The UFC returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend, for a fourteen bout fight card at time of writing.
The card looks poised for a number of fun fights and highlight performances. In the main event, top ranked Welterweights Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad will meet each other once again, this time with numbers next to both their names.
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad II (WW)
Long seen as the dark horse of the Welterweight division, Vicente Luque (21-7-1, 14-2 UFC) made a strong statement in his last fight with a first round submission over former champion Tyron Woodley, and even more dominant in his next outing opposite Michael Chiesa. With twenty stoppages, Luque is as well-rounded as they come with aggressive yet technical Muay Thai and expert jiu-jitsu, where he has seven subs in various forms of arm chokes. Luque is a powerful striker when pressing forward but prefers to pick up his guard and take a few shots while looking for a heavy counter when he is on the back foot. He fights behind his jab and mixes up his shots well with leg kicks and body shots, mixing in his grappling when the opportunity presents itself. Luque has shown time and time again that he has the chin and power to out brawl his opponents, but also has the technique and grappling to make him an all-out threat.
An eye poke from Leon Edwards turned their bout to a no contest, giving Belal Muhammad (20-3-(1), 11-3-(1) UFC) a less than definitive result In his first main event showcase. Prior to that, he had a four-fight winning streak interrupted by top-notch prospect Geoff Neal, but turned it around with four straight victories, including his first career submission over Japanese powerhouse Takashi Sato. He kicked it back into gear since, defeating jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia and karate specialist Wonderboy Thompson by decision. “Remember the Name” comes in with a wrestling background, but is rarely in a boring fight because of his pace. Belal is set apart by his cardio and relentless output, pressuring forward with technical striking to secure the takedown. Though he only sports five career stoppages, his wrestling and aggressive pace are incredibly aggravating against elite striker or even ground-savvy opponents.
In their 2016 meeting, Luque quickly found success with a first round KO, and I do not expect this fight to play out much differently. Luque has shown himself to be a ruthless finisher on the feet and the mat, able to trade hands with elite strikers like Wonderboy, or submit credentialed grapplers like Chiesa. Muhammad pushes a heavy pace and is certainly well-rounded, but lacks in the technical department when compared to Luque, particularly on the feet. Both fighters have had significant time to improve, but I see the striking advantage and grappling versatility to let Luque close the show quickly. I expect an early knockout, but a club and sub would not surprise me.
My Pick: Vicente Luque via Knockout
Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (MW)
My Pick: Gadzhi Omargadzhiev via Submission
Andre Fialho vs. Miguel Baeza (WW)
My Pick: Miguel Baeza via Decision
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Yanan Wu (BW)
My Pick: Yanan Wu via Decision
Pat Sabatini vs. TJ Laramie (FTW)
My Pick: Pat Sabatini via Submission
Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa (WW)
My Pick: Mounir Lazzez via Decision
This card kicks off at 5:30 PM EST, with the main card on ESPN and the prelims on ESPN+.
Categories: UFC Predictions