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UFC Fight Night 121 card: Tim Means vs Belal Muhammad preview

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Means vs Garcia Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Tim Means and Belal Muhammed will go to war this Saturday (Nov. 18, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 121 inside Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.

A pair of odd bouts with Alex Oliveira slowed his rise, but otherwise Tim Means’ second UFC run has been quite successful. He’s established himself as one of the division’s best action fighters, currently sitting just outside the Top 15 and looking for his moment to break in. Meanwhile, Muhammad is a newer fighter for UFC fans, but he’s quickly proven his worth in the talent-rich Welterweight division. “Remember the Name” has won three of his last four bouts, which earned him this step up in competition.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:

Tim Means
Record: 27-8 (1)
Key Wins: Alex Garcia (UFC Fight Night 112), John Howard (UFC Fight Night 80), George Sullivan (UFC on FOX 15), Dhiego Lima (UFC 184)
Key Losses: Alex Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 106), Matt Brown (UFC 189), Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 40)
Keys to Victory: Means is a rangy, nasty kickboxer. He’s aggressive and tricky, a lanky Southpaw quick to flick out hard straights down the middle. Once his range is established, Means will begin to attack in combination, beginning from the outside and finishing in close with knees and elbows.

For Means, this is a pretty great match up on paper. Muhammed is well-rounded but not a dominant ground fighter. He’s tough-but-hittable. He’s the kind of fighter that Means typically does quite well with, as it will be difficult for Muhammed to force Means off his game.

With that in mind, Means has to remain composed. He has a bad habit of getting over-eager or diverting from the game plan needlessly. Take, for example, his pair of bouts with Alex Oliveira. In the first fight, Means picked his opponent apart and was on his way to a dominant win before throwing illegal knees. Next time out, Means made the bizarre decision to shoot for double leg takedowns instead of using his kickboxing advantage.

It didn’t work out.

Against a gamer like Muhammad, Means can’t let his foe get a foothold. He has to establish range early and keep his foe on the defensive, as that will limit his opponent’s opportunities.

VS.

Belal Muhammad
Record: 12-2
Key Wins: Jordan Mein (UFC 213), Randy Brown (UFC 208), Augusto Montano (UFC Fight Night 94)
Key Losses: Vincente Luque (UFC 205), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 90)
Keys to Victory: Muhammad debuted on very short-notice against a quality striker in Alan Jouban, and it started badly for him. Muhammad was picked apart for long portions of that bout, but his durability and will allowed him to turn the tables in the final frame. He’s shown more of his technical skill in bouts he was actually able to prepare for, but that grit is still an important part of his success.

Historically, the key to beating Tim Means is to wrestle. The only exception in UFC is Matt Brown, who won a back-and-forth brawl with “Dirty Bird,” but every other one of his top losses featured his opponent scoring takedowns.

Muhammad isn’t a collegiate wrestler, but he’s a well-rounded fighter who’s shown that side of his game. To defeat Means, Muhammad has to rely on his chin and toughness to back the lanky fighter up. He’ll eat shots in the process, but Means likes to be the aggressor, so taking that away from him will help Muhammad land punches himself and open up takedowns.

Bottom Line: Both men are looking to earn a ranked opponent soon.

Things are heating up at Welterweight. Contenders like Colby Covington, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Mike Perry and Darren Till have emerged seemingly out of nowhere within the last year, rising and replacing the old guard at 170 pounds. Means and Muhammad are both attempting to climb the ranks in similar fashion, although fairly recent losses will make that a bit more difficult.

Of the two, Means is closer to the rankings. A win here could be what pushes him to No. 15 or earns him a ranked foe. However, that also means it would be a bigger win for the underdog Muhammad, as a three-fight win streak capped off by defeating Means would certainly be a strong argument for another step up in competition.

For either man, a setback here is a delay at any chance of making the climb. The pressure is on Means especially, as he’s 33 years old and fairly deep into his UFC career, meaning the time is now for him to make an impact.

At UFC Fight Night 121, Tim Means and Belal Muhammad will square off. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?