UFC Fight Night preview: Luque-Muhammad

April 14, 2022 09:56 PM
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Welcome to this week’s UFC Fight Night, which will be presented from the APEX center in Las Vegas. The APEX features the smaller cage, resulting in higher finish rates than bouts conducted in the larger 30-foot cage.

Contrary to last week, when the main event was compelling yet not competitive, this week’s main event is a rematch that is expected to be a highly competitive battle between two top-five welterweights.

Alex Volkanovski finished the Korean Zombie last week as a + 175 Insight the Octagon release, which pushed 2022 profitability to 6-4 (+ 2.60 units).

Favorites this year are 81-37-2 or 68%.

Vicente Luque (-160) vs. Belal Muhammad (+ 135)

Welterweight (170 pounds) | Main Event

Muhammad enters this fight focused on avenging his knockout loss to Luque in his third UFC bout in 2016. Since then, the fifth-ranked welterweight has a 10-1-1 UFC record and steps into this rematch with tremendous momentum.

These men are somewhat similar in size, but Muhammad is three years older than Luque and is giving up three inches of arm reach. Muhammad has a structured wrestling base, a blue belt in BJJ and unending cardio. His striking has improved each time out. This rematch stands to be the most important bout of this overachiever’s career.

The fourth-ranked Luque is one of the most overlooked athletes on the UFC roster. Luque, a black belt in BJJ and Luta Livre Esportiva, trains at Sanford MMA in Florida with a slew of savages. He enters 10-1 in his last 11 having finished all but one of his opponents.

When Luque was last beaten, it was by the world-class striker/kickboxer Steven Thomson, who is a uniquely gifted, long, mobile and awkward talent. Luque has fared quite well in his career against grapplers like Muhammad.

Muhammad is going to have to find a way to gain inside position, drag Luque to the mat, then gain top control. Muhammad will need to navigate the fire of Luque’s effective power striking in order to do so, and there is serious jeopardy in that approach.

Luque is no slouch on the ground and can compete with Muhammad there, but he realizes that his opponent’s forte is on the floor, so Luque’s game plan will revolve around keeping Muhammad at distance and on the receiving end of his vicious strikes, elbows, knees and blunting kicks.

One note: Muhammad is a Muslim and follows Ramadan strictly. I must assume that the practice of fasting during this time (April 2 to May 1) must have caused at least minimal physical and perhaps substantial mental effects. Weigh-ins will be important for this bout because of that.

This bout opened Luque -165 and remains mostly unchanged.

Interesting that round totals are not yet released. I will have strong thoughts on this fight once those are available.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (-200) vs. Mounir Lazzez (+ 165)

Welterweight (170 pounds)

Lazzez + 165 was a best bet for this week’s card, but that fight was canceled Monday by the Zaleski dos Santos camp for medical reasons, apparently unrelated to COVID-19. These cancellations are easier to take because they’re weekly occurrences since the COVID outbreak, so we move on to other opportunities.

Drakkar Klose (-600) vs. Brandon Jenkins (+ 550)

Lightweight (155 pounds)

Klose (11-2-1) has been off since his loss to top contender Beneil Dariush in March of 2020. In that fight, he had Dariush wobbled but got impatient and rushed into a desperately tossed hook and was finished.

After that bout, Klose ended his longtime association with the MMALab and teamed up with another gym in the Phoenix area to train and prepare for Jeremy Stephens in a fight that was canceled.

For this bout, Klose returned to his MMALab family, a fighting community that regards him as one of its leaders. To say he is focused and pent up for peak performance would be an understatement.

Meanwhile, Jenkins fights out of Syndicate in Las Vegas, so he’ll be the hometown kid. Jenkins, 15-8 as a professional and 0-1 in the UFC, is taller and longer, but he’ll be giving away experience to an athlete who has been in with some of the division’s top talent.

Klose’s record shows an abundance of decision wins, and it’s easy to believe this may be a decision fight, but is it possible there could be a Klose finish?

Monitoring.

Totals and props are not yet released.

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