Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to action later tonight (Sat., July 17, 2021) for UFC Vegas 31 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the main event of the evening, Islam Makhachev makes his highly-anticipated return to take on Thiago Moises in Lightweight action. In the co-headlining act, Miesha Tate will make her return after a five-year retirement to face off against Marion Reneau.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is long gone and he seriously has no plans of ever returning to action. As one of the most dominant fighters ever, he will truly be missed by all fight fans since he seems to be a once in a generation talent. But he leaves the sport in good hands with Charles Oliveira as champion, as well as Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler leading the way. But one man who “The Eagle” feels will rule the division with an iron fist in the years to come will be none other than his protege Islam Makhachev.
From the jump, Makhachev made his presence felt inside the Octagon and the comparisons to Khabib began. And it was easy to see why because like Khabib, Makhachev has outstanding grappling skills that smother their opponents, leaving them fighting for space and air just to pop off some offense. And the man can strike, too, so he is no one-trick pony (neither is Khabib). Of course, the knock on Makhachev has been his level of opposition, but he claims fighters are ducking him so he just takes what he can get.
Against Moises, he isn’t fighting the biggest name, but the man has skills. He is currently on a three-fight win streak, holding impressive victories over Michael Johnson, Bobby Green and Alexander Hernandez. Adding Makhachev to his resume would be huge for his career moving forward and set him up for higher-profile fights. Can he get it done? Sure, everyone has a puncher's chance. But against Makhachev you need to be on your “A” game from start to finish. Makhachev — winner of seven in a row — has a has tank for days and that Dagestani strength isn’t a myth ... it’s real and it’s dangerous.
Let’s be honest, it isn’t the most stacked card UFC has put on. But it’s to be expected after the promotion staged UFC 264 just a few days ago, which featured a trilogy fight between the sports biggest tar, Conor McGregor, and No. 1 Lightweight contender, Dustin Poirier.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Amir Albazi was lined up to take on Ode Osbourne but eventually pulled out with an undisclosed injury. Osbourne was not rescheduled to fight anyone else. Abubakar Nurmagoemdov was forced out of his fight against Daniel Rodriguez and was eventually replaced by UFC newcomer Preston Parsons.
Guram Kutateladze was in line to face Don Madge, but was forced out of the fight with a knee injury and Madge was removed from the event altogether. Herbert Burns suffered a torn ACL and was forced out of his fight against Billy Quarantillo, who will now face Gabriel Benitez. Deron Winn suffered a rib injury that forced the promotion to reschedule his fight against Phil Hawes to a future event.
Parsons answered the call to step in and face Daniel Rodriguez after Abubakar Nurmagomedov bowed out. The former Cage of Combat champion is currently riding a four-fight win streak and has won seven of his last fight fights, seven of them by way of submission. In fact, all of Parsons nine victories have come the same way. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is coming off a big win over Mike Perry and has won 10 of his last 11 bouts. It’s a tough first fight for Parson because Rodriguez is as legit as they come and won’t be taking it easy on the newbie. But if Parsons can pull off the upset he will put himself on the map right away.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Amanda Lemos and Montserrat Ruiz will throw down in a women’s Strawweight fight in what will be a battle of streaking fighters. Lemos is currently riding a three-fight win streak, while Ruiz has won two in a row. Also, Alan Baudot and Rodrigo Ferreira will square off in a battle of fighters who need a win. Ferreira suffered the first loss if his career in his previous outing against Chris Daukaus, while Baudot lost to Tom Aspinall.
Francisco Figueiredo — Deiveson Figueiredo’s brother — succeeded in winning his UFC debut against Jerome Rivera, and now his sophomore challenge will come against Malcom Gordon. who has yet to taste victory inside the Octagon in two tries. One more loss for Gordon could be the end of the UFC road for him.
After suffering the first setback of his career against Mario Bautista, top prospect Miles Johns bounced back with a blistering knockout win over Kevin Natividad. He looks to build off that momentum when he battles Anderson dos Santos, who snapped his two-fight skid against Martin Day, choking him out in the first round in Nov. 2021.
Khalid Taha and Sergey Morozov will collide in a Bantamweight bout. Both men are looking to step back in the winner’s circle since they came up short in their previous bouts. Taha is just 1-2-1 so far inside the Octagon, while Morozov came up short in his Octgagn debut, losing to Umar Nurmagomedov.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
You probably haven't realized, but it’s been a while since Jeremy Stephens had his hand raised. More than three years, to be exact. Indeed, the last time “Lil’ Heathen” won was in Feb. 2018, knocking out Josh Emmett. Since then, he has dropped four of his last five bouts with the other being a “No Contest.” Mateusz Gamrot is his next opponent and while he isn’t the biggest name available he has the chance to up his stock with a win over a long-time veteran such as Stephens. Should Stephens lose, there is no telling if UFC lets him go. He is always exciting and Bellator would be quick to pick him up if he is released, so something tells me UFC would keep him around. That said, he still needs a win here in the worst way.
Interest Level: 6/10
In the co-main event, Tate will make her long-awaited return to the Octagon after nearly five years away to take on Reneau. “Cupcake” left on a two-fight skid so coming back isn’t a surprise, really, since a veteran such as herself would love nothing more than to go out with a win. That’s not saying that this is a one and done deal for her, but she hasn’t exactly revealed how long she plans to keep on fighting after this. While she is coming back, Reneau is on her way out, declaring that this will be her retirement fight. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the lengthy layoff will affect Tate.
Rodolfo Vieira suffered the first loss of his career in his last outing, coming up short against Anthony Hernandez at UFC 258. Prior to that setback, he was a perfect 7-0 and had won his first two fights under the UFC umbrella. He will be battling Dustin Stoltzfus, who failed to make a splash in his UFC debut against Kyle Daukaus, losing his nine fight win streak in the process.
In further main card action, Billy Quarantillo will battle Gabriel Benitez in a clash of scrappy Featherweights. Benitez is coming off a first round destruction of Justin Jaynes, taking him out in Dec. 2020 via vicious ground-and-pound, As for Quarantillo, he is hungry for a win after his eight-fight win streak was snapped by Gavin Tucker in Dec. 2020, the first loss of his UFC career.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 31 Main Event On ESPN/ESPN+:
155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises
UFC Vegas 31 Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Marion Reneau vs. Miesha Tate
155 lbs.: Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jeremy Stephens
185 lbs.: Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Rodolfo Vieira
145 lbs.: Billy Quarantillo vs. Gabriel Benitez
UFC Vegas 31 Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Preston Parsons vs. Daniel Rodriguez
115 lbs.: Amanda Lemos vs. Montserrat Ruiz
135 lbs.: Sergey Morozov vs. Khalid Taha
135 lbs.: Anderson dos Santos vs. Miles Johns— CANCELED! (details here)
125 lbs.: Francisco Figueredo vs. Malcolm Gordon
265 lbs.: Alan Baudot vs. Rodrigo Nascimento
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
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.
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