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UFC Vegas: Edwards vs Muhammad - Mar 13 🇺🇸


Who wins and how?   

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Saturday 13th March at the APEX in Las Vegas. 

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Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad

Misha Cirkunov vs Ryan Spann

Ben Rothwell vs Philipe Lins

Dan Ige vs Gavin Tucker

Angela Hill vs Ashley Yoder

Matheus Nicolau vs Manel Kape

Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart

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Cortney Casey vs JJ Aldrich 

Rani Yahya vs Ray Rodriguez 

Charles Jourdain vs Marcelo Rojo

Jonathan Martinez vs Davey Grant 

Jinh Yu Frey vs Gloria De Paula

Jason Witt vs Matthew Semelsberger

 

Yeah, not that strong of a card there but I think there’ll still be a fight or two added yet. Take no notice of the order either. It’ll be shuffled a few times before fight night no doubt. To be fair as well, this card got shagged up the arse. It was stacked originally with Edwards vs Khamzat Chimaev, Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Ciryl Gane and Ryan Hall vs Dan Ige as the top fights. They all either got scrapped or moved to other cards and we’re left with the above. Still some stuff worth tuning in for but it’s lacking that one killer fight in the co-main spot for me. Oh well.

 

 

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Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad. This one came right out of left field. I don’t think anyone would’ve called this piece of matchmaking. It’s a bit of a weird one but I quite like it. We were supposed to get Edwards vs Khamzat Chimaev here but that one seems cursed. It’s been booked and fallen apart about 3 times in 3 months already. Sod that fight. I mean I want to see it down the line but for now, leave it alone. It’s not meant to be. Anyway, Chimaev dropped out this time, he’s going through a rough time with COVID from what I’m reading. I half expected Edwards to drop off the card as well but then we got this fight announced out of nowhere. At this point, Edwards just needs to get back in there.

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Leon Edwards is one of the very best in the world at 170lbs. He’s 18-3 and on a really strong streak of 8 in a row including wins over Rafael Dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Vicente Luque. His last loss was all the way back in 2015 where he dropped a decision to some fella named Kamaru Usman. That one doesn’t look so bad in hindsight, does it?

It’s been a frustrating period in his career though. He’s not fought now since July 2019. He was set to face Tyron Woodley in London in early 2020. That would’ve been a huge opportunity for him, getting a name like Woodley in a main event on home soil. And with how Woodley’s looked of late, Edwards would probably have beaten him. That could’ve been exactly what he needed to give him that extra little push for a title shot. It could’ve been that ‘moment’ his quest for the title has been missing. But that’s when COVID came in and really knocked the bollocks out of everything, the London card got binned and Edwards sat out all year watching the division move on without him. Then there were all these attempts to get the Chimaev fight on, but no joy. Just a mess of an 18 months or so.

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For Belal Muhammad, this is a massive chance for him to break through into the contender mix. I’ve been singing his praises on here for a while now. He was born and raised in Chicago to Palestinian parents. Made his MMA debut in 2012 and has put together a solid 18-3 record. He first got on my radar in his UFC debut in 2016. He fought Alan Jouban on the Rafael Dos Anjos vs Eddie Alvarez undercard, he lost on points but they had a right barnburner that got the FOTN bonus that night. So I had an instant good first impression and always made a point to check his fights after that. Think I’ve seen every one of his UFC fights and I don’t recall a dud. He hasn’t beat the big names of the division but he’s taken on some of the real tough middle of the pack guys and he’s done well racking up wins over the likes of Tim Means, Randy Brown, Jordan Mein, Curtis Millender, Takashi Sato and Dhiego Lima among others. These are all good under the radar fighters who were either crafty veterans, dangerous punchers or were considered decent prospects at the time Muhammad beat them. He’s no bum and he comes into this fight on a 4 fight winning streak. He’s always came across as a really cool and likeable guy on social media as well so I’m chuffed for him to be getting this opportunity.

Anyway, Muhammad beat Lima at UFC 258 on February 13th. Just a few days later, Brett Okamoto broke the news that Muhammad would be stepping in to face Edwards in a 5 round main event.

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Thug Life.

Like I said, I think it caught everyone by surprise and if I could’ve chosen an opponent for Edwards myself I’d have probably done the Wonderboy fight. But this’ll do. It might not have the hype the Chimaev fight would’ve done because the PR machine hasn’t been behind Muhammad. But when you look at it in terms of logic and merit, I’d argue Muhammad has actually earned this more than Chimaev anyway.

