Tag Archives: UFC Vegas 21

What should be next for Leon Edwards?

It’s not often that a UFC card ends with an anti-climax in terms of what happens next, but that’s exactly what happened at UFC Vegas 21 between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad.

The two met in a welterweight main event after Muhammad agreed to step in on short-notice following the withdrawal of Khamzat Chimaev due to complications with COVID-19. It was short-lived though, and not in a spectacular finish type of way.

After a comfortable first round for Edwards, he poked Muhammad in the eye at the start of the second round accidentally when going for a head-kick and the fight was brought to a premature end by the ringside doctor.

After the fight Edwards was quick to state that he didn’t see a need for a rematch despite the bitter ending to the fight, especially considering it’s not a fight that was supposed to take place anyway.

Muhammad responded on social media after revealing that there was no permanent damage to the eye, calling Edwards out and saying he is ‘soft’ for claiming a rematch isn’t warranted.

While some agree with Muhammad the vast majority, including myself, agree with Edwards – a rematch isn’t necessary. The fight had no business taking place as it was and only happened because nobody else would step up. While it’s admirable that he did, that doesn’t mean he gets a permanent boost up the rankings with match ups.

It was an opportunity that was unfortunately taken away from him, but that same thing has happened to Chimaev. He’s lost his opportunity to jump the queue and will now have to have a new match up with someone closer to his ranking. It’s unfortunate, and maybe unfair, but it’s also unfair to make Edwards fight someone so far below a ranking he’s earned while he pursues a title shot.

Muhammad of course challenged Li Jingliang due to their ranking positions after his most recent win over Dhiego Lima at UFC 258, so that is a match up that can be revisited.

As for Edwards, I don’t totally agree with his belief that he earned a title shot off the back of this one rounder. If he’d got the finish, then definitely, but you can’t award someone a title shot off the back of a no contest following a year and a half out – even if they were on an eight-fight win streak before that.

His best bet is a fight with Colby Covington in a title eliminator, or go up against the most recent number one contender in Gilbert Burns.

Burns challenged Kamaru Usman at UFC 258 but got KO’d in round three following an excellent stand-up display from the champion. Since then, he has claimed he wants to get back in quickly against a top contender to earn another shot – calling out Covington also.

Covington believes he’s due another shot at the belt already after destroying Tyron Woodley in his most recent fight at UFC Vegas 11, but the UFC champion disagrees. Usman has called out Jorge Masvidal for a rematch later this year after their UFC 251 bout in July last year happened on just six days’ notice.

With that fight confirmed to take place at UFC 261 in front of a full capacity crowd on April 24th, Covington holds the keys to the future of the division.

The fight was the UFC’s pick to fill in when Chimaev dropped out and it’s the fight that makes the most sense, but Covington has shown in the past that he is more than willing to turn fights down if he doesn’t want to take them.

That could open the door up for Burns to jump into the position and get himself in the reckoning once again.

Burns and Covington are the only fighters ranked above Edwards right now that aren’t the champion so one of those has to be his next opponent if any of this is to make sense. The obvious answer is Covington in a title eliminator, with the winner fighting against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal 2 (which doesn’t need to happen btw).

The welterweight division is finally opening up now and with a few correct decisions from the match-makers with some willing fighters could make this an absolutely belting years at 170lbs.

UFC Vegas 21 Fallout: More questions than answers for Leon Edwards

After 602 days away from the octagon, Leon Edwards finally returned to fight in the UFC at UFC Vegas 21 and yet we were left with more questions than answers after his main event with Belal Muhammad.

The 29-year-old Brummie started the fight well, rocking Muhammad with a head kick and his left-hand during the first round in a fight he was controlling. There were a few clinch exchanges where Muhammad was holding his own, landing a nice elbow on the break and showing good strength to swap positions on occasion too. There was also the warning – Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad in the eye and received a telling-off from referee Herb Dean.

In the second round, just 18 seconds in, Edwards went for a left-cross head kick combo. As he threw the cross and kick, he poked Muhammad in the eye once again. The Palestinian-American went down screaming with pain and then began crying in the octagon as the referee paused the fight, telling the ringside doctor he couldn’t see.

The referee immediately called off the fight, declaring it a no-contest. Many questioned as to why it wasn’t a disqualification in a similar way to Petr Yan’s foul against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 the week prior which caused him to lose his bantamweight title.

Due to the fight being in the second round and the referee correctly deeming the foul as unintentional, the rules state that a no contest was the right call.

