- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
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 bantamweight: Khalid Taha (13-3 1 NC, 1-2 1 NC UFC, -175) vs. Sergey Morozov (16-4, 0-1 UFC, +130)
Men’s flyweight: Malcolm Gordon (13-5, 1-2 UFC) defeats Francisco Figueiredo (12-4-1, 1-1 UFC) by unanimous decision
Recap to come.
Heavyweight: Rodrigo Nascimento (9-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Alan Baudot (8-3, 0-2 UFC) by second-round TKO
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.
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.
Watch the fight on ESPN+.
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)
Men’s featherweight: Gabriel Benitez (22-8, 6-4 UFC, -160) vs. Billy Quarantillo (15-3, 3-1 UFC, +135)
Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez (14-2, 4-1 UFC, -280) vs. Preston Parsons (9-2, 0-0 UFC, +230)
Strawweight: Amanda Lemos (9-1, 3-1 UFC, -550) vs. Montserrat Conejo (10-1, 1-0 UFC, +400)
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