The UFC heads back to its APEX Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 31 on Saturday night.
A lightweight bout between Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moses will be headlining the event after the original main event between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez fizzled out with Holloway suffering an injury while training.
In the co-main event, the UFC welcomes back one of its most popular female fighters and former bantamweight champion as Miesha Tate returns to fight Marion Reneau in a three-round bantamweight bout.
Let’s take a look at the UFC Vegas 31 main card and give our predictions.
Islam Makhachev is the no. 9 ranked lightweight in the UFC today. The 29-year old from Dagestan is a former Russian and World combat sambo champion. He fought for various Russian promotions including M-1 Global before joining the UFC in 2015.
Since losing to Adriano Martins in his second UFC bout, Makhachev has won seven consecutive bouts and is coming off a win over Drew Dober at UFC 259. Makhachev has a record of 19-1 with three knockouts and eight submission victories. He is a southpaw fighter who stands 5-11 tall with a 70-inch reach.
Thiago Moises is the 14th ranked lightweight in the UFC. The 26-year old Brazilian previously fought for LFA and RFA, where he was lightweight champion. Moises entered the UFC via the Contender Series and since losing to Beneil Dariush in 2018, he’s won four of his last five bouts.
Moises has a record of 15-4 with three knockouts and six wins via submission. A BJJ black belt, Moises is 5-9 tall with a reach of 70 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He defeated Alexander Hernandez via unanimous decision in his most recent bout.
Fighting from the southpaw stance, Makhachev’s left leg kick may be his best weapon. Despite being a wrestler, he utilizes his left leg kick well to score points. His boxing however looks stiff and though it has improved over the years, he prefers those short exchanges.
As a combat sambo champion, Makhachev fights like Khabib on the ground. While he may not have Nurmagomedov’s power, getting under him isn’t fun. If you’re trying to take him down, it’s even harder but I doubt that taking this fight down is part of Moisies’ plan.
The Brazilian is a BJJ black belt and he has excellent submission skills. Moises has six wins via submission. But Moises is more comfortable on his feet and this is where his key to victory is. His kickboxing is very much Muay Thai and he likes to match his opponents’ output with short combinations that are thrown with bad intentions.
Moises is a creative fighter with a BJJ pedigree so despite being a huge underdog, he’s worth a second look. However, it’s hard to bet against Makhachev’s current form. He’s a beast on the mat and his striking skills continue to improve. I’ll eat the chalk here.
Prediction: Islam Makhachev
Marion Reneau is the no. 12 ranked female bantamweight in the UFC. The 44-year old fought under Tachi Palace and RFA before joining the UFC in 2015. Reneau started her UFC career with a 5-2-1 record with wins over Jessica Andrade and Sara McMann. However, she has lost her last four bouts and is coming off a March 20 decision loss to Macy Chiasson.
Reneau has a record of 9-7 with five knockouts and three submission victories. She is 5-6 tall with a reach of 68 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Miesha Tate is the former Strikeforce and UFC women’s bantamweight champion. The 34-year old famously known as Cupcake retired from the sport after losing to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205. Tate beat Holly Holm at UFC 196 to become UFC women’s bantamweight champion but lost the belt in her next fight to Amanda Nunes.
Tate has a record of 18-7 with three knockouts and seven wins via submission. She is listed at 5-6 tall with a reach of 65 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
It’s hard to trust Miesha Tate right now because she’s coming off a five-year layoff and it’s not good judgment to bet on fighters coming off long layoffs. In Tate’s case, she had kids and wasn’t into training during her retirement.
However, Reneau enters this fight in terrible form despite the fact that she’s been the more active fighter. She also doesn’t have a good takedown defense and that’s something that Miesha Tate can take advantage of.
This is a fight where Tate can control with her wrestling. It may not turn out to be an explosive fight, given Tate’s retirement and Reneau’s poor form but in the end, I think Tate’s pedigree will show and she’ll get the victory.
Prediction: Miesha Tate
Jeremy Stephens is one of the longest-tenured fighters in the UFC. Li’l Heathen has been fighting for the promotion since 2007 after spending his early career with Downtown Destruction and MCC. Stephens is one of the biggest punchers in his weight class but heads to this bout winless in his last five bouts with one no-contest.
