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UFC Predictions: UFC Vegas 21: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad Predictions & Picks

Leon Edwards faces Belal Muhammad in this weekend
Leon Edwards faces Belal Muhammad in this weekend's UFC main event
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 12 Mar 2021
Preview

After a blockbuster show last weekend, the UFC returns to its APEX facility for UFC Vegas 21: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad.

With a seven-fight main card, UFC Vegas 21 is light on name value, but could be high on action inside the Octagon.

So with this in mind, here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Vegas 21: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad.


#1 UFC Welterweight division: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad

Can Belal Muhammad pull off an upset over Leon Edwards this weekend?
Can Belal Muhammad pull off an upset over Leon Edwards this weekend?

Okay so firstly, this is obviously not as good a UFC main event as Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev would’ve been.

No offense to Muhammad, who is a great fighter in his own right, but Chimaev – before his issues with COVID-19 – looked like he was a generational talent.

But with the Chechnyan out of action, this looks more like a bounce-back fight for Edwards, who hasn’t fought in the UFC since July 2019.

Edwards is a curious case overall. ‘Rocky’ debuted in the UFC back in 2014, and at the time he felt like a stereotypical British fighter – all heavy hands and not much grappling.

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He went 2-2 in his first four fights, but after his 2015 loss to Kamaru Usman, something clearly changed for him. ‘Rocky’ took almost six months off, and then returned to the UFC with massively-improved grappling skills.

Since then, he’s defeated eight opponents, including Rafael Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone, all in impressive fashion.

Edwards is a fascinating fighter in that while he’s a great athlete, he doesn’t exactly rely on his athleticism for success.

He’s a very technical striker who works from a southpaw stance to pick at his opponents with combinations. In the clinch, he’s very dangerous with his knees and elbows. And while he’s no submission whiz, his takedowns have become excellent, and he’s more than capable of winning a fight from top position.

In terms of weaknesses, ‘Rocky’ has just a couple. One is his difficulty in finishing fights. Of his eight-fight win streak, he’s won six by decision. That doesn’t tend to impress the UFC – and may well be why he hasn’t been handed a title shot yet.

He also doesn’t come over as the most physically powerful or imposing fighter – meaning that he might struggle against a fighter like Usman in a rematch, or Colby Covington.

However, this fight – on paper at least – looks like a good one for him.

Muhammad has been in the UFC since 2016, and in that time he’s put together an impressive record of 9-3.

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Pace has been the name of the game for Muhammad in the UFC. He pushes his opponent at a frenetic rate, whether that’s with his takedowns or with his striking, and most of them have broken down the stretch.

Like Edwards, Muhammad’s finishing rate is poor – he’s stopped just two opponents in the UFC. But this is a big chance for him to move into contention for the UFC Welterweight title.

The problem for him is that everything he does – his striking, wrestling and even the pressure he puts on an opponent – is bettered by Edwards from a technical standpoint at least.

However, the X-factor here could be the fact that Edwards has dealt with COVID-19 and hasn’t fought in the UFC for well over a year. If ‘Rocky’ is rusty and can’t push his usual pace, then that definitely gives Muhammad an avenue to success, especially over five rounds.

However, based on Edwards’ apparent superiority in all areas, it’s hard to pick against him here. This will most likely be a workmanlike fight to watch, but ‘Rocky’ should probably edge it by decision in a relatively close fight.

The Pick: Edwards via unanimous decision

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Published 08 Mar 2021, 17:10 IST
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