Movsar Evloev had a tougher night at the office than many expected against a late notice replacement opponent in Diego Lopes but he still got the job done with a unanimous decision win at UFC 288.
After fighting off some well-timed striking exchanges early and some nasty submission attempts, Evloev took over with his wrestling, which allowed him to rack up a lot of control time while cracking Lopes with some hard shots on the ground to secure the victory.
The judges scored the fight 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 with Evloev getting the win to remain undefeated in his MMA career.
“He has big experience,” Evloev said about Lopes. “This guy is very dangerous in the wrestling. How many submissions he did? I don’t know. He’s so dangerous. Once again, I’m so grateful he took this fight and he has a big future in the featherweight division. I’m a wrestler but my jiu-jitsu is not so good. I never tap, even in the gym. It was tough.
“A lot of fighters, they don’t want to fight against me, maybe [Brian] Ortega, maybe [Korean] Zombie [Chan Sung Jung], maybe someone else. I need big names.”
Despite taking the fight on extremely short notice, Lopes showed no fear in the early exchanges as he tagged Evloev with several stiff punches in succession. It appeared momentarily that Evloev was rattled but Lopes surging forward led to the first takedown of the fight.
On top, Evloev was like a wet bag of concrete as he just weighed down on Lopes and looked to suffocate his opponent on the ground. A split second later, Lopes snatched an armbar that nearly caught Evloev but the Russian scrambled free before regaining a dominant position with the UFC newcomer stuck under him.
At the start of the second round, Evloev got a little more aggressive with his striking, although Lopes was still firing back but his movement was much more labored after a furious five minutes to open the fight. Evloev eventually snatched another takedown where he began to really hammer away with some vicious punches to the head and body.
Evloev was relentless with his ground and pound while Lopes was just grabbing onto the head in an attempt to slow down his Russian opponent.
Any time he got back to his feet, Lopes was swinging with big looping punches, likely realizing that despite a strong start, he was in the position where a finish was his only way to win. Those big movements allowed Evloev to dip inside to grab onto the body where he turned back to his wrestling again.
With time ticking away, Lopes did manage a late kimura attempt followed by a kneebar that appeared locked on momentarily but Evloev survived to the final horn before getting his hand raised.
Now 17-0 in his career, Evloev appears poised for a big step up in competition as he looks to move closer to title contention in the featherweight division.