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It should be a good fight. A risky one for Edwards too. I’ve said it before but while the guy stepping in on short notice always gets the credit for being a ‘gangsta’ (fuck off) in these situations, the other guy often has more to lose. Edwards is the one taking the risk here. He’s expected to win, he’s higher ranked etc. The pressure is off for Muhammad and even if he loses he’ll have built up goodwill with fans and UFC management whatever the result. He’s also been active during Leon’s lengthy absence and he’s just fought so he’ll be sharp and on weight. He hasn’t been training specifically for Edwards but this isn’t a short notice fight like say, Bisping vs Rockhold 2 or something. For Edwards, even if he wins but doesn’t look that impressive, his stock won’t really go up. It’s a tricky one. Edwards is going to have to not only win but shine in this performance to stand out at a time when we’re probably going to be forcefed an Usman vs Masvidal rematch and then Chimaev being fast-tracked because Dana fancies him. There’s still Covington and Wonderboy lurking as well. Welterweight is wide open at the moment. If Edwards wins a lacklustre decision here he’s probably staying where he is for the time being. So the pressure’s on for him. Fun fight.

 

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Misha Cirkunov vs Ryan Spann. Not going to set the world alight but it’s not a bad fight for 205. Cirkunov is a tank of a man. A real unit. If you were scripting a movie about MMA, you’d cast someone like Cirkunov as your Ivan Drago bad guy monster type for sure. Hasn’t always translated to results in the Octagon but he’s had his moments. Wins over Cutelaba and Krylov were good and in his last fight he subbed Jim Crute with a Peruvian necktie of all things! He’s faltered at crucial points though and Walker, Teixeira and Oezdemir stopped him spectacularly. Spann’s not as explosive or impressive looking but he’s been more consistent. He quietly racked up 8 consecutive wins before losing a back and forth scrap against Johnny Walker last time out. Not sure how their styles will match up. Spann’s more of a grappler but Cirkunov’s physical strength could offset some of that.

 

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Ben Rothwell vs Philipe Lins. Meh. Typical Heavyweight plodfest is what I’m expecting here. Rothwell’s been around forever. One of the last big lugs standing from that era of HWs. He turns 40 this year and this’ll be his 52nd MMA fight. In fairness to him, he’s not getting wrecked out there. He hasn’t been finished since 2013. And you have to go all the way back to the Cain fight in 2009 to see him getting put away via strikes. He’s a tough sod if nothing else.

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Crazy to think now but there was a spell there when Big Ben looked like a real contender. This is a man who knocked out Alistair Overeem and submitted Josh Barnett. It’s all tarnished though because he got done by USADA not long after those wins and he hasn’t been quite the same force since returning from his suspension. He’s gone 2-4 in his last 6. And the 2 wins were a split decision over OSP (who’s a 205er) and a stoppage over last legs Stefan Struve. He’s just got the look of a fighter who’s going nowhere but he’s still tough enough to hang around. Lins isn’t a lot younger at 35 but he’s a bit fresher and doesn’t have so many miles the clock. He’s 14-5 and bounced around Bellator and WSOF/PFL before making the move to the UFC last year. Hasn’t panned out though. He’s gone 0-2 so far in the Octagon and got done in a round by Tanner Boser last time out. Fuck knows? But my expectations aren’t exactly high.

 

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Dan Ige vs Gavin Tucker. This should be a good one. Ige is a little bit underrated, in my opinion. He’s 14-3 and went 5 rounds with Calvin Kattar in his last fight in July. It was a losing effort but he had a good go. He went 3 rounds with Edson Barboza before that as well and came away with a split decision victory. Not sure how I scored that at the time but still, Ige has shown a few times that he’s game, tough and has skills. I think he’s a level below the very top guys at Featherweight but he’s fun to watch and he’s certainly no mug. Tucker is a bit of a mystery to me. He came into the UFC undefeated in 2017 and had the prospect tag. He’s coming up on 35 now and it hasn’t really taken off. He’s done alright but he dropped a decision to Rick Glenn a couple of years back and that definitely stalled his progress. He’s looked good since though, racking up 3 straight wins, 2 by submission. I like that he’s getting a bit of a step up here. At 35 in the lighter weight classes, the clock is ticking on making something happen. And Ige’s looking to bounce back from that Kattar loss in style.

