Luque v Muhammad 2 Predictions

With a title shot in sight, surging top-five welterweights Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad meet for the second time in a pivotal main event showdown in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Only one promising pugilist will celebrate a successful promotional debut when highly-touted middleweights Caio Borralho and Gadzhi Omargadzhiev meet in the co-headliner at the UFC Apex.

Featherweights Pat Sabatini and TJ Laramie lock horns in the opening bout of the main card, which also includes a bantamweight match-up between Mayra Bueno Silva and Wu Yanan and a battle of welterweight finishers in Miguel Baeza and Andre Fialho.

MAIN CARD (from 2.30 AM Sunday SA time):

Vicente Luque (1.54) v Belal Muhammad (2.45) (Welterweight)

Six years after their maiden meeting, the pair have evolved into two of the very best 170 pounders on the planet. Red-hot runs have put both pugilists on the precipice of a championship opportunity and see their paths cross for a second time. 

Luque (21-7-1) won their 2016 battle by first-round knockout at UFC 205 and has remained one of the most prolific finishers in the welterweight division, with nine of his 10 victories since then coming via stoppage. 

That includes his current four-fight win streak, which he capped off with submission victories over former champion Tyron Woodley and Michael Chiesa to move up to fourth place in the rankings. 

The man known as “The Silent Assassin” has made serious noise with his complete skillset and killer instinct, which have seen him claim all but two of his wins by stoppage (11 knockouts and eight submissions).

The loss to Luque was a significant moment in Muhammad’s career. In hindsight, it forged him into an even better fighter, one that’s technically top-class. As a result, it remains the only time in his 22-fight career that he’s been knocked out. 

“Remember the Name” has gone on an even greater tear as Luque since their first fight. He’s undefeated in his last seven bouts and most recently toppled former title challengers Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson. 

His climb to fifth place hasn’t been as spectacular as Luque’s rise in the style department, but once he finds his rhythm inside the Octagon, he outworks his opponent with seamless striking and grappling and elite fight IQ. 

His record, a stellar one at that at 19-3, reflects what a tactician he is. In stark contrast with Luque, 14 of his wins are by decision. That’s not to say that he’s not dangerous but, rather, highlights his methodical make-up.

On the flip side, Luque’s litany of finishes doesn’t mean he’s a reckless mad man. He’s wise to war but naturally aggressive. The longer Muhammad can extend the fight, the more it should steadily tilt in his favour. 

However, Luque is a master at forcing opponents out of their comfort zones. It’ll probably take him a little longer this time around, but with a three-and-a-half-inch reach advantage, look to Luque to land the knockout once again. 

Prediction: Luque via knockout. 

Best Bet: Luque by KO/TKO/Submission/DQ at 2.20.

Alternative Bet: Luque by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.25.

Caio Borralho (2.05) v Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (1.76) (Middleweights)

Their prime placement in the co-main event slot speaks to the talent and potential of the blue-chip UFC debutants. 

Both have impeccable records and impressed UFC president Dana White with first-round finishes on the Contender Series to earn a contract, Borralho (10-1) knocking out Jesse Murray and Omargadzhiev submitting Jansey Silva with a kneebar.

Undefeated in his 13-fight career with 11 finishes (including eight knockouts), Omargadzhiev is the superior striker and has a size advantage, which tip the scales in his favour.

Prediction: Omargadzhiev via stoppage. 

Best Bet: Omargadzhiev at 1.76. 

Alternative Bet: Omargadzhiev by KO/TKO/Submission/DQ at 2.65

Miguel Baeza (1.54) v Andre Fialho (2.45) (Welterweight)

These two like to clock out early, so expect an exciting dust-up that finishes inside the distance. 

Both are aggressive strikers who have clinched all but two of their wins by stoppage, Baeza (10-2) boasting eight knockouts and Fialho (14-4) 11, with both also having one submission to their name. 

Another similarity is both men are looking to return to winning ways. Fialho had knocked out former UFC fighter James Vick to earn his shot in the big league but lost his promotional debut against Michel Pereira in January. 

Baeza is a proven UFC talent and one of very few men who holds a knockout victory over Octagon legend Matt Brown. A step above Fialho, “Caramel Thunder” should notch up another KO. 

Prediction: Baeza via knockout.  

Best Bet: Baeza by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.80.

Alternative Bet: Baeza at 1.54.

Mayra Bueno Silva (1.20) v Wu Yanan (4.50) (Bantamweight)

A dance of desperate bantamweights looking to get back on track. Silva (7-2-1) is a submission specialist, five of her wins coming via tap out, while Yanan (12-4) is a striker with seven knockouts to her credit. 

Silva has shared the Octagon with high-level opponents and has a notable win over Gillian Robertson. Yanan, meanwhile, has looked out of her depth in the UFC and “Sheetara” will send her packing from the promotion.  

Prediction: Silva via decision. 

Best Bet: Silva by decision at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Fight to go the distance at 1.62.

Pat Sabatini (1.20) v TJ Laramie (4.50) (Featherweight)

Having had three scheduled clashes cancelled since being submitted by Darrick Minner in his UFC debut in September 2020, Laramie (12-4) hasn’t done himself any favours by accepting this fight. 

Sabatini (16-3) happens to be a grappling ace and has an excellent pedigree. He’s a two-time Cage Fury FC champion, has 10 submission victories and he’s on a five-fight win streak, three of which came in the UFC.

To make matters worse for 5’6″ Laramie, he’s two inches shorter than Sabatini and will have to overcome a four-and-a-half-inch reach disadvantage. He’ll be forced to tap or controlled on the ground over three rounds by the bigger and stronger wrestler. 

Prediction: Sabatini via submission. 

Best Bet: Sabatini by submission at 2.75.

Alternative Bet: Sabatini by decision at 2.20.

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Author: editor

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