Marlon Moraes (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Marlon Moraes: The Next UFC Bantamweight Champion?

It was as shocking as any fight. Marlon Moraes took care of business in just 33 seconds against Jimmie Rivera in the main event of UFC Fight Night 131, the promotion’s debut event in Utica, N.Y., on Saturday night.

Moraes has looked good ever since he made his first appearance in the UFC, and especially in his last fight when he knocked Aljamain Sterling out cold in what was one of the scariest knockouts ever. Yet, when it came to Rivera, it was a whole ‘nother story. Rivera was a legitimate contender who was scheduled to fight Dominick Cruz in December. Unfortunately, that fight fell through, but we already had plenty of chances to see and recognize how good Rivera could be in fights against Urijah Faber, Thomas Almeida and Iuri Alcantara.

It was not surprising to see so many people shocked when Moraes put down Rivera with a vicious head kick at the 30-second mark of the fight. Any possible chance of recovery was gone a few seconds later when referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to save Rivera from taking any further damage. It was a fair stoppage and a clean finish that required no further debate. Rivera seemed to accept the stoppage as well.


Moraes made the most of his spotlight after the devastating finish. He used it as a platform to demand a title shot. It is certainly hard to deny Moraes’ request after he ended one of the longest current winning streaks in the UFC.

Can he capitalize on his opportunity? There is a title shot coming his way in the near future, for sure. The only factor worthy of even delaying it would be the result of T.J. Dillashaw’s rematch with Cody Garbrandt and whether that outcome would necessitate a trilogy between the two top bantamweights.

Moraes is a very good fighter, no doubt. He’s shown it time and time again in both the World Series of Fighting and the UFC. Is there enough evidence for us to believe that he can do what he has been doing when he finally meets Dillashaw or Garbrandt — or even Cruz?

No, there isn’t.

Moraes showed that he can compete with the best of the best, but Dillashaw, Garbrandt and Cruz are special fighters. They have managed to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Moraes has been dominant in his past few fights, but it would be premature to say that he will beat the top-tier fighters right now.

That doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Analyst Robin Black said on Joe Rogan Experience that just because there is no evidence doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Take Garbrandt, for example. There was no evidence before the Cruz fight that he can do to one of the best ever in Cruz what he’d done to everyone else. That certainly didn’t matter when “No Love” managed to put on a miraculous performance on fight night, dominating the champion to earn a unanimous-decision victory and his first world title.

Whether Moraes can get it done, nobody will know until the fight against either Dillashaw or Garbrandt comes to fruition. While it’s fair to say Moraes has a good chance at winning against either of them, those fighters have earned enough respect to still be the favorite against Moraes.