For the first time in a month, the UFC will head back to Nevada, hosting UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Muhammad 2 from inside the UFC Apex. The headlining fight pits top five welterweights against each other in a rematch from a fight back in 2016.
Vicente Luque comes into this fight having won his first fight against Belal Muhammad by first-round knockout on the undercard of UFC 205. He has won 10 of his 12 fights since then, picking up finishes in nine out of those 10 wins. Muhammad is a much improved fighter since the pair’s first encounter. His boxing has always been good, but it has risen to another level as of late. His ground game is markedly better, and he has shown in recent outings that he can win on the heels of a grappling-heavy game plan.
The co-main event is a women’s bantamweight bout between Mayra Bueno Silva and Wu Yanan. Neither woman comes into this fight with much momentum, as they have two combined wins over their last eight bouts. With the bantamweight division experiencing a bit of a shake-up recently, after Juliana Pena recently dethroned Amanda Nunes, an emphatic victory could go a long way towards reintroducing the winner into the field of future contenders at 135 pounds.
Also landing on the main card is an exciting featherweight showdown as Pat Sabatini takes on T.J. Laramie. Sabatini is a former Cage Fury Fighting Championships featherweight champion and has gone 3-0 since joining the UFC. His opponent, Laramie, hasn’t fought since dropping his UFC debut back in Sept. 2020, but he came into the organization riding a four-fight winning streak and picked up a TKO victory when he was showcased on Dana White’s Contender Series.
UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Muhammad will air in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 5:30 p.m. ET. The main card will also air on ESPN, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad met on the prelims of UFC 205; does Luque pick up another knockout win in the pair’s headlining rematch?
Sumian: Saturday’s main event participants first faced one another back in Nov. 2016. Since then, the pair has combined for a 20-3-1 record. To put it simply, both Luque and Muhammad have delivered on the potential of becoming the top-ranked contenders that many saw within them years ago. Unfortunately, one of them will suffer a setback, while the victor arguably positions himself for a title eliminator fight in the crowded welterweight division.
Not many of the top-ranked welterweights are riding a four-fight winning streak at the expense of Niko Price, Randy Brown, Tyron Woodley, and Michael Chiesa. With every performance, Luque has looked more impressive and continues to show fans around the world he is destined to fight for the 170-pound title. The Brazilian boasts some of the most clean, yet aggressive, Muay Thai striking in MMA today and has the ability to transition to his offensive grappling, depending on the approach of his opponent. The fourth-ranked welterweight has finished all four of the aforementioned opponents and will position himself for a top-three opponent if he is able to come away with a second victory over the always-tough Muhammad.
The thought of facing Muhammad in a five-round main event should exhaust many of the top-ranked welterweights in MMA today. The Chicago native is quite the opposite of Luque when it comes to strengths and weaknesses. While Luque is a prominent finisher, Muhammad is a resilient grinder who wishes nothing more than to outwork his opponents using clinch-work, constant pressure and dirty boxing. The Chicago native knows that the longer the fight goes on, the better chance he has at dragging his opponents into deep water and turning in a dominant decision victory. His two most high-profile wins came to fruition in 2021 at the expense of Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson. Muhammad’s style is similar to Colby Covington’s in that he relies on pace, pressure and cardio rather than knockout power or finish ability. If he is able to get his way and constantly keep Luque on the defensive, the Roufusport prospect could himself one step closer to a title shot.
The mixing of the martial arts will be on full display once Luque and Muhammad take center stage. As mentioned above, Luque will be looking to stay away from Muhammad’s clinch-work and dirty boxing using his jab and leg kicks. Patience will be key as he utilizes his obvious striking advantage to break down his opponent’s defenses and put together a finish flurry or submission. Muhammad will do just the opposite and get as close as possible to the Brazilian where he can nullify the effectiveness of Luque’s striking.
The biggest difference maker in his fight is the level of competition that both men have faced. Although Muhammad has realized a ton of success in the Octagon since 2016, Luque has undoubtedly faced the better competition. He will yet again finish Muhammad by putting together a thunderous combination in round two. At this point in their careers, Luque is a tier above his opponent and should find himself in a title elimination bout for his next visit to the Octagon.
Petela: Belal Muhammad has lost just once since these two welterweights met back at UFC 205. Vicente Luque has lost twice since then, to Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson. Muhammad has fought both of those men, picking up a dominant win over Thompson, and, of course, his fight with Edwards ended after a gnarly eye poke rendered Muhammad unable to see and halted the fight in a no-contest. This is a great main event in an otherwise unremarkable fight card.
