Coming into UFC Vegas 31 on Saturday, Khalid Taha’s UFC career had been all over the map.
Taha kicked off his run in the promotion in 2018 on a sour note, losing his debut to Nad Narimani. The German-Lebanese fighter then returned to the bantamweight division, paired up against Boston Salmon. An ACL injury delayed that fight, but Taha would earn the win eventually, however a second victory over Bruno Gustavo da Silva was overturned due to a drug test failure, and to add insult to injury, Taha had missed weight for the fight.
Last November, Taha fought for the first time in a year, losing a unanimous decision against Raoni Barcelos. That took him to his UFC Vegas 31 showdown with Sergey Morozov, a former M-1 bantamweight champion who dropped his octagon debut to Umar Nurmagomedov.
Both fighters came out tentative and felt each other out, before Taha pushed forward with a pair of jabs then followed with a leg kick that Morozov countered with a right hand. Taha looked to work the kicks, but Morozov utilized his movement to slide away. Morozov then shot the takedown; Taha initially defended but Morozov stuck with the double leg, pulled Taha from the cage and took him to the mat. Morozov worked from half guard, Taha defended as Morozov looked to move to side control and Taha was able to get him back into his guard. Morozov stood up to land some strikes but Taha looked for the leg lock and Morozov landed a hard right hand that looked to have hurt Taha. Taha continued to look for the submission and Morozov for the big strikes as the round came to a close.
Taha opened the second round with a pair of jabs and Morozov slid out of range. Taha continued to close distance and pressed the action. Morozov landed a hard counter combination and pushed Taha back for a moment, but it wasn’t long until Taha again pressed forward. Taha landed a pair of leg kicks and another exchange of the hands saw Morozov land another stiff counter punch. He then dropped for the takedown and was able to bring Taha to the mat again. Taha was quick to get back to his feet but Morozov stuck with him and continued to press him and push the pace. Morozov got the trip and as Taha got back to his feet, he was able to take his back and look for the choke. Taha tried to defend and Morozov landed punches from his back as he looked to open Taha up for the choke, but the round ended before Morozov could progress any further.
After two rounds, Taha was clearly down, and his corner let him know just that. Morozov opened the third with a 1-2 combination and landed a stiff right but Taha fired back and followed it up with a head kick that missed its target. Taha pressed forward but Morozov fired back, changed levels and got the takedown again. Taha worked back to his feet and again Morozov stuck with him and made Taha carry his weight. Morozov worked the knees as he grinded Taha out against the cage. Taha was able to get separation and get back on the feet. With time running out, Taha went for it and pressed Morozov but Morozov was able to defend and stay away from Taha’s most threatening strikes to end the round.
There were no surprises on the scorecards in this one. Sergey Morozov clearly had earned the win in a one-sided unanimous decision, thanks in large part to his dominant, smothering wrestling.
Official Result: Sergey Morozov def. Khalid Taha by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)