clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 78’s Vicente Luque

Heavy-handed finisher, Vicente Luque, will battle longtime veteran, Rafael dos Anjos, this Saturday (Aug. 12, 2023) at UFC Vegas 78 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For about four years, Luque really terrorized the Welterweight division. He won 10 of 11 fights in that span, and he finished all but one of his victories. He was ranked in the Top 5 and seemed to be closing in on a title shot, but it all fell apart in his last two fights. Put frankly, Luque looked bad against both Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, and the fact that both are great fighters doesn’t totally ease the concerns. The Brazilian appeared slower to react and unable to get out of first gear in both fights, which are problematic in their own right. The fact that Neal beat the life from him and caused a brain bleed is downright unsettling.

Hopefully, a full year off has helped. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 79 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES LIGHTWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Sept. 23, 2023, with a high stakes 155-pound showdown as No. 6-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, takes on No. 7-seeded Mateusz Gamrot. In UFC Vegas 79’s co-main event, No. 12-ranked Featherweight contender, Bryce Mitchell, steps back into the Octagon against No. 13-seeded Dan Ige.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

UFC 260: Woodley v Luque Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Luque has a background in Muay Thai, which shows up in his classic punch-kick combinations and counters. Really though, he excels at pressuring opponents, drawing out reactions, then viciously countering their attempts at offense.

It’s important to recognize first and foremost that Luque is an offense-first fighter. He’s not exactly a brawler — there’s a definite process to his approach — but Luque is deservedly confident in his iron jaw and severe knockout power. Luque will always accept a one-to-one trade of shots, even if it’s not his default game plan. That’s how unranked scrappers like Bryan Barberena and Mike Perry were able to compete with Luque: The Brazilian brawled with brawlers.

Additionally, it’s that same trait that saw him destroyed by Neal. Neal is among the best in the division at circling side-to-side then suddenly planting with a devastating combination. That movement really bothered Luque, as his pressure walked him into punches rather than his own setups, and he didn’t know how to alternate from his game plan. In his other recent loss to Belal Muhammad, Muhammad used that same movement to help setup takedowns.

At his best, Luque is attacking and stalking his opponent. His offense moving forward is very Muay Thai, combinations of hooks and crosses punctuated by kicks (notably the right low kick). Luque can snap off a damn solid jab, but he’s not the type content to hang back and let that strike breathe — he’s going to keep marching forward and throwing.

Luque knocks people out while leading. His lead right hand is a major weapon, and he’ll follow it up with a ripping left kick to any target. Often, Luque will punch into the clinch and immediately start slamming knees into his target (GIF). If his opponent is trapped along the cage, Luque is more willing to extend his combinations or punch at the mid-section more often.

Luque is at his best when intercepting his opponent’s strikes. Most often, that strike is his opponent’s jab, but against a right-hand heavy fighter like Tyron Woodley (GIF), Luque is equally willing to time the cross. The Brazilian is equally nasty and quick on the trigger with his right hand and left hook.

Timing the jab with a right overhand is a classic strategy, the infamous cross counter that gave rise to many knockout artists in MMA. True to form, Luque nails the most important aspect: getting his head off the center line. Luque’s opponents’ straight shots miss, and their forward motion often carries them directly into Luque’s sledgehammer of an overhand. Luque’s brawling reputation has some fans convinced he never moves his head, but Luque actually does a nice job of slipping in the initial punching that begins an exchange (GIF).

Outside of the inside slip, however, Luque relies on little more than his hands to defend himself.

The timing on the left hook is a touch different (GIF). Often, Luque will look to parry the jab/straight then fire his left, which gives him a moment to square up his shoulders before unleashing the shot. In general, Luque does good work to keep his left hook nice and tight, allowing him to hold his ground as his opponent pushes forward.

While stalking, Luque is always looking to walk opponents into strikes. He has several powerful weapons coming from either side: the left hook and left body kick vs. right overhand and right low kick, for example. If Luque’s opponent starts circling hard to avoid the cage, expect the Brazilian to try to interrupt him with a big connection. Muhammad, Thompson, and Neal may have flustered Luque with their movement, but they were not the first to try. It takes a very skilled fighter to diffuse Luque’s offense, and all those men were still hit by at least 77 significant strikes!

UFC Fight Night: Luque v Barberena Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Luque hasn’t landed a takedown since his grueling 2017 battle versus Leon Edwards, so it’s clearly not a major part of his typical strategy. When he does wrestle offensively, Luque tends to prefer the classic double leg along the fence.

Luque’s takedown defense is an important part of the equation to being a successful bruiser. Fortunately, Luque’s wrestling has mostly held up. Overall, he has established himself as a fighter that is possible (but difficult) to take down and even more tricky to hold down. Luque’s pressure and good striking form are a big benefit in the defensive wrestling regard, as it’s often tricky to wrestle a fighter from the back foot unless they overextend. Luque’s solid sprawl helps quite a bit too, especially along the fence, where he’s quick to pull opponents up into the clinch and attack with knees and elbows.

Belal Muhammad is the recent exception. His work with Khabib and co. paid dividends, as Muhammad found good success in wrapping up the legs and hanging on Luque. He didn’t do a massive amount of damage from top position, but he did frustrate the Brazilian with repeated takedowns that actually amounted to control time.

UFC 265: Chiesa v Luque Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Luque is a jiu-jitsu black belt, and though I cannot find official confirmation one way or the other, I believe he might have the most front chokes in UFC history with four d’arces and an anaconda to his name.

Would it come as a surprise that Luque’s style of attacking the neck is highly aggressive? In his most recent win opposite Michael Chiesa, for example, Luque’s d’arce choke started getting tight within just a few seconds of gaining top position. Even more interesting is how Luque set up the choke, wrapping both of his arms around the neck, elbow-deep.

This is an unusual position for good reason. Committing both arms so deeply can be a recipe to get reversed via the duck under, and it can also give the defensive fighter control of one of the arms. Fortunately, Luque doesn’t hang out there for long, establishing one arm as the choke arm quickly and then fully diving on the rear naked choke grip to attack the finish (GIF).

Another layer of aggressive risk-taking is how Luque finishes the submission. The d’arce can be finished from top position by sprawling and dropping one’s chest into the strangle, meaning that if the choke fails, the attacking fighter is still in top position. This is generally preferable in MMA, where ending up on bottom just once can easily cost an athlete the fight.

Luque, meanwhile, dives underneath his opponent as soon as his hands are locked in the rear naked choke grip. He’s fully unconcerned about the possibility of winding up on his back! Switching hips and rolling underneath is likely the stronger squeeze, however. Ideally, Luque will entangle one of his opponent’s legs with his own to prevent them from circling away from the choke (GIF), but he’s finished the strangle without that element, too.

Generally, there are two entries to these front chokes. If Luque happens to gain top position — by escaping Chiesa’s back mount or dropping his opponent, for example — he can immediately jump on the neck as his foe turtles or tries to use an underhook to stand. Alternatively, Luque is quick to attack the neck while defending takedowns, as he’ll move into the front headlock following a successful sprawl.

UFC Fight Night: Luque v Brown Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images


Luque at his peak form would still easily be a Top 10 Welterweight, a possible contender if everything worked out correctly. His last two fights showed a clear decline, however, so this bout is Luque’s opportunity to prove he still deserves to be considered an elite talent.

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 78 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 78: “dos Anjos vs. Luque” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania