UFC Vegas 91: Maheshate Hayisaer Exits Exciting Striking Duel With Win Over Gabriel Benítez

Gabriel Benítez vs. Maheshate Hayisaer, UFC Vegas 91
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 27: (L-R) Maheshate of China punches Gabriel Benitez of Mexico in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 27, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Veteran Gabriel Benitez took on Chinese youngster Maheshate Hayisaer in the first fight of UFC Vegas 91 on Saturday, at lightweight.

Benitez, aka ‘Moggly,’ has fought fighters like Sodiq Yusuff, Andre Fili, and Clay Collard, but most recently lost to legend Jim Miller to fall to a 7-7 record in the promotion. At age 35 he would surely like to keep his winning percentage above .500, but it was a tough opponent he was faced with in the form of wildcard action-fighter Maheshate, who has had some insane fights in the UFC on his way to a 1-2 record. Both men tested each other greatly in a prolonged striking battle, but in the end the younger, 24-year-old Maheshate earned the decision.

Benitez pressed the action early, firing hands and going to the body with kicks. Maheshate held his own, retiring first, with the first minute of the round heavy on action. Maheshate also ripped the body with a kick, while Benitez went low with one of his own. The tone was set in that opening minute, with a relatively busy round underscored by the kicking attacks, and Benitez being perhaps just a tad more active than his opponent.

In the second round Maheshate came out pressing forward, swinging hard and trying to catch Benitez with knees up the middle. Benitez responded with looping punches and his infamous leg kicks. They were well-matched on the feet, with both men snapping the other’s head back multiple times in a high-paced round of action. Maheshate’s punches seemed to have slightly more effect but the leg kicks of Moggly did significant damage as well in a round that could be scored either way.

The third round kept up the same high-octane action, with both fighters showing their toughness as they absorbed many shots. The range the fight was contested at became even closer in the final stanza, as they were essentially engaged in an MMA boxing match, usually in the pocket. Benitez sometimes created space to land leg kicks but far fewer than previously, as Maheshate constantly marched towards him. Maheshate’s seemingly greater power did seem to give him a slight advantage in the final round, but each round was so close that different people will have seen them all different ways.

The decision truly could have gone either way at the end of an entertaining lightweight contest. When the scorecards were read out, the judges were split. All three had it 29-28, but it was the Chinese talent who got it done as two judges awarded Maheshate Hayisaer the victory.

Official Result: Maheshate Hayisaer def. Gabriel Benitez by Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)