Aside from a shocking counter that left him unconscious at UFC 192 in 2015, no one has been able to decipher Islam Makhachev inside the octagon.
Thiago Moises vows to change that on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Moises, who meets Makhachev in the main event of UFC Vegas 31, has been very complimentary of his Russian foe, who has been hyped up by none other than Khabib Nurmagomedov as the next big thing in the lightweight division after going 19-1 in the sport and winning his past seven in the UFC. Moises told MMA Fighting that he believes his opponent deserves the hype because “he’s been dominating the last opponents he’s fought in the UFC.” That said, Moises doesn’t feel he’s been tested against the elite just yet.
Makhachev’s seven-fight winning streak includes Drew Dober, Davi Ramos, Arman Tsarukyan, Kajan Johnson, Gleison Tibau, Nik Lentz and Chris Wade.
“He has fought tough fighters, but no one from the top of the division,” said Moises, who defeated Alexander Hernandez, Bobby Green, and Michael Johnson in his past three octagon appearances. “We’ll have a better idea when he starts to fight the best lightweights.
“The opponents he’s fought [since the Martins loss] were good, but I believe no one is as complete as I am, and that’s my advantage in the fight.”
The Brazilian believes Makhachev doesn’t compare to the recently-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov, a close friend of the Russian talent who called it a career after going 29-0.
“No one compares to Khabib and what he’s done in the sport,” Moises said. “To me, Khabib was the best lightweight of all-time, one of the best of all-time pound-for-pound, and I believe [Makhachev] doesn’t compare to Khabib.”
Saturday’s lightweight bout was elevated to main event status after the cancellation of Max Holloway vs. Yair Rodriguez, adding two more rounds to the contest. Moises says it’s merely a “psychological” change that doesn’t affect him.
“I’m going with all I have to end this fight before the fifth round,” Moises said. “That’s the goal. I have all the tools to end this fight on the feet or on the ground.”
A win over Makhachev “will definitely put my name in the mix for a shot at the belt,” Moises said. But the Brazilian is not looking past UFC Vegas 31.
“Him having all that hype definitely makes my win even better,” Moises said. “Everybody is saying he should fight someone closer to the belt, that he’s close to be fighting for the belt, so this fight is a huge opportunity for me.”