Since the fight Muhammad has revealed on social media that there is no permanent damage to the eye and he will make a full recovery, calling out Edwards for a rematch in the process. But after the fight, Edwards told the post-fight media that he wasn’t interested in running it back.

“I don’t feel I need to fight him again. I only fought him because all the other guys turned me down. The writing was on the wall. I was winning the fight clearly. And I don’t feel I need to fight him again. I need to move forward.

“I’m on an eight fight win streak. That’s the third most in the promotion’s history. It’s me, [Kamaru] Usman and GSP (Georges St-Pierre). I feel like I’ve earned my way for a big fight.

‘Rocky’ had been promised a title shot in his next fight with a ‘spectacular win’ by UFC president Dana White but that could now be up in the air. While his first round performance was good, he didn’t blow Muhammad out of the water and it certainly didn’t make his calls pre-fight for a shot at the title any more pertinent.

The question now is what do the UFC want to do? They could try once again to set up a bout between Edwards and Colby Covington, with a full camp for both fighters potentially being more appealing than the short-notice option.

This seems likely if, as expected, Kamaru Usman is to defend his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal once again after a season of coaching on The Ultimate Fighter later this year.

Edwards admitted that if the fight between Usman and Masvidal happens, he doesn’t want to wait around for the title shot because of the amount of inactivity he’s had. That opens the door to Covington or a potential rematch with Muhammad should the UFC so wish it.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think a rematch is necessary. This was a fight put together purely out of circumstance because of other fights falling through and other opponents being unavailable or unwilling. While the ending of the bout was obviously unfortunate, there is no need for them to cross paths once again until they’re closer together in the rankings.

While the wait is over and Edwards finally got back in the octagon, his path going forward remains more hazy than ever before.

UFC Vegas 21: Edwards vs Muhammad – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)

HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.

Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.

Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.

De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.

JJ Aldrich def Cortney Casey via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.

Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.

Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.

PRELIMS

Nasrat Haqparast def Rafa Garcia via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.

Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.

Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.

Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)

Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.

Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.

Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)

Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.

Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.

Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!

Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.

More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.

Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.

MAIN CARD

Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)

Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.

Matheus Nicolau def Manel Kape via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.

Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.

Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.

Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)

Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.

Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!

Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)

DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!

Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)

Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!

Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)

Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.

Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.

UFC Vegas 21: Edwards vs Muhammad – Main card predictions

It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.

Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.

Elsewhere on the card former RIZIN champion Manel Kape looks to avenge his disappointing debut with a quick turnaround against Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division.

Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).

We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, lets move onto the main card.


Eryk Anders (13-5) vs Darren Stewart (12-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The UK’s Darren Stewart makes a return to the octagon after a mixed 2020 when he takes on Eryk Anders looking to get back on track. Stewart went 1-2 last year, losing to Bartosz Fabinski on a Cage Warriors card after UFC London got cancelled before submitting Maki Pitolo in the first round at UFC Vegas 6 and losing a split decision to Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 11. Anders has lost four of his last six, most recently to Krzysztof Jotko in May before missing weight in November.

Both guys are quite well rounded all over the mixed martial arts world, but Anders seems to struggle under pressure. Stewart seems super confident in his chin and that means he’s happy to walk forward and he’s certainly more active. I think he has the physicality advantage too and with good submission skills and a power advantage, I think Stewart does enough to start 2021 off the right way.
PICK – Darren Stewart via Decision

Manel Kape (15-5) vs Matheus Nicolau (15-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

After a disappointing UFC debut, Manel Kape makes the quick turnaround to take on Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division on short notice. Kape fought Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 18 but hesitancy to throw shots saw him miss out on a decision that was there for the taking, while Nicolau has won his last two and makes his UFC return after two fights away from the promotion.

Kape is an explosive fighter with great power and tremendous speed, who has pretty good takedown defence too. Nicolau loves to push the pace and come forward with pressure, throwing leg kicks really well. He’s a fairly hittable fighter though, which doesn’t stand him in good stead against the power of Kape. While offensively he’s solid, defensively he has plenty of lapses and Kape is the better overall fighter in this bout. Without having too much wrestling to worry about, Kape should be able to be more free-flowing in his attacks and I think he could get the stoppage win.
PICK – Manel Kape via Knockout, Round 2

Jonathan Martinez (13-3) vs Davey Grant (12-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Two fighters in the bantamweight division look to make it three wins in a row in this one as the impressive Martinez takes on grappler extraordinaire Davey Grant. Martinez’s wins came in a a two month window, KO’ing Frankie Saenz at UFC Vegas 5 before beating Thomas Almeida to a decision at UFC Fight Island 6. Grant beat Grigory Popov in November 2019 before knocking out Martin Day in the third round at UFC 251.

