The indomitable Dagestani wrestler returns. No, not Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his close friend and training partner Islam Makhachev who takes on Brazilian grappler Thiago Moises in his first main event bout.
Makhachev (19-1-0) has won seven straight fights and will once again be a massive online betting favorite at -700. The comeback on Moises (15-4-0) is +450. If Moises, who has won his last three fights, can pull off this upset, it will be one of the best this 2021. But Makhachev is close to a title shot and won’t be slowed down.
- Date: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
- Venue: UFC Apex, Enterprise, NV
- Watch on: ESPN+
Islam Makhachev vs Thiago Moises
Weight Class: Lightweight (155 lbs)
Rounds: Five (Main Event)
Odds: Thiago Moises +450, Islam Makhachev -700
Makhachev and Moises get a golden opportunity to make the UFC brass and the fans notice them here. This isn’t officially a title eliminator bout, but an impressive win from either fighter could push them to the front of the crowded 155-pound division.
For Makhachev, it’s a title shot that’s been six years in the making. For Moises, it’s a chance to pull off his biggest upset yet.
Moises: Underdog Style
Moises will be gunning for his fourth straight win and his third straight as an underdog, per the UFC odds. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt that wins most of his fights by decision or submission, although he can flash a head kick or two.
What makes Moises dangerous is his ability to lock in a submission from anywhere on the mat. He has a pair of wins via armbar, two by chokes, and even finished former top-10 fighter Michael Johnson via an Achilles lock.
However, Moises’ wrestling is far from the best, especially from a defensive standpoint. Beneil Dariush managed to take him down at will while even Bobby Green, a striker, took him down twice. He’ll have a rough time against a more dominant wrestler like Makhachev.
Makhachev: To the Top
Dana White and the UFC are most likely looking for someone to fill the gaping void Nurmagomedov left when he abruptly retired. That’s where Makhachev comes in. Sure, he’s not unbeaten like his compatriot, but he’s been every bit as dominant in his victories.
Makhachev has “smeshed” his opponents thanks to his powerful wrestling and heavy hands. He has either knocked down and taken down all of the eight opponents that he’s beaten and has finished three of his last five fights.
If we’re going by stats, Makhachev has averaged 3.46 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 68 percent success rate. Either Makhachev takes a fighter down and mauls them or they get up only to get taken down again. The only thing going up in Makhachev’s fights is his ranking.
Fight Pick: ‘Smeshing’ Success
This will be the first five-round fight for both men in the UFC and Makhachev is excited by this prospect as he gets to experience a longer fight before he fights for the belt. But this may not even go five rounds as Makhachev should be able to finish Moises.
Makhachev will not take unnecessary risks on his feet, especially after already getting knocked out, and will get Moises to the mat. He’ll keep Moises there and beat him up and control him. Moises’ BJJ may be enough to keep him from getting submitted, but Makhachev will be too strong and overwhelming.
Pick: Islam Makhachev -700
Betting Makhachev straight has little to no value. You either throw him in a parlay or you bet him to win by decision (-110) or by a finish (+150). A decision seems likely, but Makhachev could break Moises at some point and finish him by ground strikes.