A huge welterweight main event is the main attraction at UFC Vegas 51 this weekend as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad in a rematch from 2016.
The two top six 170-pounders will go head-to-head looking to extend their winning streaks here, knowing that title contention won’t be far behind.
Last week at UFC 273 we saw a great card that was lacking a little bit on finishes, but we still managed to go 8/12 with four perfect picks to go to 593/915 (64.81%) with 252 perfect picks (42.5%).
You can view our complete pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Alateng Heili (14-8-2) vs Kevin Croom (21-14) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight bout kicks off this card. Heili is winless in his last two, losing to Casey Kenney before a draw last time out against Gustavo Lopez, while Croom has lost his last two dropping decisions to Alex Caceres at UFC Vegas 20 and then Brian Kelleher most recently at UFC Vegas 46.
Heili has got a solid right hand but it’s his grappling skills that see him have the edge here, against the dogged Croom who uses his cardio as a weapon to pressurise his opponents as much as possible. Heili though does have a big issue when it comes to urgency and output, and against Croom’s pressure that could see him fold.
He does have the skills to earn a win in this one though, because Croom was outwrestled by Kelleher quite comfortably in January. Croom does have decent submission skills and we know he can push for 15 minutes, but I’d expect Heili to earn a pretty close decision win.
PICK – Alanteng Heili via Decision
Istela Nunes (7-2) vs Sam Hughes (5-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Women’s strawweights stand up, as two women at very different ends of their UFC careers go head-to-head. Nunes was stopped in her UFC debut by Ariane Carnelossi back in October, but Hughes has gone 0-3 in the organisation so far. She was stopped by Tecia Torres at UFC 256, before dropping decisions to Loma Lookboonmee at UFC Vegas 25 and Luana Pinheiro most recently.
Nunes is a solid striker on the feet, with some decent takedown defence which she showed early on in her last fight before running out of gas following three years without a fight. Hughes is a wrestler, whose striking has been pretty abysmal and she’s shown that without the takedown available she’s pretty easy to beat.
Hughes will take some joy from the fact Nunes got taken down six times in her debut, but Hughes isn’t as aggressive as Carnelossi and Nunes has been in the cage more recently so should have been able to work on her cardio and crisp striking. Ultimately, this goes in a similar way to Hughes’ other UFC bouts and Nunes earns the decision win.
PICK – Istela Nunes via Decision
Jordan Leavitt (9-1) vs Trey Ogden (15-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight fight up next. Leavitt won his UFC debut with a 22-second slam at UFC Vegas 16 but then was beaten for the first time when Claudio Puelles got the better of him on the judge’s scorecards. He bounced back with a submission win over Matt Sayles at UFC Vegas 45 last time out. Ogden makes his UFC debut on a three-fight win streak, with all three coming via submission.
Leavitt is an excellent wrestler with some amazing submission skills, including an inverted triangle win in his last bout. His striking is unorthodox and is usually to set up his takedowns more than to do any actual damage, while Ogden is also a stud wrestler but his striking has shown vast improvements in his recent bouts. His wrestling looks better than Leavitt’s, which means he should be able to dictate where this fight takes place.
Ogden has some solid leg kicks and so long as he isn’t careless when scoring takedowns to allow Leavitt to bring his submission game into play, he should claim a debut win here. He has the power, the speed and the wrestling advantages so he should edge out a decision.
PICK – Trey Ogden via Decision
Chris Barnett (22-7) vs Martin Buday (9-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The UFC needed heavyweights, so there’s a debut on the card for ‘Badys’. Barnett was beaten in his UFC debut by Ben Rothwell, but bounced back with an incredible spinning wheel kick KO of Gian Villante at UFC 268 last time out. Buday on the other hand has won his last eight fights, with his only career defeat coming against current UFC star Juan Espino.
Barnett is a wild striker, who throws incredible spinning attacks and has great power in his hands, while his athleticism is surprising considering his size and physique. Buday is a grinder with good clinch work and solid power in his hands, while his aggressive approach and pressure looks to be the perfect counter for Barnett’s style.
Buday will walk forward to smother Barnett’s explosive power and unless he gets clipped on his way in, he should be able to put Barnett against the cage and work his grinding style to claim yet another win by knockout.
PICK – Martin Buday via Knockout, Round 2