Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight talents Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad will square off a second time TONIGHT (Sat., April 16, 2022) at UFC Vegas 51 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Having won four in a row as well as 10 of his last 11, Luque rides a considerable wave of momentum into his first main event slot. In a division of wrestlers and strategic round-winners, Luque stands out as the sole man knocking out fellow contenders left and right ... or at least strangling them after putting together heavy shots. Muhammad, meanwhile, doesn’t have that same gift of power, but “Remember The Name” is as crafty and tough as they come. He’s already exceeded most expectations by picking up the two best wins of his career in 2021, and he’s looking to continue that unlikely title run tonight by proving his development versus an opponent who once knocked him out.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Belal Muhammed (UFC 205), Michael Chiesa (UFC 265), Mike Perry (UFC Fight Night 156), Bryan Barberena (UFC on ESPN 1), Niko Price (UFC 249, UFC Fight Night 119), Randy Brown (UFC Vegas 5)
Key Losses: Stephen Thompson (UFC 244), Leon Edwards (UFC Fight Night 107)
Keys to Victory: Luque has some of the heaviest hands at 170 lbs. The Brazilian stalks opponents, landing damaging shots while keeping his eyes open for any possible counter opportunity. He’s also a slick submission fighter, happy to jump on the neck whenever his foe changes levels.
Nineteen of his 21 victories come via stoppage.
Luque is the superior striker here, and he’s proven himself capable of knocking Muhammad out previously. As such, the obvious goal here is to keep this bout as much of a kickboxing match as possible, because Muhammad’s grinding wrestling is his biggest improvement since their first fight.
To avoid getting stymied at close distance, I’d like to see Luque pressing forward. Muhammad likes to be a bully and dictate the pace and distance, which is more difficult to do while getting pushed backwards. If Muhammad tries to stand his ground and really force the issue, great! That’s why Luque’s brick-like chin and fists come into play.
If Luque keeps Muhammad reacting to his offense, he’s likely in for a smooth night.
Key Wins: Stephen Thompson (UFC Vegas 45), Demian Maia (UFC 263), Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Tim Means (UFC Fight Night 121), Randy Brown (UFC 208)
Key Losses: Geoff Neal (UFC Fight Night 143), Vicente Luque (UFC 205), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 90)
Keys to Victory: Fighters don’t come much tougher than Belal Muhammad. He pushes a hard pace and relies primarily on grit to overcome opponents, though his technical wrestling and kickboxing skill have come a long way in his current win streak.
Muhammad faces a tricky challenge here. He has to get his wrestling game going, but that involves frequently stepping into the zone where Luque heaves murderous punches. Muhammad has often counted on his chin to get him through such moments, but that’s a bad play versus Luque.
To safely find his way to the takedown, I think Muhammad actually has to take his foot off the gas a bit while in the stand up. After all, Luque is not the type of fighter to be overwhelmed merely by pace anyway. Luque is dangerous enough that a more thoughtful approach is necessary: Muhammad has to double up on feints and cut the forward pressure in half if he’s to find safe entries to his takedowns.
Once in on a leg, it’s go time. That’s where Muhammad can put his excellent conditioning to use, and if he can start completing the occasional takedown, he can really pull momentum into his corner.
The winner moves into the real title mix.
Welterweight has been log-jammed for some time, largely because the most established contenders haven’t been fighting one another. Finally, that’s starting to change, and the cogs are beginning to move. Unfortunately for the men of this main event, something of a line to Kamaru Usman is starting to form. Leon Edwards is next this summer, and the winner of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington may have secured the second place in the queue.
So, is the victor fighting for that third position? It’s possible. More likely, one last victory will be required to really secure a title shot, although some kind of injury or delay in the above line could quicken the situation. Either way, one of these athletes leaves tonight’s event as a fully realized title threat.
At UFC Vegas 51, Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad will go to war in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 51 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 51: “Luque vs. Muhammad 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.