Last night (Sat., July 17, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 31. Max Holloway’s injury was a major blow to the card, but fortunately, highly hyped Dagestani Islam Makhachev was in place to capitalize. Elsewhere on the card, longtime veterans like Miesha Tate and Jeremy Stephens looked to return to the win column.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Makhachev Mauls ... As Expected
Islam Makhachev did exactly what he was supposed to do.
Against a genuinely tough and skilled Lightweight contender — is there any other type in the shark tank of a division? — Makhachev made it look effortless. He kickboxed for as long as he wanted to, then took it to the floor largely at will. The sole time that Moises actually answered strong with a takedown of his own, Makhachev escaped and was in dominant position almost immediately.
The Dagestani is good. He just might be the best. The only way to find out is to find a Top Five-ranked contender to fight him or skip the middle man and throw Makhachev in a title fight.
The Rare Return
MMA retirements are common. MMA retirements lasting for more than a half-year are less standard, and successful returns from retirement are damn near unprecedented. Most fighters who disappear for as long as Tate has sat on the sidelines do not come back successfully — they end up on the wrong side of highlight reels a la Matt Wiman’s ill-fated return.
Tate defied the odds at the expense of Marion Reneau, and it was fun to watch! She was clearly in great physical condition, and her striking showed definite improvement. I still don’t know that I have much faith in her title run hopes so long as Amanda Nunes is around, but hey, she’s already walking an unlikely path.
ANOTHER Lightweight Contender?
Sure, Jeremy Stephens loses to top contenders fairly often. That’s not a new result. But, how often is Stephens thrown on his head and forced to submit in a roughly a minute?
Pretty much never is the answer, and Stephens has been scrapping it out with elite grapplers like Charles Oliveira and Zabit Magomedsharipov for as long as anyone can remember. Nevertheless, Mateusz Gamrot landed a sweet single leg takedown then immediately attacked the kimura, securing the biggest win of his career IN STYLE!
There are so many talented Lightweights that it’s hard to keep track, but don’t let Gamrot get lost in the mix.
Rodolfo Vieira suffered one of the year’s most embarrassing losses last time out, gassing and getting strangled by Anthony Hernandez earlier in the year. How does a jiu-jitsu master bounce back from that type of defeat?
Apparently, he develops one hell of a jab. Vieira was a good bit more measured in this bounce back performance, but he consistently snapped his foe’s head back with his lead hand. He bloodied the nose and split the cheek, showcasing an impressive new wrinkle to his offense.
At the end of the day, however, Vieira is a grappling ace. In the third round, Vieira returned to his bread-and-butter, scoring an early takedown then jumping the back for an immediate strangle. Vieira still needs to work on his comfort in the cage, but if he can ever put it all together, he could develop into a contender.
Billy Q Bounces Back
Opposite a very tough finisher in Gabriel Benitez, Billy Quarantillo put on the best performance of his career. Benitez can kick through bricks, but Quarantillo showed the weapon no respect, walking his foe down with early power punches. One such big right hand landed clean and dropped Benitez, dramatically changing the course of the fight in Quarantillo’s favor.
Once “Billy Q” gets momentum in his corner, he doesn’t stop. The veteran just kept working, stringing together punches, takedowns, and back takes. Benitez would land some shots in his moments on the feet, but nothing was enough to back Quarantillo off for good.
Even a third-round knockdown from “Moggly” didn’t slow Quarantillo down. He just kept coming, and it resulted in the late finish.
A Women’s Strawweight Power Puncher?
Amanda Lemos just might be the scariest puncher since Jessica Andrade ran up the divisional ladder. Montserrat Ruiz is a gamer, but her strategy of rushing straightforward in search of the clinch ... well, it wasn’t a great one against a woman with ferocious knockout power.
Not only did Lemos smash her foe with punches that were reminiscent of Amanda Nunes (not saying the rest of her game is there), but she did so while pivoting away from the fence. Now 3-0 at 115 pounds, Lemos is a problem for her division!
- Daniel Rodriguez defeats Preston Parsons via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): “D-Rod” faced a short-notice foe last night, and he made it apparent. Parsons showed up in shape and ready to scrap, but when the takedown wasn’t there, Rodriguez started tuning him up. The clean left hand connections added up quickly, and it wasn’t long before the finish materialized.
- Rodrigo Nascimento defeats Alan Baudot via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Heavyweight may be a unique division, but it’s still interesting when the submission guy stops the knockout artist with punches! Baudot started really strong, landing some clean overhands as well as big ground strikes following a failed takedown attempt. However, his gas tank soon wore empty, and Nascimento paid him back in full. As Baudot tried to catch his breath, the Brazilian stalked his pray, putting together quality combinations before an uppercut secured the comeback finish.
For complete UFC Vegas 31: “Makhachev vs. Moises” results and play-by-play, click HERE.