Saturday’s UFC Vegas event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in the fight capital of the world, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at the UFC APEX.
1 – Islam Makhachev
Islam Makhachev isn’t likely to be pulling off flying armbars or jumping off the side of the Octagon to kick an opponent, but what the lightweight contender will do is make good fighters look ordinary as he nullifies their strengths and brings them into his world. In 2021, the 29-year-old has finished two solid 155ers in Drew Dober and Thiago Moises, and in extending his current winning streak to eight, he’s earned a crack at one of the big names of the division.
WHAT’S NEXT? There are names out there for Makhachev in the upper reaches of the 155-pound division, and while Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson and Dan Hooker are all intriguing prospects, the most likely foe for Makhachev at this point is a man he was supposed to fight last year, former champ Rafael Dos Anjos. And it makes perfect sense for both fighters.
2 – Miesha Tate
Ring rust? What ring rust? That was the refrain from fight fans Saturday night as Miesha Tate stepped into the Octagon for the first time in nearly five years and looked like an instant contender as she stopped Marion Reneau in the third round. That’s impressive for any fighter to pull that off – to do it after giving birth twice is pretty amazing, and if Tate never wins another fight again, she will always have July 17 and one of the best performances of her career.
WHAT’S NEXT? When I spoke to Tate before last weekend’s bout, she said she isn’t here for a one-shot deal, but isn’t planning on sticking around another five, six years, either. Two years is the goal for Tate at the moment, which means if she wants a crack at regaining her bantamweight title, she’s got to move fast. How fast? A rematch with the woman she won the title from back in 2016, No.2-ranked Holly Holm? I like it.
3 – Mateusz Gamrot
Three UFC fights, three post-fight bonuses. Not a bad start for Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot, and in the always stacked lightweight division, that will get him noticed for big opportunities sooner rather than later. On Saturday, “Gamer” needed just 65 seconds to submit veteran Jeremy Stephens, and while you may say, “Well, Stephens is a standup fighter and not a ground specialist,” the Iowan hasn’t been submitted since Joe Lauzon pulled it off in 2009. Twelve years is a long time in this sport, and it shows the talent that Gamrot has to do what some of the best featherweights and lightweights in the world weren’t able to.
WHAT’S NEXT? While not in the Top 15 yet, Gamrot could start making his move on that club by facing one of the contenders at 155, maybe an Arman Tsarukyan, Diego Ferreira or Brad Riddell.
4 – Amanda Lemos
With Wallid Ismail by her side hyping things up and Amanda Lemos quietly going into the Octagon and knocking people out, it’s going to be fun watching Lemos as she continues her march up the strawweight ladder.
WHAT’S NEXT? Angela Hill? Wooooo. That’s a good one.
5 – Billy Quarantillo
Billy Quarantillo has one of the best stories in the world of MMA today, as he battled through The Ultimate Fighter, a couple key losses and an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series to finally make it to the big show. That’s enough right there, but Billy Q is now 4-1 in the Octagon and is coming off an exciting Fight of the Night win over Gabriel Benitez. It was the kind of fight that didn’t just put him on the map, but that guarantees we’ll see more of him in intriguing matchups. And that’s a good thing.
WHAT’S NEXT? Quarantillo called for it and he nailed it – a fight with Charles Rosa will produce fireworks and likely another bonus check for both featherweights.