 

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Angela Hill vs Ashley Yoder 2. Big rematch eh? This was originally booked for the Rozenstruik vs Gane card the other week but got pushed back. Can’t say I give much of a bollocks. Really like Hill but Yoder does nothing for me. It’s pretty crap how Hill’s progress has stalled as a result of a couple of dodgy decisions going against her last year. I think I had her beating Michelle Waterson and I definitely had her winning the Claudia Gadelha fight. Had those decisions gone her way she’d be on a 5 fight winning streak now and possibly even looking at a title shot. Instead, she’s up against Yoder in a nothing fight. Amazing what a couple of wonky scorecards can do. But yeah, Hill’s really grown on me over the years. Yoder’s 8-6 and coming off a points win over Miranda Granger but she’s lost pretty much every time she’s came up against someone decent. These two fought back in July 2017 and Hill won a decision. I don’t see this being any different other than Hill should probably get the finish this time.

 

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Matheus Nicolau vs Manel Kape. This was supposed to be Nicolau vs Tagir Ulanbekov but Ulanbekov pulled out. In steps Kape. Might be an improvement. Nicolau is 15-2-1 with 9 finishes. He was actually in the UFC a few years ago and did alright picking up wins over Louis Smolka and John Moraga. But a KO defeat to Dustin Ortiz in 2018 saw him get his walking papers. He’s scored a couple of wins since then and he’s back. He’s still only 27 and the initial release off the back of one loss to a good fighter was harsh anyway. Kape’s looking to rebound after an unsuccessful Octagon debut in February. He lost a decision to Alexandre Pantoja but Pantoja is one of the best in the Flyweight division and Kape had been on the shelf all year. I think there’s better to come from him. He’s still only 27 as well. Former RIZIN champ etc. Looking forward to seeing him back in there. 

 

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Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart. I like it. It’s ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** this time. Don’t really see these two making serious waves in the current Middleweight landscape but they’re both decent fighters who’ve had their moments. Anders’ whole UFC stint has been a bit of an odd one for me. He lost decisions to Lyoto Machida and Elias Theodorou, I had him winning both. He won a decision over Gerald Meerschaert, I had him losing. He jumped in on short notice against Thiago Santos and got bashed up. Had a couple of big knockouts wins scattered in there. He’s had a right up and down run. I don’t remember ever being bored by him though. But it seems like he’s floundering at this stage. Stewart I think has a bit more about him but I still don’t see him going too far up the ladder at 185. He’s 12-6-0-1 and from London. He lost a split decision to Kevin Holland in a good fight last time out in September. Given the highlight reels Holland has made out of his other recent opponents, a split doesn’t look so bad. He also had a belter against Julian Marquez years ago, took Edmen Shahbazyan the distance back when Edmen was destroying everyone else. And these are the fights he lost. He’s notched wins over Eric Spicely, Deron Winn and Maki Pitolo along the way. Not a world beater but he’s one of those fighters I watch and wonder why he’s not doing better.

 

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Cortney Casey vs JJ Aldrich. Nothing to see here. Can’t see either of these two going anywhere at this point and it’s probably been set up as a ‘loser leaves’ match. Casey’s 9-8 and coming off a submission loss. She’s had a couple of OK wins over the years but she’s just so inconsistent. At this stage she’s 2-4 in her last 6. It’s just not panning out. Aldrich is 8-4 and lost her last fight on points over a year ago. Just...nothing. At a time when the roster has just lost the likes of Overeem, JDS, Pettis, Romero etc, we’re still being fed shite on toast like this. Sad state of affairs.

 

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Rani Yahya vs Ray Rodriguez. Don’t really know with this. Yahya has been knocking about for years now. 36 years old, a bit of a grappling wizard and a true veteran of the lighter weight classes. This is a man who fought prime KID Yamamoto, submitted Mark Hominick, beat Mike Brown etc. He’s fought pretty much everywhere and against most of the top fighters in his day. He’s 26-10-1-1 now and hasn’t won a fight in a couple of years. He’s winding down. Don’t know Rodriguez but he got subbed by Brian Kelleher in just 39 seconds in his Octagon debut in September. Not the best. Especially if you’re going in with a high level BJJ black-belt in your very next fight. Yeah. Doesn’t seem like the smartest move this. But you never know. He could be catching Yahya at a good time.

 

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Charles Jourdain vs Marcelo Rojo. This should be worth a gander, if only to see Jourdain back in there. He’s had a couple of blips so far but I think there’s still a lot of potential in him. He’s just turned 25 years old, he’s a BJJ brown-belt and he’s currently 10-3-1 in MMA. He was a two weight champ at Lightweight and Featherweight in the TKO promotion in Canada. The highlight of his UFC stint so far was his stoppage win over the ‘Korean Superboy’ Doo Ho Choi in late 2019. Since then he’s lost a split decision and gone to a split draw. Not ideal but he’s not the finished product yet and I think he might go on to be something when he puts it all together. We’ll see with time, I guess. Rojo is stepping in to replace Steve Garcia. He was meant to fight Raoni Barcelos on the Rozenstruik vs Gane card but Barcelos got hit by COVID. All I can find on him is he’s 16-6 with 14 finishes and has been fighting in Combate Americas recently. That’s about it. I’d like to see Jourdain get back to winning ways here. Preferably in spectacular fashion. He could do with something for the highlight reel right about now after a couple of close fights.