The key for Luque will be to get Muhammad out of there quickly. The longer this fight goes, the more the odds favor Muhammad. Of the four fights in Luque’s current winning streak, just one of them lasted into the third round. If Muhammad can make it through the very real threat of getting stopped early by Luque, the chances are good that he picks up a decision in a fight where he has all momentum leading up to the final bell.
Not getting knocked out or submitted early, however, is no easy task. It took just seventy-nine seconds for Luque to get the finish the first time they squared off back in 2016. Granted, that fight was nearly six years ago, and it is unfair to think that either of these two fighters will bring the same version of themselves they did those years ago. This fight plays out one of two ways – either Luque picks up an emphatic finish early or Muhammad weathers the storm and wins by a wide-margin decision. For me, the far more likely outcome is a Muhammad victory that evens the score at one win apiece between two of the best welterweights in the promotion.
Wu Yanan has struggled recently with only one win in her last four fights; can she get back to her winning ways by defeating Mayra Bueno Silva?
Petela: Probably not, but neither of these women have found much success lately. Mayra Bueno Silva has also only one win in her last four fights as well, although she sprinkled in a draw with Montana De La Rosa over that time as well. There is a real difference in the fighters’ strength of schedules and that’s why I lean towards Silva picking up a win this weekend. The one win that Wu has since joining the UFC came over Lauren Mueller, who has since been cut from the UFC and lost her first fight in her post-UFC career under the Invicta FC banner. The story is similar for Silva, whose most recent win came over Mara Romero Borella. Borella has also since been released but has yet to fight elsewhere.
Their wins came over a similar level of opponent, but their losses came over different caliber of opponents. Yanan dropped fights to Gina Mazany, Joselyne Edwards, and Mizuki Inoue, all of whom lost their last outings. Bueno Silva has the aforementioned draw against Montana De La Rosa and lost to Maryna Moroz and Manon Fiorot. Moroz is riding a three-fight winning streak currently and just picked up a massive win over Mariya Agapova. Fiorot is undefeated since dropping her professional debut to Leah McCourt and soundly defeated former title challenger Jennifer Maia just a few weeks ago. The experience that Silva gained against those elite opponents will be the difference maker and will propel her to victory this weekend against Wu.
Sumian: If this fight is indeed named the co-main event of the evening, shame on the UFC. This fight should be on the preliminary portion of the card until either combatant gets back to some form of success in the Octagon. Nevertheless, my colleague is correct that Silva will pull of a decisive victory over Wu and move onto bigger and better things.
Martin Buday – do we need to know this name?
Sumian: It is difficult to resist getting excited about Martin Buday. The Slovakian native joins the UFC heavyweight division with a 9-1 record and is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak. He knocked out Lorenzo Hood in his Contender Series debut and has the makings of a successful heavyweight knockout artist. He will be facing fellow heavyweight knockout artist Chris Barnett who is coming off an epic spinning wheel-kick knockout at the expense of Gian Villante. Barnett is vastly more experienced as a professional fighter, but will also give up a massive reach and height advantage. Despite the experience gap, I expect the UFC newcomer to pull off the successful debut on the big stage. If Buday enters the Octagon with a solid game plan that keeps him away from Barnett’s power, he should be able to kickbox his way to victory and perhaps a finish. Barnett has suffered three knockout losses in his career, so it is not unrealistic for Buday to pull off something memorable.
Petela: Heavyweight prospects are always tricky due to the unpredictable nature of the division. The most recognizable name on his resume is Juan Espino, who happens to be Martin Buday’s lone career loss. Buday certainly isn’t a prospect I’d gamble on to be a future title contender, but he’s a guy who could rattle off some nice wins inside the promotion and find himself facing off against top-tier talent sooner rather than later. His ceiling, in my opinion, lies somewhere in the lower half of the rankings, which would be quite an accomplishment should it come to fruition.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: It’d be tough to see the loser of the fight between Wu Yanan and Mayra Bueno Silva remain on the roster, but, having already discussed their matchup, I’ll say Jesse Ronson. That might be unconventional thinking since he looked stellar in his first fight back with the UFC, but, after having that fight overturned to a no-contest due to a positive PED test, he is probably on a short leash with the promotion. Ronson tested positive for metandienone (Dianabol), an anabolic steroid that resulted in him receiving a 22-month suspension. If Ronson doesn’t deliver another standout performance, the UFC could very well cut ties with him again if they don’t think he is worth keeping around given the steroid history.
