UFC Vegas 51 predictions


Belal Muhammad is about to experience some major deja Luque.

“Remember the Name” has been finished just once in his career, five and a half years ago at the hands of Vicente Luque, the man he meets again in the main event of UFC Vegas 51 on Saturday. Both fighters had just begun to establish themselves in the often-crowded welterweight category. Now, they’re legitimate contenders for a title shot.

The two have 20 wins combined since the first fight and yet they’re both still searching for the signature victory that will make them an undeniable title challenger. Even though they’ve left marquee names like Tyron Woodley, Stephen Thompson, and Demian Maia in their wake, a convincing win in tonight’s rematch could be just what either fighter needs to prove they deserve top-tier consideration.

At the very least, fans will be treated to a matchup between two contenders who have been grinding the old-fashioned way and if Muhammad avenges his loss, we might look back on this as just the second leg of a compelling trilogy.

In other main card action, middleweight Contender Series signings Caio Borralho and Gadzi Omargadzhiev make their UFC debuts, Miguel Baeza fights Andre Fialho in a welterweight strikers’ duel, Mayra Bueno Silva returns to bantamweight to fight Wu Yanan, Pat Sabatini looks to go 4-0 in the UFC when he fights featherweight prospect T.J. 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 16. The eight-fight preliminary card begins on ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m. ET, followed by a six-fight main card on ESPN+ at 8:30 p.m. ET.

(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting Global Rankings)

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

After crunching the numbers with the help of the obscenely expensive MMA Fighting MMA Math calculator, this pick should be pretty easy: Stephen Thompson beat Vicente Luque + Belal Muhammad beat Stephen Thompson = Belal Muhammad beats Vicente Luque.


Well, maybe it’s not that simple. “Wonderboy” is a matchup nightmare for a lot of welterweights and Luque was no exception. He landed several hard shots, but was never able to pin Thompson down for long enough stretches to put together a winning performance. There aren’t too many fighters like Thompson, so drawing comparisons between Luque and Muhammad’s respective performances against him isn’t particularly helpful (once again, math turns out to be useless).

Looking back at Luque-Muhammad 1 probably isn’t too helpful either, though both have developed on a linear path so it’s not as if they’re different fighters as far as potential strategies go. They’re just superior versions of themselves. Muhammad would not approve of that.

“Remember The Name” is all about pressure and Muhammad excels at it. However, Luque has a rival who loves to cut the distance and land big hits at any price. Muhammad doesn’t care about pace. Firepower is.

Muhammad could win this fight in five rounds. This gives him time to recover and weather a Luque storm. I don’t trust him to match the kind of damage that Luque can dish out no matter how long the fight lasts.

Luque won the first fight in less than 90 seconds, which I don’t expect to happen this time. Muhammad will continue pushing Luque, but Luque eventually overwhelms him and ends on the floor with a submission.

Pick: Luque

Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev

This feels like an attack, considering my recent campaign against billing fights “the co-main events” simply because they are the last one on the card.

Respectfully there is nothing about Caioborralho against Gadzhi Omargadzhiev which merits being named a co-main. It’s a great fight. It’s the penultimate fight of the night. We’ll be able to see their fights live on TV, if God will allow. It’s not the co-main event, and it doesn’t matter if ESPN and UFC say so.

Rant over.

We have an opportunity to announce two talented fighters as Contender Series Impact Signings. Borralho is a standup fighter who can defend well; Omargadzhiev will be the next in a seemingly endless line of Russian grapplers.

On principal, I have to favor Omargadzhiev because I don’t think Borralho can stay off of his back for 15 minutes. Omargadzhiev is comfortable on the feet too, utilizing combinations to score and not just set up his takedowns. Borralho will be able to do the same with chilling ease when it comes time for him to go.

Borralho doesn’t have to be a stout wrestler when he is faced with one. He has both an impressive takedown defense and black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Omargadzhiev will have to work to slice through that guard. However, even if he can’t, look for him to stay patient in top position and sprinkle in ground-and-pound when the opportunity arises. Either he will wrestle to victory or submit an exhausted Borralho too late.

Pick: Omargadzhiev

Miguel Baeza vs. Andre Fialho

Matchmakers! I can see your work here.

On a card lacking starpower, sometimes you’ve got to just throw stuff at 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 matchup, but once Lima made the surprising decision to retire, the door was left 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 highly technical early and has no issues with brawling late. That’s raised some questions about his defense, which is perfect for Fialho. The former PFL fighter wants to stand and trade, especially if his opponent has a respectable striking pedigree.

So look for Baeza to take the lead in Round 1 and then settle into a scrap in Rounds 2 and 3. Fialho has serious punching power, but I still favor Baeza to snap his skid here.

After some thrilling, touch-and go moments,

Baeza is awarded a victory.

Pick: Baeza

Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Wu Yanan

Wu Yanan and Mayra Bueno are ready for an exciting scrap. It could get ugly, but when you have two aggressive fighters in need of a win facing off in a main card spot, you know you’re going to get max effort.

There’s a lot to like in Wu’s game and she’s shown how competitive she can be against more experienced competition. But you also get the sense that the 25-year-old’s UFC career has been a case of too much, too soon, 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 I favor here to get the better of Wu in a blow-for-blow contest. I like Wu’s speed, but Silva hits harder and will have the edge on the ground.

Silva by submission.

Pick: Silva

Pat Sabatini vs. T.J. Laramie

In a battle of wrestlers, give me the more well-rounded grappling game of Pat Sabatini over the untapped potential of T.J. Laramie.

Laramie has that classic fire hydrant build meaning he’s going to be at a length disadvantage against most featherweights but a load on the ground for anyone he can put on their back. He’s got some raw power on the feet, but is still a work-in-progress there. Sabatini will want to initiate the grappling exchanges and wear Laramie out with clinch work against the fence before going for takedowns.

There will be some entertaining clashes and scrambles, but I like Sabatini to get the better of the majority of these exchanges. He won’t just be sitting in the top spot, but he will also batter Laramie using ground strikes and attacking with submissions to win.

Pick: Sabatini

Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa

We’re opening the door to a possible banger as Mounir Laszez and Ange Loosa both bring striking styles to octagon. Technique and precision are Lazzez’s mainstays. He looks great on the feet when he is locked in. Loosa is a debutant and there’s no better way to impress than giving Lazzez his second consecutive knockout loss.

Loosa utilizes lots of feints and fakes to set up his combinations and he’s shown blistering hand speed in his recent fights, though finishes have eluded him. Although his wrestle skills may not be Division-I level, Loosa can mix in takedowns.

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 fighting Lazzez. Loosa is being ripped apart by “The Sniper”, who loves competition that gets stuck in a groove. I can see three rounds of him doing this. Loosa is taking on this fight with just days notice. I know he will put forth a strong effort but it will not be enough to win.

Pick: Lazzez


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