• Sammy Mattaliano

UFC Fight Night: Edwards v Muhammad

Updated: Mar 24

After last weekend’s mega card, the UFC returns with a nice little card Saturday. Headlining with a 170 pound bout between ranked contenders Leon Edwards & Belal Muhammad. It was originally supposed to be a fight between Leon and one of the UFC’s best prospects, Khamzat Chimaev, but Khamzat was forced to pull out after dealing with a brutal battle against COVID-19. Belal is taking the fight on about 3 weeks’ notice in a very equally matched main event this weekend. While the rest of the card isn’t filled with standout names, it does have some fun fights if you know where to look. In my viewing experiences, these cards that are poor on paper usually have a good chance of delivering. Young fighters with 2 or 3 fights will be trying to make a name for themselves and trying to have stand out performances, with a better chance to get some of the post-fight bonuses that could make a significant impact on their lives.


The Main Event


Let’s start with the main event; a welterweight fight between #3 Leon Edwards & #13 Belal Muhammad. Leon is looking to come back after almost a year and a half layoff due to just having some bad luck. Back in March of last year, Leon was scheduled to face former UFC champ Tyron Woodley in front of his home crowd in London for his coming out party, but unfortunately it was the week when the UK went into lockdown from the pandemic. After some issues with the promotion, he was booked to fight Khamzat Chimaev back in December but was forced to withdraw due to contracting COVID-19. The UFC tried booking the fight two more times after that with Khamzat pulling out the next two times for the same reason. Brutal luck for Leon but here we are!


Analysis


I love how this main event shows the depth of the welterweight division. It’s a fight between the #3 and #13 contenders but it’s still an incredibly evenly matched fight, while you couldn’t say that about some other divisions in the UFC. Leon holds a 10-2 record in the promotion, while currently on a 8-fight win streak filled with great names like former UFC champ Rafael Dos Anjos, Gunnar Nelson, legend Donald Cerrone, savage KO artist Vicente Luque; who’s the only man to finish Belal, and ACA champion Albert Tumenov.

Leon has had to face a murderer’s row which gave him the experience and time to polish his well-rounded skill set. He’s a precise sharp-shooter with great straight punches, round-house kicks, and leg kicks. A very thorough ground game with great take down defense, frustrating top control with accurate ground and pound. He does his best work in the clinch, with great knees and elbows that’ll catch you slipping and slice you open. He has a great ability to sneak elbows in spots where guys try to rest or feel they’re out of risk to get hit. His decision making, composure & risk assessment make him a difficult puzzle to figure, out which comes from all the styles of fighters he’s faced to get to his current spot.

His opponent, Belal Muhammad, has some similarities such as his fight IQ and UFC experience which makes him a formidable opponent no matter the ranking. Just like Leon, Belal has worked incredibly hard to get where he is in the promotion today. Belal holds a 9-3 record in the UFC, filled with solid wins over tough veterans like Tim Means, Jordan Mein, Curtis Millender, Lyman Good and coming off a dominant performance against Dheigo Lima four weeks ago. He had some tough fights with division machine gunners Geoff Neal and Vincente Luque, but those losses gave him a huge opportunity to make some improvements to his skills. Belal has a very fun style to watch. Fantastic cardio and ability to weaponize pace. Crisp boxing with a huge arsenal of punches. He never gets stuck on one target and mixes to the head and body beautifully, as well as leg and head kicks & loves to feint level changes to confuse his opponent with solid takedowns against the fence and in the middle of the cage.


Edwards v Muhammad - What To Expect


Like Leon, Belal has great intelligence to know how to win rounds. This is shown in his IQ to know when’s the right time to get his opponent down and controlled & his smothering pressure that causes his opponents to react to everything he’s putting in their faces, which gets him a step ahead with the judges. This fight is a great job by the matchmakers and will be a high-level chess match. It will be interesting to see how the inactivity (which has shown to be tough for most fighters) will affect Leon, while Belal is riding a wave of momentum going into this fight.

The biggest variables of this fight is who’s going to make who work harder. Who’s going to implement their leg kicks and body work better over 5 rounds? Is Belal going to take advantage of Leon’s ring rust and maintain a tough pace? Or is Leon going to use his intelligence to slow the fight down and take Belal into the 4th and 5th rounds where he has never been before? A win for Leon could earn him a possible rematch against current champ Kamaru Usman, or a guaranteed #1 contender fight, while Belal would break into the top 5 of the division. This should be a great fight between two gentlemen who worked so hard to get to the spot they’re in.

But Wait, There's More...

While I think the main event this Saturday is the most competitive fight on the card, let’s take a look at some other interesting fights and fighters scheduled this weekend. In the co-main event, we've got a light heavyweight fight between submission artist Misha Cirkunov and finisher Ryan Spann. Cirkunov is coming off a fantastic back and forth fight against one of the division’s best prospects, Jimmy Crute, where Misha pulled off a rare Peruvian necktie. While Spann is coming off an absolute WAR with Johnny Walker, this should be a very fun fight to see who’s going to make a run in the very open 205 pound division.

Next up is fight a lot of people are sleeping on and my pick to be fight of the night. A 145 pound bout between Hawaii’s Dan Ige and the Canadian Gavin Tucker. Ige is looking to get back momentum after his battle with slick boxer Calvin Kattar. Dan is an absolute dog who forces his will onto his opponent & will stick to you like glue, grappling with tons of dirty boxing on the ground and in the clinch. Tucker, who’s riding a 3-fight win streak with 2 finishes after a long layoff due to some rough injuries, is looking to show that the already stacked 145 pound division has a new prospect in town & he's here to stay. Tucker is coming off a gritty dog fight against Billy Qurantillo. This fight has all the signs to be one of the best fights on the card!

That’s not all though! There’s a fun flyweight bout between former RIZIN champion, Angola’s Manel Kape, as he takes on Brazilian Matheus Nicolau. This should be a great display of speed and technique, with a frantic pace, which is how most of these 125 pound fights go these days. Strawweight gangster Angela Hill returns this weekend, looking to stay busy against Ashley Yoder. A 135 pound fight between hyped prospect Jonanthan Martinez, who’s shown brutal and accurate kick boxing, takes on the Englishman Davey Grant. A 145 pound action fight between Canada’s Charles Jourdain and Argentinian Marcelo Rojo. Plus, a fun 185 pound fight between sluggers Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart. Keep your eye on the highlights this weekend!


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