UFC Vegas 51 Predictions – MMA Fighting

Belal Muhammad is experiencing a great deja Luque.

“Remember the Name” has only been completed once in his career, five and a half years ago in the hands of Vicente Luque, the man he meets again at the main event of UFC Vegas 51 on Saturday. At the time, both fighters had just begun to make a name for themselves in the ever-crowded welterweight division; now the legitimate candidates are in the saliva of a title shot.

The two have a combined 20 wins since the first match, and yet they are both still looking for the signature win that will make them an undeniable title challenger. Although they have left marking names like Tyron Woodley, Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia in their wake, a convincing victory in tonight’s rematch may be just what both players need to prove they deserve consideration at the highest level.

At the very least, fans will be treated to a matchup between two challengers who have honed the old-fashioned way, and if Muhammad avenges his loss, we can look back on this as just another part of a compelling trilogy.

In other motherboard actions, middleweight Contender Series signings Caio Borralho and Gadzi Omargadzhiev make their UFC debut, Miguel Baeza fights Andre Fialho in a welterweight striker’s duel, Mayra Bueno Silva returns to bantamweight to fight Wu Yanan, Pat Sabatini watches out to go 4-0 in the UFC as he battles featherweight prospect TJ Laramie, and Mounir Lazzez welcomes Contender Series welterweight Ange Loosa to the UFC.

What: UFC Vegas 51

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 16th. The preliminary match with eight matches begins on ESPN + at. 17.30 ET, followed by a main card with six matches on ESPN + at. 20.30 ET.


(Numbers in parentheses indicate that you are in MMA Fighting Global Rankings)

Vicente Luque (5) vs. Belal Muhammad (6)

After crushing the numbers using the obscenely expensive MMA Fighting MMA Math calculator, this choice should be pretty easy: Stephen Thompson beat Vicente Luque + Belal Muhammad beat Stephen Thompson = Belal Muhammad beat Vicente Luque.

Right?

Well, maybe it’s not that simple. “Wonderboy” is a matchup nightmare for many welterweights, and Luque was no exception. He landed several hard shots, but was never able to hold Thompson long enough to put together a winning performance. There are not too many fighters like Thompson, so it is not very useful to make comparisons between Luque and Muhammad’s respective achievements against him (again, math turns out to be useless).

Looking back at Luque-Muhammad 1 is probably not that helpful either, though both have evolved on a linear path, so it’s not as if they’re different fighters in terms of potential strategies. They are just superior versions of themselves. If that is the case, then it is not good for Muhammad.

“Remember the Name” is about the press game and he is excellent at it, but in Luque he has an opponent who also loves to come forward and cut the distance and land big punches at any cost. Tempo is not a problem for Muhammad. Fireproof is.

The possibility of this one going five rounds may tip the action in Muhammad’s favor, as it gives him more time to cope and recover from an early Luque storm. I do not trust that he matches the kind of damage that Luque can deal, no matter how long the fight lasts.

Luque won the first match in less than 90 seconds, which I do not expect will happen this time. Muhammad, however, will push Luque until Luque overwhelms him with a hiss and finishes on the ground with a submission.

Pick: Luke

Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev

Considering my recent crusade against billing matches as a “co-main event” just because they are the penultimate on the map, this feels like an attack.

With respect, there is nothing about Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev, who deserves to be called a co-main event. It’s a great match. It’s the penultimate match of the night. If God wills, we will even get to see their absences on television. But it’s not a co-main event, and we do not have to pretend it is because the UFC and ESPN say it is.

Ran over.

What we have here is an excellent opportunity for a couple of talented fighters to immediately announce themselves as an impact signing from the Contender Series. In Borralho you have a fun standup fighter with a strong takedown defense; in Omargadzhiev we have the next man up on the seemingly endless conveyor belt of powerful Russian grippers.

In principle, I have to favor Omargadzhiev because I do not think Borralho can stay away from the back for 15 minutes. Omargadzhiev is also comfortable on his feet, and uses combinations to score and not just set up his takedowns. That said, when it’s time to take Borralho down, you can bet he will do so with a relaxing efficiency.

