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UFC Vegas 31 card: Islam Makhachev vs Thiago Moises full fight preview

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UFC 259: Makhachev v Dober Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight talents Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises will duel TONIGHT (Sat., July 10, 2021) at UFC Vegas 31 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Makhachev finds himself in a difficult position. He’s one of the best fighters in the world and rides a considerable win streak, but few of the top-ranked Lightweights are willing to face him given the current risk-reward ratio. It’s a frustrating problem that men like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kamaru Usman have faced, but then, it worked out for those athletes eventually. Moises, meanwhile, sees the opportunity here. He doesn’t have a high ranking to lose, but dispatching one of the scariest fighters in the division when no else was all that willing to try would gain the Brazilian a ton of momentum.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 37 On ESPN+

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Sept. 18, 2021, with an exciting match up in the Light Heavyweight division, as No. 6-ranked contender, Anthony Smith, faces off with No. 11-seeded contemporary, Ryan Spann. In UFC Vegas 37’s co-main event, fellow 205-pound veterans Ion Cutelaba and Devin Clark aim to steal the show.  

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Islam Makhachev

Record: 19-1
Key Wins: Arman Tsarukyan (UFC Fight Night 149), Drew Dober (UFC 259), Gleison Tibau (UFC 220), Nik Lentz (UFC 208), Davi Ramos (UFC 242)
Key Losses: Adriano Martins (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: A decorated combat Sambo athlete, there are many similarities between Makhachev’s style of domination and his teammate Khabib’s famous mauling. However, Makhachev is perhaps even more of a suffocating pressure from top control, and he’s really opened up with his submission game as of late.

I don’t see any reason Makhachev would not opt to plant Moises on his back. That’s the thing with Makhachev: his wrestling is so effective that it’s a choice, not a question. Does Makhachev want Moises on the ground? If so, he can take him there quickly.

At any rate, that seems the prudent move here. Moises is a solid jiu-jitsu black belt, but Makhachev is a master on the mat himself. I’d probably expect the Sambo ace to win in a grappling match, but once you add punches and elbows to the mix, it no longer becomes a question.

If nothing else, Makhachev has to make it a point to advance position and chase the finish. That’s the best way for the Dagestani to force top-tier opponents to fight him.


Thiago Moises

Record: 15-4
Key Wins: Bobby Green (UFC Vegas 12), Alexander Hernandez (UFC Vegas 12), Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 171), Kurt Holobaugh (UFC 237)
Key Losses: Damir Ismagulov (UFC Fight Night 157), Beneil Dariush (UFC Fight Night 139)
Keys to Victory: Moises is a very well-rounded Lightweight who has rather quickly climbed the Lightweight ladder. The black belt has power in his hands, and his wrestling has proved more than serviceable.

If Moises is to win this fight, it has to happen on the feet. The goal is to disengage from any grappling completely. Every minute he’s stuck beneath Makhachev will slow his strikes and empty his gas tank, increasing the odds of a miserable defeat.

Against the Southpaw, Moises has to rip kicks to the open side. While the risk of those kicks getting caught definitely exists, engaging in boxing exchanges with Makhachev earlier is an even riskier tactic given the takedown. After establishing the kick and that distance, Moises can look to set up his power punches by first targeting the chest.

Moises has a nice front kick as well — use it!


Bottom Line

This is something of a placeholder match up and main event.

Makhachev deserves a Top 10, if not Top 5, opponent right now. He shouldn’t have to fight Moises. With the division log-jammed and its contenders unwilling to fight down, however, Makhachev is looking for another showcase performance to prove his greatness. At a certain point, a win streak becomes undeniable even if the level of competition is not elite, and Makhachev is almost there.

On the other hand, this is a bold move from Moises. Makhachev may not be ranked terribly high, but damn near everyone who watches fights understands just how good that man is. If Moises were to hand him his first defeat in years, his own profile would be dramatically raised as a result.

At UFC Vegas 31, Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises will battle in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?


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.