Islam Makhachev Rolls Past Thiago Moises in UFC on ESPN 26 Headliner

By: Tristen Critchfield
Jul 17, 2021

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Islam Makhachev lived up to the hype in his first headlining effort.

The Dagestani lightweight gradually imposed his will on Thiago Moises before submitting his opponent with a rear-naked choke at the 2:38 mark of Round 4 on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Makhachev, who has won eight straight in UFC competition, is the first person to defeat Moises via tapout.

“This is my first fourth round in my life. I never fight more than three rounds. That’s why this is good experience for me,” Makhachev said.

“I tell you guys before, I'm gonna take him down, make him tired, and make him tap.”

Moises (15-5, 4-3 UFC) spent the majority of the bout on the defensive. Makhachev (19-1, 9-1 UFC) was effective in spurts with punching combinations to the head and kicks to the body, but it was in close quarters that he did the most damage. Though it was Moises who elected to force the clinch on multiple occasions, he enjoyed little success against the Khabib Nurmagomedov protege in this area. Makhachev showcased stout takedown defense against the cage while landing effective knees in the clinch, and ultimately, he was able to ground his opponent in every frame.

That gradually led to more and more dominant sequences from Makhachev, as he took Moises’ back on multiple occasions. Moises’ last gasp occurred in Round 3, when he threatened with a leg lock late in the period. However, Makhachev remained composed until the bell sounded. Makhachev slammed the ex-Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion to the canvas early in Round 4 and quickly transitioned to back control. From there, he slid his arm under Moises’ chin to elicit the tapout — even without his hooks in place.

Hey guys, you can run, but you can't hide,” said Makhachev, who called out Rafael dos Anjos in the aftermath of his latest victory. “I’m coming, I'm here.”

Tate Stops Reneau in Return from Retirement

After a retirement that lasted nearly five years, Miesha Tate looked like she hasn’t missed a beat.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce champion relied on a tried-and-true formula in the UFC on ESPN 26 co-main event, using takedowns and ground-and-pound to carry her to a third-round stoppage of Marion Reneau in a bantamweight encounter. A barrage of punches and elbows from back mount brought a halt to the bout 1:53 into Round 3. It was Tate’s first Octagon appearance since a decision loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205 in November 2016.

“This has been a lot of hard work, a lot of self discovery in the process, but I’m here and I’m back,” Tate said.

While Tate (19-7, 6-4 UFC) is just beginning her MMA comeback, Reneau (9-8-1, 5-7-1 UFC) was making what is expected to be her final MMA appearance at 44 years old. Tate made sure it was a bittersweet farewell, as she blended striking with takedowns effectively throughout the fight. “Cupcake” shook off a fence grab to slam Reneau to the canvas in Round 2, where she methodically pounded away with punches, hammerfists and elbows from above -- busting her foe open in the process.

Round 3 saw Tate sting Reneau with a stiff jab before landing another takedown. From there, Tate transitioned to back mount and gradually increased the intensity of her ground-and-pound before referee Mark Smith stepped in to rescue Reneau.

“I’m glad I went out the way I did. I’m glad I was allowed to fight my last fight her in the cage and fight a phenom like Miesha,” Reneau said. “I did give it all I had and that’s it. That’s what’s left for me.”

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Gamrot Kimura Spoils Stephen’s Lightweight Return

Former KSW champion Mateusz Gamrot made a significant statement in the lightweight division with a quick finish of long-tenured Octagon veteran Jeremy Stephens. The American Top Team member locked in a kimura to force a tapout just 65 seconds into Round 1, becoming the first person to submit “Lil Heathen” since 2009. Stephens, who was returning to 155 pounds after an 18-bout stint at featherweight, is winless in his last six bouts with the Las Vegas-based promotion.

Gamrot wasted no time shooting for a low single-leg and getting his heavy-handed adversary to the canvas. Stephens (28-19, 15-18, 1 NC UFC) initially attempted to use a kimura of his own to return to his feet, but Gamrot (19-1, 2-1 UFC) countered with an armbar before transitioning to the fight-ending maneuver. It didn’t take long before “Gamer” was able to torque Stephens’ limb to an awkward angle behind his back and end the contest.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC, PFL and “The Ultimate Fighter” live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Vieira Chokes Out Stoltzfus

Decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Rodolfo Vieira proved that he has a gas tank that can last beyond Round 1, as he submitted Dustin Stoltzfus with a rear-naked choke in a middleweight tilt. Stoltzfus asked out of the contest 1:53 into the third frame, giving Vieira his third submission win in UFC competition.

One bout after gassing badly in an upset loss to Anthony Hernandez at UFC 258, Vieira (8-1, 3-1 UFC) opted for a measured approach behind his striking in the early going. The 2015 ADCC gold medalist pumped his jab into Stoltzfus’ mug repeatedly through two rounds, an approach that left the Pennsylvania native’s face bloody and battered. Stoltzfus was competitive in exchanges, but Vieira left no doubt regarding the outcome in Round 3, as he landed a pair of takedowns, climbed to his opponent’s back when he attempted to stand and slid his arm under the chin. Vieira then fell backward to the mat, forcing Stoltzfus (13-3, 0-2 UFC) to tap in a matter of seconds.

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Quarantillo Batters Benitez

Dana White’s Contender Series veteran Billy Quarantillo authored a dominant performance against Mexican veteran Gabriel Benitez, winning via technical knockout in a featured featherweight clash. Quarantillo (16-3, 4-1 UFC) brought the action to a close with punches from back control at the 3:40 mark of Round 3. Benitez has lost three of his last four promotional outings.

For the most part, Quarantillo was in complete control. He dropped Benitez (22-9, 6-5 UFC) with a massive overhand right in the opening frame, then slammed his way out of an armbar attempt from his opponent before spending the majority of the period in back control.

As the bout progressed, repeated right hands from Quarantillo caused serious swelling under Benitez’s left eye, but “Moggly” hung tough. Benitez sat his foe down with a left hand early in Round 3, but Quarantillo recovered to secure another takedown. From there, the Gracie Tampa South representative moved to back control and with Benitez bleeding profusely, forced a stoppage with a barrage of unanswered strikes.

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