Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad will go to war TONIGHT (Sat., March 13, 2021) at UFC Vegas 21 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Edwards has won a remarkable eight fights in a row leading up to this bout, last tasting defeat in Dec. 2015 in a competitive bout with Kamaru Usman. “Rocky” has proven himself a technician in every area, though being one of the smartest fighters on the roster has yet to prove worthy of a title shot. Muhammad is in the midst of his own excellent streak, having won eight of his last nine bouts. “Remember The Name” serves as an excellent foil to Edwards, a hard-nosed grinder looking to force an ugly fight and walk away with the underdog victory.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Victories: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on ESPN 4), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 132), Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 107), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 147), Albert Tumenov (UFC 204), Bryan Barberena (UFC Fight Night 115)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: Edwards is absolutely one of the best Welterweights in the world. The Englishman has knockout power and can crack from distance, in the pocket, or most notably in the clinch with his exceptional elbows. Somehow, he’s also developed an excellent wrestling game to go along with his kickboxing, making “Rocky” a multi-faceted threat.
Strategically, this is not a complicated fight. Edwards is better pretty much everywhere, which means the man has options. So long as Edwards picks and chooses when to exchange, he runs little risk of being fatigued by Muhammad’s nonstop style — and Edwards is good to a fault at winning without taking risk.
At the same time, Dana White said that Edwards needs a “spectacular” win to earn a title shot, and at the very least, that means Edwards needs a finish if he actually wants to progress from his current position as longtime top contender. So, it might benefit Edwards to make this more of a kickboxing battle, and fortunately, Muhammad is typically there to be hit (if durable as all hell).
When Muhammad fought Geoff Neal, he was greatly flustered by Neal’s left hand/left kick double threat. Edwards has those same tools, and if he puts on heavy pressure in the first 10 minutes, he may be able to force that spectacular finish. If Muhammad’s chin proves too sturdy, Edwards has an early lead, and he knows how to convert those to decision victories.
Key Wins: Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Tim Means (UFC Fight Night 121), Randy Brown (UFC 208), Jordan Mein (UFC 213)
Key Losses: Geoff Neal (UFC Fight Night 143), Vicente Luque (UFC 205), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 90)
Keys to Victory: Muhammad is tough as an old shoe. “Remember The Name” does not have one skill set that’s particularly mind-blowing, but he fights hard until the final bell, and no amount of punishment will deter him from his strategy.
Muhammad has shown different looks in the past, opting to kickbox from range in some fights while pressuring relentlessly with boxing and takedowns in other match ups. Against Edwards — a rangy and powerful kickboxer — the latter strategy is definitely his best bet.
It will not be easy, and it likely means walking through some mean left hands and elbows, but Muhammad has to get his opponent to the fence. If Edwards’ back is to the cage, he will immediately become far more hittable, and his counters should be a bit easier to read. If Muhammad attacks the body and works in combination, he stands a better shot at setting up his double-leg shot from this position as well.
It’s not going to be easy, but then, Muhammad’s victories are usually well-earned.
We’ll see just how much this impromptu main event matters after the fact.
At the moment, there are several strong hints that Kamaru Usman is rematching Jorge Masvidal next — possibly with a The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) tie-in. If that’s the case, Edwards is almost certainly going to have to win here and fight again before he receives his shot at the title. An athlete should not have to win ten in a row to score an opportunity at gold, but that appears to be Edwards’ situation ... unless he can score that aforementioned spectacular knockout and upset the current order.
Let’s not even dig too deep into Edwards’ situation if he loses, because UFC might ask for another eight-in-a-row before thinking about him.
As for Muhammad, this is his chance to break into the title mix. Upsetting Edwards in a short-notice main event almost guarantees that Muhammad replaces him in the Top 5. However, that’s not to say there is not risk. This is Muhammad’s third chance to really step up against a Top 10-ranked foe, and if he comes up short in this one too, it may be his final such opportunity.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 21 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 21, Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad will clash in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?