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UFC Vegas 87: Five Things We Learned

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UFC Vegas 87 Preview Bets
UFC Vegas 87 was not a great card, but several noteworthy fighters competed on the card and showed off their skills. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

UFC Vegas 87: Five Things We Learned

UFC Vegas 87 lacked massive fights, but several important fighters competed on the event. That makes the lessons we learned on this card fairly important. Let’s discuss the five biggest lessons we learned from the card.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik delivers a veteran lesson

The UFC Vegas 87 main event was a unique matchup. The fight featured Jairzinho Rozenstruik, a mainstay in the rankings, against Shamil Gaziev who only had one UFC fight to his name. In the bout, Rozenstruik used his experience to give Gaziev a veteran lesson.

In the first round, Gaziev came out hot. The problem is that he waited too long to use his grappling. Gaziev spent his most explosive moments attempting to strike with the better striker. That did not yield positive results. Once the fight was on the ground, he only had about a minute to work and could not close the show.

After the first round, Gaziev was gassed. That led to a lot of unsuccessful grappling in the second round. All the grappling was a last-ditch effort. The fight was practically over once the second round ended.

In the third and fourth rounds, Rozenstruik landed his jab at will. If he tried, he landed bigger shots too. The accumulation of damage was too much for Gaziev to handle and he called the fight before the fifth round started.

This was exactly what Rozenstruik needed to do to win. I do not think we learned much about his skills. At best, he showed grappling improvements; however, Gaziev’s lack of cardio likely played a role in that as well.

As for Gaziev, he has seven minutes of cardio. After that period, he looks awful and becomes very hittable. That is bad in a division where getting hit can be lethal.

Muhammad Mokaev is not ready for the top of the division

One of the most important matchups at UFC Vegas 87 was Muhammad Mokaev’s bout against Alex Perez. The flyweight division needs a title contender and Mokaev had a chance to fast-track his way to the belt. Unfortunately, his performance was not championship-caliber.

This fight was not a great look for Mokaev. At the end of the fight, Mokaev went three for 20 on his takedown attempts, according to UFC Stats. In the striking realm, he did not provide much either.

This fight was close as Mokaev technically won two of the three rounds. In my opinion, Perez should have won the fight. Mokaev did not do much damage in the final round. For the majority of the round, he shot sloppy takedowns, did not get much penetration, and spent a ton of time sitting on his knees after failing to land the takedown. It was a poor look.

I do not think Mokaev is bad. After all, he is an elite prospect and is only 23 years old. My point is that it is hard to watch his performance and say he should be put into an octagon with Alexandre Pantoja. If he wants to compete with Pantoja, his striking needs to be leveled up significantly and he cannot shoot so many lazy takedowns.

It should also be noted that championship-caliber fighters tend to finish Perez. Pantoja and Deiveson Figueiredo both submitted Perez within two minutes. Mokaev’s performance did not compare.

Umar Nurmagomedov showed striking flaws

At UFC Vegas 87, Umar Nurmagomedov ended up in a much closer fight than many expected. The sensational prospect fought through some early adversity to pick up a decision win over UFC newcomer Bekzat Almakhan.

In the first minute of this fight, Almakhan landed a big shot that dropped Nurmagomedov. At that point, Nurmagomedov went into grappling mode. That found him success as he put Almakhan on his back early and often.

Nurmagomedov looked great in the grappling realm. The takedowns were great, he controlled position and landed big shots on the ground.

This bout reinforced Nurmagomedov’s sensational grappling; however, it raised serious concern about his striking. The issue starts with Nurmagomedov getting dropped early. The flaw can be attributed to his chin or striking defense. I will not fight over either conclusion because it is not my biggest concern. My concern is that he was unwilling to strike after he got caught. I will not go as far as to say he was scared to strike. I would not argue with someone who made that claim, however.

In the bantamweight division, there are a lot of great strikers. The list includes Sean O’Malley, Cory Sandhagen, Petr Yan, Song Yadong, Marlon Vera, and others. On top of that, there are impressive grapplers who have shown striking promise too. What happens if Nurmagomedov is forced to strike with any of these fighters? Personally, it gives me pause about someone who is widely considered a generational prospect.

Steve Erceg is a strong addition to the flyweight rankings

The UFC flyweight division has been gifted a strong newcomer in Steve Erceg. At UFC Vegas 87, he earned his third UFC win with a vicious left hook knockout against Matt Schnell. At 28 years old, fans should be thrilled about having Erceg in the mix at flyweight.

Erceg is a fun fighter with a lot of skills. In this bout against Schnell, he took more risks than usual and spent more time trading shots in boxing exchanges. Not only did that produce a fun fight for the fans, but it proved to be a great path to victory.

The UFC flyweight division needs new life at the top. In recent years, we have seen a ton of rematches. That includes the championship level as well as a good portion of the rankings. Erceg is a fresh face that can provide some parity in the division. Hopefully, Erceg is not the last exciting prospect to make his way into the rankings in 2024.

Vinicius Oliveira is must-watch TV

On the UFC Vegas 87 prelims, Vinicius Oliveira knocked out Benardo Sopaj with a flying knee in the closing moments of the fight. The knee will serve as the crown jewel of his highlight reel.

A highlight reel knockout is nothing new for Oliveira. On Dana White’s Contender Series, he earned a UFC contract with a ridiculous knockout.

Oliveira definitely has flaws as a fighter. It is pretty obvious. The most obvious is that routinely throws himself out of position and gets way too wild. With that being said, he is great television.

In the future, Oliveira is a fighter that you tune in to watch. If his name is on the card, you can expect a wild, entertaining fight for as long as it lasts. At a minimum, that provides value to the fans. Plus, Oliveira walked out of UFC Vegas 87 with an extra $100,000 after winning Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night. It is hard to imagine he changes his style anytime soon after it lined his pockets with a massive payday.


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