Grant has a fantastic ground game as his eight submission wins show, but he’s recently started backing that up with a wild-brawling style to set those takedowns up to get it down. Martinez however is a better, more powerful striker than Grant and has supplemented his striking style with some really improved takedown defence. Grant is 35 now and his durability won’t last forever against younger, stronger, more powerful strikers and this is one of those fights. While I don’t think Martinez quite has the power to put Grant’s lights out, he should clinically out-strike him for a wide decision win.
PICK – Jonathan Martinez via Decision

Dan Ige (14-3) vs Gavin Tucker (13-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

‘Dynamite’ Dan Ige returns to the octagon for the first time since July 2020 as he takes on the prospect that is Gavin Tucker in the featherweight division. Ige was on a six-fight tear before running into Calvin Kattar on Fight Island, being beaten up for five rounds in a defeat last time out. Tucker on the other hand has won his last three in a row, submitting Justin Jaynes at UFC Vegas 6 before beating Billy Quarantillo in a decision at UFC 256.

Ige is a pressure fighter who loves to box and throw excellent combinations, although his power isn’t among the top of his attributes. Tucker on the other hand is also a good boxer but he relies more on his wrestling and top position in fights. Both guys are pretty well rounded and while Ige is definitely beatable and has clear flaws to his game, he is a better version of Tucker. He’s the better wrestler, better striker and neither have great knockout power so I expect Ige to use his experience to grind out a decision win.
PICK – Dan Ige via Decision

Misha Cirkunov (15-5) vs Ryan Spann (18-6) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

The big boys of the card square off in the co-main event in the light heavyweight division. Cirkunov has lost three of his last five and hasn’t fought since a win over Jimmy Crute back in 2019, while Spann was on an eight-fight win streak before getting KO’d by Johnny Walker at UFC Vegas 11.

Cirkunov is one of the best grapplers in the division, with eight submission wins in his career including each of his last five wins. Spann is also a grappler with great submission skills with 11 wins via tap-out in his career but there are levels to this ground game in MMA. Cirkunov is the smaller fighter in this fight but he’s so powerful and knows exactly how to place his weight to keep you wherever he wants you. Neither are the best strikers so I expect Cirkunov to show his skill in the ground game and dominate from start to finish with top control.
PICK – Misha Cirkunov via Decision

Leon Edwards (18-3) vs Belal Muhammad (18-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A welterweight main event as Leon Edwards finally returns to the octagon to take on a short-notice opponent in ‘Bully’ Belal Muhammad. Edwards is on an eight-fight win streak but hasn’t fought since beating Rafael Dos Anjos in July 2019 after fights with Tyron Woodley and Khamzat Chimaev x3 fell through. Muhammad is now on a four-fight win streak after a win over Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 just a few weeks ago.

Edwards is a super-fit and well rounded fighter, with great boxing to set up his fantastic wrestling and top control game. Muhammad is a very similar fighter in that sense, but he’s never been able to show it against the calibre of fighter that Edwards has done in the past. Muhammad had some problems with the leg kicks that Lima gave him in those fights and it’s a path that Edwards could look to expose to make takedowns a bit easier as both fighters will look to take the centre and control positions. Edwards will throw elbows in the clinch and as Muhammad tries to close the distance which will give Edwards the edge and he should win this one pretty comfortably, although a finish is unlikely on either side.
PICK – Leon Edwards via Decision

UFC Vegas 21: Edwards vs Muhammad – Prelims predictions

It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.

Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.

Elsewhere on the card former RIZIN champion Manel Kape looks to avenge his disappointing debut with a quick turnaround against Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division.

Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).

We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here, lets move on to the rest of the preliminary bouts.


Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A truly exciting lightweight fight between ‘Baby Gastelum’ Nasrat Haqparast against undefeated debutant Rafa Garcia in a short-notice fight. Haqparast won his last fight against Alex Munoz at UFC Vegas 6 and was scheduled to fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257 before failing to weigh in. Rafa Garcia makes his UFC debut after over a year away from the cage, coming in as a highly rated grappler.

Haqparast has great hand speed and fantastic footwork and while his takedown defence isn’t phenomenal, his ability to get back to his feet after being taken down is. He has good power in his hands too with nine knockout wins in his career. Garcia is a fighter who pushes a crazy pace and hunts his opponents down for a takedown so he can work his tremendous submission game, as his seven wins by tap-out show. He has decent striking too and much like Kamaru Usman, uses his strikes to back you up to the cage and put you on the mat.