 

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Jonathan Martinez vs Davey Grant. OK fight. Not giddy about it or anything but it’s decent. I’ve enjoyed watching both at times over the years. Martinez is 13-3 and comes in off wins over Thomas Almeida and Frankie Saenz. My main memory of him is his brutal knee KO over Liu Pingyuan though...

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I mean, Christ! Davey Grant’s been a guy I’ve rooted for ever since his stint on the Rousey vs Tate series of TUF years ago. One of the most likeable TUF contestants for me and probably the last one I’ve actually been invested in at all through watching the show. He’s had a bit of a rough go of it since though. He made the TUF finals but lost to Chris Holdsworth. After that he had injuries and setbacks all over the shop. He’s seemed to get past that lately though and he’s put a couple of wins together over the last year or so. His fight with and knockout over Martin Day at UFC 251 in July was class. Should be entertaining enough.

 

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Jinh Yu Frey vs Gloria De Paula. Who was it on here who said Frey looked like an Asian Miesha Tate? I can’t unsee it now. It’s not really worked out for her in the UFC so far. She was the Atomweight champ in Invicta but at the end of her run there she missed weight and was stripped of the title. So she moved up to Strawweight for her UFC debut and she’s swiftly gone 0-2 since. Hard to see where she goes from here. If she’s struggling to make 105 now but can’t really hang at 115, what can you do? She’s 35 as well so it’s not like she’s got bags of time to adjust to the weight. Maybe she should’ve made the move sooner. De Paula is a decade younger at 25 years old. 5-2 record and she’s Chute Boxe affiliated. So naturally I’m rooting for her. Frey probably needs the win to stick around here.

 

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Jason Witt vs Matthew Semelsberger. Not a clue really. I remember seeing Witt’s last fight. His opponent Cole Williams missed weight badly and Witt battered him to a bloody pulp on the night. I don’t remember seeing him beyond that. He’s 18-6 overall. Semelsberger is 7-2 and beat Carlton Minus in his debut back in August. That’s about it on him. Other than his nickname is ‘Semi The Jedi’. Fucking awful.

 

 

It’ll do. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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Wand, I admire your optimism writing up a Leon Edwards card with such enthusiasm a full week before it happens. You have kept MMA alive in lockdown. I think the guys on the board would have let it slide if you'd let this one slip by!

I really want Leon Edwards to do well but this has got career crushing defeat written all over it. Erick Anders vs Darren Stewart excites me too.

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Gotta be glass half full in these times Guy!

Plus Edwards is my hometown boy so I kind of have to hype his cards up. I think he should win this but, like you, I can’t help feeling like this whole situation with all the delays and inactivity is a recipe for the upset. 

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This whole mental period for Edwards has probably been the best thing thats happened for his career in a weird, fucked up way. More people are interested in seeing him fight than ever before. If the layoff hasnt hurt him from an in-cage standpoint and he wins Saturday night Edwards is gonna be in a pretty sweet spot.

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You’re probably right actually @Egg Shen it does seem like there’s a bit more interest in Edwards now after the time away. But it’d have been hard for that not to happen because there was pretty much zero interest in his fights when he was active unfortunately. The second to last thing he needs here (behind a loss obviously) is a lacklustre, dull points win. He needs to make a statement. I don’t think a W is going to cut it on its own. I like Muhammad but Edwards has already beat better names than him and it got him no closer to a title shot. He’s probably going to have to fight again after this anyway because it’s looking like Usman vs Masvidal 2 is the direction they’re going in. And there’s still Covington hanging around like a bad lingering fart. Edwards could do with looking spectacular in this fight to get his name firmly back in the running and get people talking about him as a contender in the immediate future.

I know people were talking about Edwards fighting one of the top Welters when Chimaev dropped out again but it’s probably a good thing really that he’s fighting a guy like this first. And that’s not a knock on Muhammad. I’m not sure Edwards even wins this. Muhammad is good. But after such a long layoff, it probably wouldn’t have been the best idea to come right back against a Covington or Wonderboy or someone like that. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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