Dagestan’s next great hope for an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world title looks to make it eight straight wins this Saturday (July 17, 2021) when Islam Makhachev squares off with Brazilian submission ace Thiago Moises. UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also see Marion Reneau welcome former champion Miesha Tate back to the Octagon for the first time since 2016 and Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Rodolfo Vieira attempt to bounce back from his first mixed martial arts (MMA) defeat against Dustin Stoltzfus.
Three more UFC Vegas 31 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s knock ‘em out real quick ...
170 lbs.: Daniel Rodriguez vs. Preston Parsons
Daniel Rodriguez (14-2) didn’t manage to secure a contract on “Contender Series,” but he’s gone on to put together a 4-1 record in the world’s largest fight promotion. Said run includes a bonus-winning submission of Tim Means and a decision over Mike Perry in his most recent effort.
“D-Rod” has finished seven professional foes by form of knockout.
A busy five-fight span saw Preston Parsons (9-2) tap future UFC competitor Ignacio Bahamondes between losses to Mike Perry and Valdir Araujo, after which he spent two years on the shelf. He’s since picked up four consecutive stoppages, the most recent of them in June 2021.
He steps in for the injured Abubakar Nurmagomedov on just over one week’s notice.
It’s hard to get a good read on Parsons’ ceiling. That’s because he looked real solid in recent footage and didn’t show any red flags, but he hasn’t really beaten anyone noteworthy besides a green Bahamondes and future bare-knuckle boxer David Mundell. As impressive as his grappling and violent clinch game appear to be, it’s hard to pick him against a more tested and proven quantity in Rodriguez.
By the same token, Rodriguez has yet to face a dedicated wrestler in UFC, so while he proved hard to keep down against the likes of Means and Perry, Parsons could very well find success there. Considering Rodriguez’s experience and the fact that he was already preparing for a superior takedown specialist in Nurmagomedov, though, I like “D-Rod” to sprawl-and-brawl his way to victory.
Prediction: Rodriguez via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Amanda Lemos vs. Montserrat Ruiz
More than two years after falling to Leslie Smith in her Octagon debut and subsequently failing a drug test, Amanda Lemos (9-1-1) dropped two weight classes to choke out unbeaten Miranda Granger in Busan. She has since scored one-sided wins over Mizuki Inoue and Livinha Souza to secure a spot in the Top 15.
Her eight professional stoppages include six by form of knockout.
Montserrat Ruiz (10-1) battled her way to a perfect (8-0) professional start before running afoul of Danielle Taylor in her Invicta debut. More than 19 months later, she returned to the win column by tapping Janaisa Morandin, then stepped up on short notice to upset Cheyanne Buys in March.
“Conejo” gives up four inches of height and reach to “Amandinha.”
The flow chart for predicting a Ruiz fight has exactly one question: “can you deal with a head-and-arm throw?” If the answer is “yes,” you win. Besides the occasional punching flurry, that one takedown and its corresponding ground attacks comprise the entirety of Ruiz’s arsenal.
While Buys was unable to stop the throw and too unwilling to risk submission danger to get up afterward, the same can’t be said for Lemos, who boasts more than enough wrestling chops to keep the fight standing. On top of that, she has Ruiz hopelessly out-gunned on the feet, where her power and reach advantage figure to make the clinch inaccessible. Unless Lemos feels irresistibly compelled to recreate Buys’ gameplan, she batters Ruiz to a mercy stoppage within two rounds.
Prediction: Lemos via second round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Khalid Taha vs. Sergey Morozov
Khalid Taha (13-3) — less than one year removed from a loss to Nad Narimani in his Octagon debut — proved he belonged in the Octagon by stopping Boston Salmon in just 25 seconds. The momentum wasn’t to last, as he saw a submission of Bruno Silva go up in smoke because of a failed drug test and came up short against Raoni Barcelos in a “Fight of the Night” war.
He’s ended eight professional fights by knockout and another three by submission.
Sergey Morozov (16-4) rebounded from his unsuccessful title bid against Movsar Evloev by winning his next five in a row, beating Aleksandr Osetrov for the M-1 Bantamweight belt and avenging a loss to Josh Rettinghouse along the way. He made it to the Octagon 15 months later, where he tapped to top prospect Umar Nurmagomedov in the second round.
This is one of those intriguing yet frustrating fights where both combatants are well-equipped to exploit the other’s historical weakness. Taha’s power and aggression look like a bad match up for Morozov’s allergy to pressure, while the Russian has the takedown skills to bring Taha’s wrestling issues to the fore once again. It’s a bit of a two-true-outcome fight; either Taha bullies and batters Morozov into submission on the feet or Morozov grinds him into oblivion on the mat.
This is a pure gut pick, but I’m leaning Morozov. Everyone who’s made the effort to takedown Taha in UFC has done so, even a natural Flyweight in Silva. If Taha can muzzle Morozov’s offense with consistent pressure, he’ll batter him, but I like Morozov to control the fight from top position.
Prediction: Morozov via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 31 features some sneaky good fights, so be sure you don’t miss ‘em. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 31 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 31: “Makhachev vs. Moises” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.