It’s a really good match up where both men’s strengths compliment their opponents but the stand up skills of Haqparast and the fact he was in a full camp already mean I lean his way. He’s got great boxing and a power advantage and as the fight goes on, the cardio will have a big say.
PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3

Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

An intriguing bantamweight bout between two MMA veterans at completely different ends of their UFC career. Yahya has been with the UFC since 2011 but hasn’t won either of his last two fights going back to 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon and then fighting to a draw with Enrique Barzola in March 2020. Rodriguez made his UFC debut on short notice back in September and was submitted in just 39 seconds by Brian Kelleher.

That doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who comes up against a jiu-jitsu master in Yahya in this one. Yahya has won 20 of his fights via submission with 12 of those coming in the first round. His game plan is always the same, ambush his opponent with multiple takedown attempts and use technique to get an early submission until he’s too tired – and then just don’t get KO’d in the hope he doesn’t lose a third round 10-8. Against Rodriguez, that should work considering his not-so-great takedown defence and poor submission defence.
PICK – Rani Yahya via Submission, Round 1

Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

An absolute banger at featherweight as a short-notice bout comes together for ‘Air’ Jourdain and debutant Marcelo Rojo. Jourdain’s UFC tenure has been more than interesting, going 1-2-1 in his four bouts, with a defeat to Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 2 before a draw against Joshua Culibao back in October. Rojo originally stepped in to face Raoni Barcelos on short-notice, only for Barcelos to drop out and this fight to be made and he will finally return to the cage for the first time since September 2019.

Both guys like to come out and fight fire with fire, throwing bombs and looking to knock their opponent out with power. Both hit hard and have skills on the ground with 24 finishes in their career but prefer to keep the bout on the feet. Jourdain seemingly has the power advantage and has fought in the UFC before although his run hasn’t been good. Neither will look to wrestle but the cardio is also in Jourdain’s favour so with Rojo stepping up a weight-class to fight a bigger and better fighter than he has before, I think Jourdain edges it in a fight of the night contender.
PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 3

Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A rematch made on short notice in the women’s strawweight division. These two met back in 2017 in the TUF finale, with Hill getting a decision win. Fast forward to now, Hill fought four times in 2020 and went 2-2, with back-to-back defeats against Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson in controversial fashion. Yoder went 1-1 in 2020, losing to Livinha Souza at UFC 252 before bouncing back with a win over Miranda Granger in November.

Despite their close fight the first time around, I can’t see this one being as competitive. Hill is the better striker by a distance and has improved her ground game to a point where she can stuff the takedowns of some of the better wrestlers in the division and fight off her back and get back to her feet well. Yoder will try to get this fight to the ground to add to her four submission wins, but Hill is just too advanced now and should get a pretty comfortable win.
PICK – Angela Hill via Decision

UFC Vegas 21: Edwards vs Muhammad – Early prelims predictions

It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.

Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.

Elsewhere on the card former RIZIN champion Manel Kape looks to avenge his disappointing debut with a quick turnaround against Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division.

Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).

We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card, split into three starting with the early prelims here.


Matthew Semelsberger (7-2) vs Jason Witt (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A fun scrap to open the card in the welterweight division as both men look to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC. Semelsberger made his debut on short-notice against Carlton Minus back at UFC Vegas 7 and fought his way to a decision win, while Witt lost his debut to Takashi Sato in embarrassing fashion at UFC Vegas 4 before bouncing back with a submission win against Cole Williams at UFC Vegas 12.

Semelsberger is a power striker who looks to put fights away as his four knockout wins show. He has decent takedown defence too, which will come in handy against Witt who looks to take fights to the mat and control position and look for submissions. With Semelsberger’s aggression, he can leave himself open to takedowns by someone as good and willing as Witt. With that said, Witt has been knocked out four times in his career before and against the power of Semelsberger it’s a fair question to ask how his chin will hold up. Overall, I back Witt to be able to get the takedown and control the top position enough drain Semelsberger of his power and take a decision win.
PICK – Jason Witt via Decision

Gloria de Paula (5-2) vs Jinh Yu Frey (9-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A UFC debut in the strawweight division as Gloria de Paula takes on Jinh Yu Frey, coming off two straight losses. De Paula earned her spot with a win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in November, while Frey was submitted via kneebar back in June 2020 by Kay Hansen before being outclassed by Loma Lookboonmee in October.

