- Date & Location: Saturday, March 13 @ UFC Apex in Las Vegas
- Odds: Leon Edwards (-270) vs. Belal Muhammad (+210) via Bovada
- Prediction: Edwards via decision
It’s been close to two years since Leon Edwards last set foot inside the UFC octagon. In July 2019 Edwards scored a unanimous decision win over former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. The fight served as the main event of UFC on ESPN 4. The victory was Edwards’ eighth straight win. With that, Edwards still has the second-longest winning streak among active UFC welterweights. The only fighter who has more consecutive triumphs at 170 pounds is welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, who has 13 straight wins. Edwards’ most recent loss is a 2015 decision setback to Usman.
Edwards found it difficult to land a fight against a highly ranked opponent and when he did, that fight fell through during the early portion of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the UFC then booked him against Khamzat Chimaev, that fight fell apart three times. The first two cancellations were because both Edwards and Chimaev tested positive for COVID-19. The most recent cancellation was when Chimaev dropped out of Saturday’s fight because of the lingering effects of the virus.
Belal Muhammad gladly stepped in to replace Chimaev. He has won his four most recent fights and is coming off a February decision win over Dhiego Lima.
Edwards is the No. 3 ranked fighter in the official UFC rankings. Muhammad comes in at No. 13 in the division.
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EDWARDS vs. MUHAMMAD PREDICTION & PICK
If there is a knock against Edwards it is that he’s not great at any one thing. Fans would be hard-pressed to point to a signature win during his UFC career and he only has one UFC fight-night bonus on his record and that came in 2015 when he knocked out Seth Baczynski. Edwards is “just” a solid fighter who is hard to beat. Six of his victories during his winning streak have come via decision, including five-round victories over Donald Cerrone and Dos Anjos.
Like Edwards, Muhammad is a solid fighter who tends to win by decision. He’s 8-1 in his past nine fights. Eight of those bouts have gone the distance. This fight marks Muhammad’s first UFC main event.
As far as the quality of competition and upside, Edwards is the better fighter and he should be the pick for this bout as well — even with the amount of time he’s had between UFC scraps.
Prediction: Leon Edwards -268 via BetOnline
BETTING VALUE WITH EDWARDS
Edwards is under pressure in this fight, while Muhammad is almost on a freeroll. Edwards has been angling for a title fight since he defeated Dos Anjos. He needs an outstanding performance if he wants to jump over the fighters ranked above him, Colby Covington and Gilbert Burns. Muhammad took this fight as a calculated risk. He’s stepping in on short notice to face a fighter a lot higher than him in the rankings. A win here makes Muhammad a player in the division. A loss won’t hurt his stock a great deal.
While both fighters might be a little more aggressive than usual in this matchup, I would not count on a stoppage. Between them these two have five UFC stoppage wins.
My pick is Edwards to win via decision and I would also not be shy about putting something down for the fight to go the distance as a prop bet.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
While neither of these welterweights could be considered excellent at any one skill set, Edwards is the more complete fighter. He can adapt to his opponents much better than Muhammad can. Muhammad tends to rely on his wrestling base much more than any other skill and that could cost him against Edwards, who knows exactly what he needs to avoid against Muhammad.
I expect Edwards to be ready for the wrestling of Muhammad and to use his striking to rack up points on Muhammad. Only two of Edwards’ opponents during his winning streak have landed more strikes than he has.
|Leon Edwards||Category||Belal Muhammad|
|2.53||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.86|
|2.05||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||4.03|
|1.39||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||2.03|
|0.40||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.2|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
As I mentioned above, Edwards wants to earn a title shot off this fight. He needs a memorable win if he hopes to get that chance.
As for Muhammad, he knows a win over the No. 3 ranked fighter will give him a name in the welterweight division and will get him bigger fights right away.
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