The lightweight division has a new boogeyman and his name is Islam Makhachev.
In his first main event at UFC Vegas 31, the Russian put on a nearly flawless performance as he absolutely mauled Thiago Moises round after round before eventually finishing the fight with a rear-naked choke. The stoppage came at 2:38 in the fourth round as Makhachev earned his eighth consecutive win overall in the lightweight division.
“This is my first fourth round in my life,” Makhachev said following the win. “That’s why this is a good experience for me. Tough opponent. I tried to finish him all four rounds but he’s very strong.”
Best known for his wrestling, Makhachev was in no rush to bring the fight to the floor while testing his striking against Moises on the feet. Makhachev was doing a great job controlling the distances and forcing to operate off his back foot while defending punches from the outside and knees whenever the fighters worked into the clinch.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening round, Makhachev landed his first takedown as he began chipping away at Moises’ defense as he was stuck on the bottom without much of a chance to escape.
Makhachev was methodical with his offense while lulling Moises into a false sense of a security after the Brazilian went for a takedown only to get reversed seconds later. From there, Makhachev took the back as he kept pounding away with punches until actually looking for an armbar just as time ran out in the second round.
The assault continued from Makhachev as he not only looked like the superior fighter but he was also much bigger and stronger, which made Moises’ job that much harder when defending himself on the ground. Makhachev was putting on a workman like performance, staying out of any danger and then just punishing Moises whenever he had any room to work.
After a dominant showcase through three rounds, Makhachev decided enough was enough in the fourth as he slammed Moises to the ground and then looked to advance his position to get the finish. Once the Russian powerhouse took the back, he sunk in the rear naked choke and Moises quickly tapped out to end the fight.
As Khabib Nurmagomedov’s protégé and longtime teammate, Makhachev definitely has the pedigree to give anybody in the lightweight division problems and now he’s targeting a former champion for his next opponent as he looks to climb closer to title contention.
“Why all these guys run?” Makhachev said. “Nobody want to take this fight. Give me the answer. One more thing, I took this fight versus [Rafael dos Anjos] before two weeks and now I’m going to give him three, four months [to get ready]. Let’s do this. You can run but you can’t hide. I’m coming. I’m here.”
Makhachev and dos Anjos had been previously matched up nearly a year ago but a positive COVID-19 test and then a staph infection prevented them from ever stepping into the cage together. Now it appears Makhachev is ready to settle some unfinished business with hopes of drawing dos Anjos as his next opponent in the UFC.