Borralho is not a seated duck when faced with a wrestler, as he has both a solid takedown defense and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Omargadzhiev will have to work to cut through that guard. But even if he can not, then make sure he stays patient in the top position and sprinkles soil-and-pound in when the opportunity arises. He will either fight his way to a decision or send a tiring Borralho late.

Pick: Omargadzhiev

Miguel Baeza Vs. Andre Fialho

Matchmakers, I can see what you did here.

On a card that lacks starpower, sometimes you just have to throw things on the wall until it sticks and the fans are lucky that this matchup ended up on the board. Miguel Baeza Vs. Dhiego Lima was a fine match, but when Lima made the surprising decision to retire, the door was open for Andre Fialho to step in and really create some chaos.

Baeza is one of the best attacking welterweights in the UFC. He can be very technically early and has no problems fighting late. It has raised some questions about his defense, which is perfect for Fialho. The former PFL fighter wants to stand and act, especially if his opponent has a respectable striking pedigree.

So watch Baeza take the lead in round 1, and then settle for a scrap in rounds 2 and 3. Fialho has serious punch, but I still prefer Baeza to snatch his slip here.

Baeza wins a decision after some exciting, touch-and-go moments.

Pick: baeza

Mayra Bueno Silva Vs. wuyanan

Mayra Bueno Silva and Wu Yanan are ready to steal the show. It can get ugly, but when you have two aggressive fighters who need a victory facing in a main card slot, you know you are getting maximum effort.

There is a lot to like in Wu’s game and she has shown how competitive she can be against more experienced competitors. But you also get the feeling that the 25-year-old’s UFC career has been a case of too much, too early, and that Silva is another name that fits into that narrative. “Sheetara” is constantly on the attack with her muay thai and submission skills, and here I prefer to get over Wu in a blow-by-blow competition. I like Wu’s speed, but Silva strikes harder and wants the edge on the ground.

Silva upon submission.

Pick: Silva

Pat Sabatini Vs. TJ Laramie

In a battle for wrestlers, give me the more well-rounded giant game Pat Sabatini over the untapped potential of TJ Laramie.

Laramie has the classic fire hydrant construction, which means he will be at a disadvantage in length compared to most featherweights, but a load on the ground for anyone he can put on his back. He has some raw power on his feet, but is still a work-in-progress there. Sabatini wants to initiate the difficult exchanges and wear Laramie out with clinch work against the fence before going to dismantling.

There will be some entertaining clashes and fights, but I like that Sabatini gets the upper hand over most of these exchanges. He also does not want to just sit in the top position, he will beat Laramie with ground strikes and attack with submissions on the way to a decision victory.

Pick: Sabatini

Mounir Lazzez Vs. Angel Loosa

We open up with a potential banger here as Mounir Lazzez and Ange Loosa bring exciting striking styles to the octagon. For Lazzez, technique and precision are the name of the game, and once locked in, he looks just as good as everyone else in the welterweight division on his feet. For the debutant Loosa, there would be no better way for him to make a first impression than by giving Lazzez a second knockout loss in a row.

Loosa uses lots of feints and fakes to set up his combinations, and he has shown a dazzling hand speed in his recent fights, though finishes have avoided him. He also wants to meddle in takedowns, and although his wrestling skills are not exactly Division I caliber, he has shown he can use raw power to complete a shot.

It’s tempting to go with the lesser known Loosa here, but he can become predictable with his approach, and that’s the last thing you want to be when you fight Lazzez. The “sniper” gets stuck in competition stuck in a rhythm and I see him pick Loosa apart in three rounds. This is a tough excursion for Loosa, who is taking this fight with a few days notice, and although I expect him to make an energetic effort, it will not be enough to win the cards.

Pick: Lazzez

Preliminary

Devin Clark def. William Knight

Miss Kianzad (13) def. Lina Lansberg

Drakkar Klose def. Brandon Jenkins

Jesse Ronson def. Rafael Garcia

Chris Barnett def. Martin Buday

Trey Ogden Vs. Jordan Leavitt

Istela Nunes def. Sam Hughes

Heili Alateng def. Kevin Croom

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