Is there a new era upon us in the UFC’s lightweight division?
That’s the question ahead of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night, which will feature Islam Makhachev in his first-ever main event. Makhachev isn’t fighting for a title Saturday night in Las Vegas, nor is he even fighting a ranked opponent — he squares off against Thiago Moises — but some already believe he’s the best lightweight in the world.
Makhachev (19-1) is the longtime teammate and friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Even as Nurmagomedov was ruling over the 155-pound division in recent years, he always said Makhachev would be his successor. And with Nurmagomedov retired, and Makhachev seeking his eighth win in a row, it would appear his opportunity is now.
Whether Makhachev proves to have the same championship mettle as his famous teammate remains to be seen, but this will at least provide a glimpse into how he handles the pressure of being a headliner. “Show the world who is Islam Makhachev,” Nurmagomedov said. “Not only Khabib’s brother. No. He has to be his own. Islam Makhachev. Best in the world. Eight-fight win streak. He beat everyone.”
In the co-main event, former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will return to competition for the first time since 2016 against Marion Reneau. Tate has title aspirations once again, but she can’t look past Reneau, who said this will be her last fight.
Follow live with Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi or watch the fights on ESPN+.
Fight in progress: Men’s featherweight: Gabriel Benitez (22-8, 6-4 UFC, -160) vs. Billy Quarantillo (15-3, 3-1 UFC, +135)
Recap to come.
It’s time for a step up in competition for Lemos.
One of the top up-and-coming women’s strawweight fighters in the world, Lemos blasted Conejo with a right hand, followed by a left that sent Conejo crashing to the canvas. Lemos followed with a hammerfist on the ground and referee Chris Tognoni stepped in to call it. The finish came at 35 seconds of the first round — the second fastest finish in UFC women’s strawweight history.
ON THE BUTTON 🎯
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 18, 2021
The stoppage did seem to come a bit early. Conejo popped up after the Lemos blows. But Lemos has arguably the most dangerous power in the division and it might not have gone much longer.
“My name is Amanda Lemos,” she said through her manager Wallid Ismail. “I’m gonna be UFC champion.”
Lemos, 34, has won four straight, three of which came by first-round finish. The Brazil native has just one career loss — at bantamweight to Leslie Smith in 2017 in Lemos’ UFC debut. Conejo, a 28-year-old Mexico native, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Morozov showed his opponent on Saturday what it means to be dragged into deep waters.
Morozov, 32, of Kazakhstan, never came close to a finish against Taha, but he thoroughly dominated him over the course of their three-round bantamweight fight. Taha simply couldn’t break free of Morozov’s grappling once he closed distance. All three judges scored it a sweep for Morozov, 30-27.
Some of Morozov’s best work came in the first round, when he took Taha down and landed some strong left hands from the top. He controlled Taha in the clinch and on the ground in the second and third rounds as well.
Gordon might have been fighting for his UFC career — and he responded impressively.
In a back-and-forth fight, Gordon was able to outpoint Figueiredo via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) to earn his first UFC victory.
“That keeps me in the UFC.” Gordon said in his postfight interview. “… This is what I deserve. This is where I belong.”
Gordon was able to land some hard right hands on the feet and outscramble Figueiredo on the ground. He finished the first round with ground-and-pound and landed a takedown at the end of the second. In the third, Gordon had further success on the ground until Figueiredo managed to briefly get into mount.
Gordon, 31, snapped a two-fight UFC losing streak with the victory. The Canada native is the former TKO flyweight champion. Figueiredo, the 31-year-old brother of former UFC flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo, is now 1-1 in the UFC. He fights out of Brazil.
Nascimento survived an ugly first round against Baudot before taking advantage of his opponent’s fading gas tank.
Nascimento, 28, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, knocked out Baudot with punches along the fence at 1:29 of the second round. The finish came after Nascimento found himself in several tough spots in the opening frame, including fighting off ground-and-pound from his back after pulling guard.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 17, 2021
Baudot, from France, had it all working in the first five minutes, as he beat up Nascimento on the feet and made him pay for his efforts to get the fight to the ground. He looked like a different fighter in the second round, though, as Nascimento walked him down and landed shots at will.
Nascimento has recorded finishes in both of his wins inside the Octagon.
Still to come:
Lightweight: Islam Makhachev (19-1, 8-1 UFC, -650) vs. Thiago Moises (15-4, 4-2 UFC, +475)
Women’s bantamweight: Marion Reneau (9-7-1, 5-6-1 UFC, +110) vs. Miesha Tate (18-7, 5-4 UFC, -130)
Lightweight: Jeremy Stephens (28-18, 1 NC, 15-17,1 NC UFC, +180) vs. Mateusz Gamrot (18-1 1 NC, 1-1 UFC, -220)
Middleweight: Rodolfo Vieira (7-1, 2-1 UFC, -220) vs. Dustin Stoltzfus (13-2, 0-1 UFC, +180)