Sumian: This card has so many combatants that could be entered into this section. Two that stand out to me are Sam Hughes and Miguel Baeza, but for different reasons. If Hughes drops to 0-4 since joining the UFC, there is simply no way the promotion keeps her around.
For Baeza, the stage is vastly different. Baeza was, at one point, a ranked welterweight after taking out Hector Aldana, Matt Brown, and Takasi Sato. Since then, he has lost two in a row to Santiago Ponzinibbio and Khaos Williams. The Florida native is a gifted prospect, but he is in desperate need of a victory to stay relevant in a crowded welterweight division. He takes on Andre Fialho, who is a step down in competition compared to his last two opponents, but is certainly no slouch.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian:. The heavyweight clash between William Knight and Devin Clark is a potential crowd-pleaser. Knight is an established knockout artist, and Clark is a tough competitor who has fought many of the top-ranked light heavyweights today. The pair should compliment one another and turn this into one of the better fights of the evening.
Petela: Rafa Garcia vs. Jesse Ronson. It’s slated to be the featured prelim, so I don’t know if it counts as a true sleeper fight, but this bout should be exciting. Garcia was impressive in his UFC debut, losing a decision to Nasrat Haqparast after taking the fight on short notice. He came up short against Chris Gruetzemacher in his sophomore outing, but he finally got a win inside the organization in his last fight against Natan Levy. He’s got a tough task ahead of him in Jesse Ronson, but, regardless of the outcome, these two should put on a show and each man will absorb an almost-obscene amount of damage.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Chris Barnett. He certainly doesn’t have the prototypical elite athlete physique, but he showed, in his last outing against Gian Villante, that he is quite athletic. Expect him to pick up another knockout victory this weekend against newcomer Martin Buday. This will be a fun fight as long as it lasts with both men holding knockout power in all of their limbs. Whether it be a flying knee, another wheel kick, or a deceptively fast combination of punches, Chris Barnett will deliver another highlight reel performance that earns him a second straight post-fight bonus.
Sumian: Pat Sabatini. It is time for the disrespect and lack of attention to end. Sabatini is one of the top featherweight prospects on Planet Earth, period. He will make a statement on Saturday and make it 4-0 as a UFC featherweight when he defeats T.J. Laramie in extraordinary fashion. Sabatini should find himself standing across a top 25-30 featherweight for his next walk to the Octagon.
Pair this card with…
Sumian:Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. It is no secret that Episode One is considered the worst movie of the six original Star Wars movies. In fact, many believe that the only good scene in the movie is the epic Jedi vs. Sith battle that debuted the double-bladed lightsaber onto the big screen. Like Episode One, Saturday’s fight night is a sad excuse for a Fight Night, and further demonstrates that the UFC is putting together one too many events on a monthly basis. Viewers will be tasked with getting through an underwhelming evening of fights that will culminate in an epic welterweight clash between the two main-event participants. The only positive is that both Luque and Muhammad get some well-deserved fanfare for their recent successes in the Octagon.
Petela: I’ll have to take my colleague’s word for the Star Wars reference because I’ve never seen any of those movies from start to finish. This is the perfect Fight Night to host a watch party with some friends who are perhaps more casual MMA fans. There aren’t a ton of meaningful bouts this weekend, so you won’t miss anything ultra-important when they ask you questions about what’s going on. Add a party staple like pigs-in-a-blanket, and you’ll have a worthwhile evening.
Main Card (ESPN+, 8:30 p.m. ET)
WW: Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
MW: Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
WW: Miguel Baeza vs. Andre Fialho
Women’s BW: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Wu Yanan
FW: Pat Sabatini vs. T.J. Laramie
WW: Ange Loosa vs. Mounir Lazzez
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 5:30 p.m. ET)
HW: Devin Clark vs. William Knight
Women’s BW: Lina Länsberg vs. Pannie Kianzad
LW: Drakkar Klose vs. Brandon Jenkins
LW: Rafa Garcia vs. Jesse Ronson
HW: Chris Barnett vs. Martin Buday
LW: Jordan Leavitt vs. Try Ogden
StrawW: Istela Nunes vs. Sam Hughes
BW: Alatengheili vs. Kevin Croom
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