Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back at it again to stage another action-packed night of fights. UFC Vegas 21 will go down later tonight (Sat., March 13, 2021) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event will be a Welterweight scrap between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad. In the co-main event, Light Heavyweight bangers Misha Cirkunov and Ryan Spann will collide in what promises to be a hard-hitting affair.
It’s been 20 months since Edwards last stepped foot inside the Octagon, earning a unanimous decision win over Rafael dos Anjos in July 2019. The win was “Rocky’s” eighth straight, with his last defeat coming against current division kingpin, Kamaru Usman, six years ago. While the fight everyone wanted to see was one between Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev, that matchup was scrapped numerous times because of “Borz’s” ongoing issues with COVID-19. Instead, Edwards will lock horns with Belal Muhammad. On the bright side — at least for Edwards — is that even with a win over Muhammad he will still be in the mix for a potential title shot. But, it’s far from a walk in the park.
Sure, Chimaev has been on a fire, but Muhammad has been putting in work for quite some time now, and it’s about time he gets a big fight. He is currently riding a four-fight win streak and has won eight of his last nine. He was most recently seen defeating Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 one month ago, and when he got the call up to replace Chimaev in what is a one-month turnaround, there was no way he was about to let the opportunity pass him by. Because that’s what fighters do, they fight. Muhammad has a golden opportunity to climb the ranks and perhaps even score himself a title shot he never saw coming. At least not like this. That’s the great thing about the fight game, it’s the great equalizer because regardless of how much bigger you are than your opponent, how much more fame you may have or even what your ranking is, at the end of the day it’s a fist fight and anything can happen. And Muhammad is determined to make people “Remember the Name.”
We just had one of the most stacked cards of the young year go down this past weekend with UFC 259, so let’s not start complaining about the lack of star power for UFC Vegas 21. While they may not have the biggest names, the athletes competing on this weekend’s card know how to bring it and deliver when fight night rolls around. All in all, it’s a solid offering.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
As I mentioned earlier, the headlining bout was originally supposed to be Chimaev vs Edwards, but getting his health right is priority number one for “Borz,” who still has a long battle ahead of him. Irwin Rivera and Ray Rodriguez were supposed to throw down on this card, too. But after Rivera was arrested for the attempted murder of his two sisters, Rani Yahya was pegged to fill the void. Manel Kape agreed to step in to replace Tagir Ulanbekov after he bowed out of his scheduled fight against Matheus Nicolau for undisclosed reasons. Marcelo Rojo stepped in to replace Steve Garcia against Charles Jourdain after Garcia bowed out of the fight for undisclosed reasons. Also, Zubaira Tukhugov was in line to face off against Ricardo Ramos but the fight was scrapped from the event after Tukhugov was forced out for undisclosed reasons.
Guram Kutateladze was in line to face Don Madge in a Lightweight bout before Kutateladze pulled out last month due to a knee injury. Nasrat Haqparast then agreed to step in to fill the void. Weeks later, visa issues forced Madge to pull out. Haqparast will now face promotional newcomer Rafa García. Ryan Hall was set to co-headline the event against Dan Ige but was forced out with an injury suffered in training. As a result, Gavin Tucker agreed to step in to face Ige at 145 pounds. An injury also forced the cancellation of a Heavyweight scrap between Ben Rothwell and Philip Lins. That 265-pound showdown is expected to be rescheduled for a later date.
Marcelo Rojo will finally get to make his UFC debut after having it postponed a few weeks back when he takes on Charles Jourdain in a Featherweight scrap on the undercard. Rojo racked up a nice 6-2 mark for Combate Americas, but hasn’t seen any action inside the cage since defeating Victor Hugo Madrigal in Sept. 2019. Jourdain, meanwhile, has had a rather tepid run so far inside the Octagon, going just 1-2-1 in four attempts. It will be a huge statement-making win for either man.
Another Combate Americas alum, Rafa Garcia, will make his UFC debut after a lengthy run with his former promotion. He will face off against Nasrat Haqparast. Rafa is undefeated at 11-0, while Haqparast is 4-2 inside the Octagon and is coming off a win over Alex Munoz in Aug. 2020.
