodolfo Vieira looked good on the feet versus Dustin Stoltzfus, catching him with stiff jabs throughout the first round and evading much of what was thrown his way in return. Vieira continued to find a home for his jab in the second and landed a takedown, too. Vieira started the third round with a more explosive takedown. After some scrambles, Vieira and Stoltzfus wound up grappling against the fence. That’s when Vieira pulled off an incredibly athletic back-take. From there he locked up a choke and forced Stoltzfus to hit the ground like a fallen tree. As they hit the mat, Stoltzfus tapped, giving the Brazilian the submission victory.
The main card opened with Gabriel Benitez versus Billy Quarantillo. These two threw leather from the get go. Quarantillo found success early; knocking down Mowgli and opening a big cut over his left eye. Billy Q poured it on in the second with a varied assault that included big knees to the body, takedowns and brutal elbows on the ground. Benitez scored a knockdown early in the third. But Quarantillo preserved and was able to get Benitez’s back, lock in a tight body triangle (a tool he expertly utilized throughout the whole fight) and earn a TKO with ground and pound.
Islam Makhachev def. Thiago Moises by submission (rear naked choke), round 4 (2:38).
Miesha Tate def. Marion Reneau by TKO (punches), round 3 (1:53).
Mateusz Gamrot def. Jeremy Stephens by submission (kimura), round 1 (1:05).
Rodolfo Vieira def. Dustin Stoltzfus by submission (rear naked choke), round 3 (1:54).
Billy Quarantillo def. Gabriel Benitez by TKO (punches and elbows), round 3 (3:40).