DieHardMMA Preview: UFC Vegas 31 Makhachev vs Moises
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
The smaller UFC cards are always struggling to show up after a big pay-per-view card. UFC 264 was phenomenal from top to bottom and the only reason it wasn’t one of the best cards of the year was McGregor’s horrific injury in the main event. The build-up to the main event was nothing short of fantastic, but it left us all a bit wanting when the fight ended in a questionable manner. UFC Vegas 31 is a solid card with some really great young talent and might benefit from the way we all felt leaving UFC 264.
Islam Makhachev (-650)
- 29 years old
- 19 – 1
- 58% finish rate
- 8 Wins by Submission
- Height: 5’10
- Reach: 70’
Islam Makhachev is the future. The greatest lightweight fighter to ever grace the UFC, Khabib Nurmagomedov, has gone on record endorsing the young Makhachev and has already anointed his protege as the next champion. That is a glowing endorsement and so far Makhachev has absolutely lived up to the hype. Way back in 2015, Adriano Martins caught Islam in the first round, but the lesson was learned well. Since his one loss, Islam has rattled off 7 wins and has not only been winning but has been finishing the majority of his opponents. It is time for Islam to step into the ring of contenders with a win on Saturday.
Thiago Moises (+450)
- 26 years old
- 15 – 4
- 60% finish rate
- 6 Wins by Submission
- Height: 5’9
- Reach: 70’
Thiago Moises is a fighter who I have routinely attempted to fade. Thiago looks like he has all the tools, but I simply haven’t been impressed. The problem with this is that he just keeps getting the dang thing done. In the last 3 fights, Moises has submitted Michael Johnson and won decisions over both Bobby Green and Alexander Hernandez. In the fight with Johnson, Thiago was getting his ass whooped in the first round. That fight was as close to a 10-7 as we have ever seen, but when the bell rang for R2 Thiago went out there and submitted Johnson in just 25 seconds. The fight against Bobby Green I will stand by as one of the biggest robberies in modern-day MMA history. Finally, in the fight with Alexander Hernandez, Thiago simply put everything together and dominated an opponent who he was supposed to lose to. This kid is a high-level BJJ back belt with a slick boxing game and trains at ATT. He is coming into his own as a fighter and even though I feel like he may not have deserved a few of the wins he has gotten recently he keeps finding ways to win.
Islam Makhachev is the heir apparent to the one and only Khabib. The grinding, drowning grappling of the Dagestani Russian is something to behold and something no one seems to have an answer for. When Islam is able to stuff his opponent’s game he is in the driver’s seat and outside of one moment in one fight 6 years ago he has been able to do exactly that.
While I personally have not been high on Thiago Moises you have to respect what that kid brings to the table and we also have to bear in mind that he is getting better. This is a much more interesting fight on paper than the betting line would suggest.
Another key element to this fight that just seems to be floating under the radar is that this is a 5 round main event. The majority of the MMA fandom just assumes that this will favor Islam, but we don’t really know that. In fact, of these two fighters, the only one who has seen the championship rounds is Thiago Moises. Islam hasn’t really shown signs of slowing down, but if Moises is able to hang into this fight and get it into the late rounds he may be the one with the upper hand. Moises is a better striker than Islam is. Islam is the better wrestler, but Thiago has his BJJ black belt to make sure he isn’t out of place on the mat.
There are so many questions about this fight I cannot confidently back anybody here. The price is so far out of hand I cannot suggest betting on Islam Makhachev even though he is the straight pick to win all the betting value is on Thiago Moises. If there was a bet to make on this fight I would look at the over 4.5. Moises has shown serious durability and Islam is not a knockout artist. Even though Islam has finished 8 opponents by submission I find it hard to believe that Thiago is tapping on Saturday. Thiago similarly probably will not be able to overcome the dominant wrestling for a submission finish. What we have seen is Makhachev be Kod. Of the two men, the only loss via finish was when Isam got clipped and Thiago has some fast hands. If Islam slows down late that’s the one way I see this fight getting stopped, so rather than picking a winner in a fight that could get hairy I would say to look at the over.