Gloria de Paula will make her UFC debut after shining on Dana White’s “Contender Series.” She is currently riding a two-fight win streak. She will be facing a struggling fighter in Jinh Yu Frey, who has dropped two in a row and three of her last four.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
We’ve already discussed several fights going down on the undercard, now let’s take a look at the rest of the “Prelims” action. Angela Hill will rematch Ashley Yoder in women’s Strawweight action. Hill came up short to Yoder in 2017, so it’s a loss she desperately wants to get back. A win is of the utmost importance for “Overkill” since she is on a two-fight losing streak.
Ray Rodriguez will attempt to win his first fight inside the Octagon after coming up short in his debut against Brian Kelleher in Sept. 2020. He will face off against Rani Yahya, who fought to a draw against Enrique Barzola in his last fight.
J.J. Aldrich and Cortney Casey are set to collide in women’s Flyweight action. Aldrich is coming off a loss to Sabina Mazo in Jan. 2020, so she is looking for a big win here after being out of action for over a year. Casey is also coming off a loss to Gillian Robertson, her second loss in her last three UFC fights.
Also, Mathew Semelsberger will take on Jason Witt in Welterweight action. Semelsberger is currently riding a four fight win streak and made a nice impression in his UFC debut by defeating Carlton Minus in Aug. 2020. Witt, on the other hand, is coming off a win over Cole Williams in Oct. 2020.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Manel Kape came into the Octagon with big expectations. After all, he was the former RIZIN Bantamweight champion and prior to entering the Octagon he had won four of his last five. He threw up a dud in his UFC debut against Alexandre Pantoja, so he needs a big win here against Matheus Nicolau in to avoid going 0-2 inside the eight-walled cage.
Interest Level: 6/10
In the co-main event, Misha Cirkunov will take on Ryan Spann. Cirkunov is coming off a big win over Jimmy Crute, submitting the top 205-pound contender with a Peruvian necktie in the very first round. As for Spann, he had his eight-fight win streak snapped by Johnny Walker in Sept. 2020. The loss was his first inside the Octagon, so he is eager to get back on track.
Dan Ige has long been one of the best Featherweight fighters under the UFC umbrella. He was on a six-fight win streak prior to getting stopped by Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 1 in July 2020. He hopes to get back on track when he faces Gavin Tucker, a rising contender looking to carve his own spot in the rankings. It will be a tough task because Tucker is currently riding a three-fight win streak and is 4-1 under the UFC banner. And he is as scrappy as they come, so if Ige is looking for a fight he will definitely get one.
Davey Grant will face Jonathan Martinez in Bantamweight action and is looking for his first three-fight win streak since 2012. Martinez, meanwhile, has won two straight and picked up a huge win over Thomas Almeida. Prior to that, he beat Frankie Saenz so Martinez is no pushover. This is a fine matchup that could surprise many people.
Rounding out the main card is a Middleweight bout between Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart. Anders has had an up-and-down career so far inside the Octagon and was last seen losing to Krzysztof Jotko in May 2020. As for Stewart, he is coming off a close split decision loss to Kevin Holland and is just 2-2 in his last four.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 21 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 21 Main Event on ESPN+:
170 lbs.: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad
UFC Vegas 21 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Misha Cirkunov vs. Ryan Spann
145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Gavin Tucker
135 lbs.: Davey Grant vs. Jonathan Martinez
125 lbs.: Matheus Nicolau vs. Manel Kape
185 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart
UFC Vegas 21 Prelims Card on ESPN+ (5 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Ashley Yoder
145 lbs.: Charles Jourdain vs. Marcelo Rojo
135 lbs.: Ray Rodriguez vs. Rani Yahya
155 lbs.: Rafa Garcia vs. Nasrat Haqparast
125 lbs.: J.J. Aldrich vs. Cortney Casey
115 lbs.: Gloria de Paula vs. Jinh Yu Frey
170 lbs.: Matthew Semelsberger vs. Jason Witt
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 21 fight card tonight right here, 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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 21: “Edwards vs. Muhammad” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.