Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 51 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., April 16, 2022) from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a welterweight (and long overdue) rematch between Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad, a 170-pound headliner with serious title implications for late 2022 and beyond.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the middleweight showdown between Caio Borralho and Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (my condolences to our play-by-play guy), check out Patrick Stumberg’s UFC Vegas 51 preliminary card breakdowns here and here. In addition, in-house pro fighter Andrew Richardson, who knows a thing or two about weekly battles (he’s getting married soon), did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 51 main card right here.
For the latest “Luque vs. Muhammad 2” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.
Let’s get to work.
170 lbs.: Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
Vicente ‘Silent Assassin’ Luque
Record: 21-7-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -170
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.65 | Striking accuracy: 54%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.67 | Striking Defense: 52%
Takedown Average: 0.64 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 64%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Submission win over Michael Chiesa
Belal ‘Remember the Name’ Muhammad
Record: 20-3, 1 NC | Age: 33 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 15 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 511“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.55 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.61 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 2.20 (33% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 91%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Stephen Thompson
When MMA fans talk about the sport’s most exciting combatants you’ll hear names like Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, and Tony Ferguson, just to name a few, and I would argue that high-octane welterweight action fighter Vicente Luque belongs near the top of that list. “The Silent Assassin” may not have the mic skills of a main event superstar but what he does have is 19 finishes in 21 wins and eight performance bonuses, including three straight coming into this fight. It probably would have been six straight but his finish of Niko Price at UFC 249 took a back seat to the aforementioned Gaethje and heavyweight hurter Francis Ngannou, who nearly killed Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the first round of their main card clash. Luque is the winner of four straight and 10 of his last 11, with nine of those 10 wins ending by knockout or submission. The Brazilian earned his spot in the division Top 5 by turning away former champion Tyron Woodley, as well as welterweight bruiser Michael Chiesa. That said, it can also be hard to overlook losses to Stephen Thompson and Leon Edwards, two of the top fighters in his weight class, though his defeat to “Rocky” is more forgivable when you consider it was more than five years ago and “The Silent Assassin” has no doubt improved since their first showdown.
That brings us to Belal Muhammad, who also has to prove he’s made some impressive strides since getting planished by Luque at UFC 205 back in Nov. 2016. Like his “Fight Night” foe, the gritty Chicagoan has also enjoyed a successful run throughout the 170-pound ranks, winning 10 of his last 11 and capturing a “W” over “Wonderboy” along the way — something Luque failed to do at UFC 244. The only fair criticism to be levied against a fighter with that kind of success is the nine decisions Muhammad racked up during that 10-fight win streak. In fact, “Remember the Name” has only registered two stoppages (one knockout and one submission) in 15 fights with the promotion. That anemic finishing rate is undoubtedly a byproduct of his wrestle first, finish later approach to fighting and when you only have three rounds to secure the victory, playing it safe is a far better option than losing your win bonus to silence the arena boo birds. I was disappointed that his fight against Leon Edwards ended prematurely by way of No Contest because facing another rugged wrestler (and decision monster) would have told us where Muhammad fits into the welterweight title picture and what kind of performances we can expect moving forward. Instead, we’re left with many of the same questions we’ve had prior; namely, what can Muhammad do if Luque is able to shuck off the takedowns and keep it standing?
I don’t think a fighter of Muhammad’s caliber will be rattled by his previous loss to Luque. On the contrary, I believe it has motivated him to prove the naysayers wrong and establish himself as one of the best 170-pound fighters in the world. It should be noted that Luque was taken down without much resistance by Chiesa and Randy Brown. Heck, even Derrick Krantz had little resistance in their 2019 affair. But the one thing they all had in common was the fact that it didn’t matter, because Luque was able to get back to his feet and do … pretty much whatever he wanted. I would expect more of the same in the UFC Vegas 51 headliner because “The Silent Assassin” has five rounds to work and sooner or later Muhammad is going to whiff on a takedown or get stuffed like a creole turducken. The difference between the two is that “Remember the Name” has to run perfect defense for 25 minutes straight while Luque only needs to capitalize on the first opening he can find. Expect a competitive first round to be followed by a Brazilian blitzkrieg and yet another highlight-reel finish.
Prediction: Luque def. Muhammad by technical knockout
185 lbs.: Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
Record: 10-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +120
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.86 | Striking accuracy: 64%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.40 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 2.70 (75% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Jesse Murray
Record: 13-0 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -140
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.32 | Striking accuracy: 66%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 0.46 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 3.47 (100% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 0%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Jansey Silva
After looking at some of the matchups relegated to the UFC Vegas 51 preliminary card I will admit I was a bit surprised to see two “Contender Series” fighters making their Octagon debuts in the night’s co-main event, though I suppose you can also argue that co-headlining a “Fight Night” card at APEX is like being second in line at the Vegan Wiener Stand on Free Sample Friday at Costco. Caio Borralho may be the more recognizable of the pair, simply because UFC President Dana White needed a second look at the Brazilian after the Future FC export failed to secure a finish over Aaron Jeffery in Week 5 of the 2021 Season. Less than a month later Borralho was back for Week 8 and it took him less than two minutes to run through Jesse Murray, a first-round technical knockout that punched his ticket to UFC stardom. In his 10 victories, Borralho has secured four knockouts and three submissions, a clear indication that he’s well rounded and dangerous wherever the fight goes. He also outwrestled Jefferey in their 15-minute affair, an important factor for tomorrow night’s showcase.
Gadzhi Omargadzhiev made a statement in Week 9 of the 2021 “Contender Series” by submitting Jansey Silva with a nasty kneebar, but prior to his appearance for the Las Vegas-based competition, the Russian bruiser racked up eight violent knockouts. That said, I don’t think anyone is breaking out the party hats for a first-round finish over the 7-13 Alexey Novikov or the 3-5 Dmitriy Irlitsin. It’s also worth noting that Omargadzhiev has a less impressive record on the amateur circuit. I don’t usually factor those into predictions but sometimes those fights overlap with professional bouts and let’s face it, Oct. 2018 — when Omargadzhiev was stopped by Denis Mager — is not exactly ancient history. The good news for Omargadzhiev fans is that he’s now training at MMA Factory in Paris under the tutelage of Fernand Lopez, who knows a thing or two about grooming future stars after putting the finishing touches on both Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane. I would expect Omargadzhiev to work his standup game for as long as he feels confident in doing so, though I would also expect him to drag this fight to the floor at some point in the opening frame. His wrestling and ground-and-pound might be too much for Borralho to fend off and that kind of top pressure could send the Brazilian out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Prediction: Omargadzhiev def. Borralho by submission
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 51 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 51 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 5:30 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 8:30 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 51 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the updated and finalized “Luque vs. Muhammad 2” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.