Li’l Heathen has a record of 28-18 with 19 knockouts and two submission wins. In his last bout, he suffered a second-round knockout loss to Calvin Kattar. Stephens is 5-9 tall with a reach of 71 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Mateusz Gamrot is a former featherweight and lightweight champion at KSW. The 30-year old from Poland joined the UFC last year but suffered his first career loss during his Octagon debut against Guram Kutateladze at UFC Fight Night 180. He bounced back to defeat Scott Holzman via KO in his second UFC bout.
Gamrot has a record of 18-1 with six knockouts and four submission victories. He is a southpaw who is 5-10 tall and has a 70-inch reach.
Stephens has lost a bunch of fights lately but he showed that he still has something left in those bouts, which came against elite competition. He still has that insane punching power and his technical striking skills have improved over the years.
Gamrot has a very well-rounded game. This former KSW champion has high-level wrestling, top-notch grappling, and surprising punching power. He may have lost his UFC debut but there’s a lot to be excited about him moving forward.
Most of Stephens’ success came at featherweight where his punching power was scary and his takedown defense held up well. Fighting at lightweight could be a different story although he’s fought here in the past.
Gamrot is a very dangerous opponent for Li’l Heathen and at 35, you have to think how much is left in that tank. Gamrot moves well around the cage and when Stephens goes for the chase, Gamrot takes him down and beats up Stephens on the mat.
Prediction: Mateusz Gamrot
Rodolfo Vieira is a four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and seven-time world cup champion. The 31-year old Brazilian had a grappling record of 100-9 with 68 submission wins. He joined the UFC in 2019 after spending his early MMA career with ACB.
Vieira has a record of 7-1 with one knockout and six submission wins. He is coming off his first career loss in MMA to Anthony Hernandez. He stands six feet tall with a reach of 73 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Dustin Stolzfus is a veteran of We Love MMA and the German MMA Championship. The 29-year old joined the UFC via the Contender Series but lost to Kyle Daukaus in his UFC debut.
Stoltzfus owns an MMA record of 13-2 with two knockouts and five submission victories. He is six feet tall with a 75-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Vieira is one of the most accomplished BJJ practitioners in the UFC and his submission skills are second to none. The question with him is his conditioning because he tends to slow down if he doesn’t get the early submission.
Stoltzfus is a Contender alumnus who is very good on the mat. He has some serious punching power as a striker. But while he can fight on his feet, it doesn’t take long before he shoots for takedowns and looks for submissions.
I have no issue with Vieira dominating round one on the mat and I don’t think Stolzfus can implement his sprawl and brawl offense in this fight. However, I’m worried if he loses steam in the second and third rounds and gets taken down easily.
I trust that Vieira has done his job in camp addressing his cardio issues. But I won’t blame you for picking Stoltzfus and the plus money. For me though, I will go with the better fighter between these two.
Prediction: Rodolfo Vieira
Gabriel Benitez was a competitor at The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 1 where he lost in the semifinals to Leonardo Morales. The 33-year old Mexican is a former Xtreme Combat featherweight champion who joined the UFC in 2014. Benitez heads to this bout after knocking out Justin Jaynes last December 2020.
Benitez has a record of 22-8 with 8 knockouts and 10 submission wins. He is 5-8 tall with a reach of 71 inches while fighting out of the southpaw stance.
Billy Quarantillo is a former King of Cage lightweight champion. The 32-year old from New York joined the UFC via the Contender Series. He won his first two UFC bouts but lost via decision to Gain Tucker in his most recent outing.
Quarantillo is 15-3 with six knockouts and five submission wins. He stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 70 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Benitez is a southpaw so anything that comes from his left- punches, kicks, and knees is really very powerful. However, he tends to relax more on defense and that’s where he’s failed to gain momentum despite strong outings.
Quarantillo is a typical grinder. He puts a fast pace and forces his opponents to fight on the back foot. Once he gets them where he wants, he will shoot for the takedown and try to grind them from there.
There’s no doubt that Quarantillo will dominate if he gets top position. However, Benitez is no stranger to opponents trying to put him on his back. Once Quarantillo fails to take this down, Benitez will pile up the points with his kicks and counters. Benitez keeps the fight on the feet and in the center of the Octagon to win on points.
Prediction: Gabriel Benitez
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