MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Vegas 31, a five-round UFC lightweight bout between top-15 ranked contenders Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises. The event takes place on Saturday, July 17 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Islam Makhachev (-600)
Makhachev (19-1) is the No. 9 ranked lightweight in the UFC. The 29-year-old Russian joined the UFC in 2015 and he has since gone 8-1 in the Octagon with wins over Drew Dober, Davi Ramos, Arman Tsarukyan, Kajan Johnson, Gleison Tibau, Nik Lentz, Chris Wade, and Leo Kuntz, with his lone loss in the UFC coming against Adriano Martins. One of the best wrestlers in the UFC lightweight division, Makhachev has been absolutely steamrolling his opponents with his wrestling and grappling. He is close friends with former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and you can tell that by the way he fights. Some believe that Makhachev could be a future world champion and it’s certainly possible that he could make a run for the belt. Against Moises, Makhachev is a monster favorite and it will be interesting to see if he is able to live up to the hype.
Thiago Moises (+450)
Moises (15-4) is the No. 14 ranked lightweight in the UFC. The 26-year-old Brazilian first joined the world’s leading MMA promotion in 2018 and he has gone 4-2 since then, with wins over Alexander Hernandez, Bobby Green, Michael Johnson, and Kurt Holobaugh, with losses to Beneil Dariush and Damir Ismagulov. A professional MMA fighter since 2012, Moises began his martial arts training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and he used his grappling as his base for the beginning of his career. However, since he started training at American Top Team, he has really improved his striking and we are now seeing him be able to hang with fighters who he once would have struggled with on the feet. With his striking and grappling skills to go along with his cardio and toughness, Moises is certainly a name to watch for in the UFC lightweight division. He has a tough fight here against Makhachev as you can see from the betting line, but perhaps Moises can surprise us and pull off another upset.
Fight Breakdown: This should be an intriguing matchup between two youngsters who could eventually compete one day for the UFC lightweight strap. Based on the current betting line, you would think this should be a complete wash for Makhachev, but I think stylistically Moises actually matches up decently well against him and could perform better than some expect. Still, Makhachev’s ground game is as elite as it gets, and it’s hard to forget the way that Dariush controlled Moises on the ground. Although Moises won’t be easy to take down, I do think Makhachev will be able to get him down enough to win rounds. On the feet, it’s possible that Moises could have a small edge in the technical striking, but Makhachev’s striking is pretty underrated too. Although I can see this fight going five rounds, I do think Makhachev is going to get his hand raised.
Prediction: Islam Makhachev