De Paula is a fantastic Muay Thai striker, who loves to throw combinations and has a considerable size advantage in this fight against Frey, who used to fight at atomweight before joining the UFC. Frey will have to press forward and make in an uncomfortable fight which totally goes against her style or grind out a decision from top position which is unlikely considering De Paula’s improving grappling skills. This fight arguably couldn’t be a worse match up for Frey and she should be dominated by the bigger fighter, in what will likely be the last fight of her UFC career for now.
PICK – Gloria de Paula via Decision

Cortney Casey (9-8) vs JJ Aldrich (8-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A couple of UFC vets in the women’s MMA world match up in the flyweight division here. Casey went 1-1 in 2020, tapping Mara Romero Borella before being tapped herself by Gillian Robertson at UFC Vegas 3 just a month later. Aldrich has gone 1-2 in her last three, being knocked out by Maycee Barber and losing a decision to Sabina Mazo with a win over Lauren Mueller sandwiched between them.

Both women are strikers by trade but haven’t knocked anyone out in the UFC yet despite lengthy runs with the company, which means we should have an entertaining bout on our hands. Aldrich is the sharper and more crisp striker but Casey is more physical and aggressive which allows her to bite down on her mouthpiece and go toe-to-toe with anyone in the company. The accuracy of Aldrich is likely to mean she lands the more eye-catching shots and that could be the difference between getting a judge’s decision.
PICK – JJ Aldrich via Decision

Manel Kape taking the opportunity to introduce himself again

Just five weeks after his less than spectacular debut, Manel Kape is back in the Octagon on short notice to fight Matheus Nicolau this Saturday at UFC Vegas 21.

Many people were very eager to see Kape coming in to compete at the elite level of MMA when his signing was announced last year, but were left pretty deflated and disappointed by his performance against Alexandre Pantoja.

The former Rizin champion was all movement and no action for almost the entire 15 minutes. The volume of strikes from Pantoja were far greater than Kape’s, which swayed the judges to give the decision to the Brazilian as neither fighter looked like they wanted to commit to a finish.

A let down in his debut, however Kape has got fans excited to see him again after taking this fight with under two weeks notice and showing he wants to right the wrongs from that debut loss. It’s the exact sort of attitude that we love to see in fighters.

His opponent Nicolau was due to fight Tagir Ulanbekov until he pulled out for unconfirmed reasons which is the second time this has happened. The Brazilian is another up and coming fighter and they have similar records, both winning 15 fights with five losses for Kape and three for Nicolau.

After being released following a knockout defeat by Dustin Ortiz back in 2018, Nicolau will make his return to the organisation following consecutive wins outside the company.

This fight is a much better stylistic match up for Kape than his debut was against Pantoja. Despite being a champion at Rizin, putting him straight in against the UFC’s number five ranked flyweight in hindsight may have been too early. He can take some confidence from the fact he did stay the distance and wasn’t ever in too much danger and the fact that the UFC thought highly enough of him to put him in there in the first place.

Both fighters have a lot to prove and will want to show Dana White he wasn’t wrong in giving them a UFC contract. Kape will need to show a huge improvement in his activity in the cage as well as the urgency he shows in fights. Waiting around for opportunities won’t go well for him when he gets to the top end of the division, so he should use these moments and fights to get into the right habits.

Kape was on the list of fighters who are expected to have a good year in 2021, so the fact he’s getting back in as soon as the opportunity has arose give him ample opportunity to make that true. A win this weekend will put the debut loss at a distant memory and he can look forward to fighting a ranked opponent again in the summer.

‘Starboy’ has shown he has the right attitude for the UFC, now he needs to show he has the skills.

Leon Edwards taking a necessary risk after accepting fight with Belal Muhammad

It seemed so perfect for Leon Edwards just last week, when Khamzat Chimaev was forced to withdraw from their three-times scheduled bout and the UFC was talking about Colby Covington stepping in as a replacement.

It would finally give him the big name he had been desperate for and someone above him in the rankings, meaning a win would almost certainly guarantee him a title shot in his next fight. While the fight was never close to being official and was just an idea, it now won’t be happening.

Covington went on a radio show to confirm that he had no interest in the bout, especially on short notice. That meant that Edwards was without an opponent once again as he approaches two years without a fight in the octagon. Step forward Belal Muhammad.

Fresh off his win at UFC 258 over Dhiego Lima, ‘Remember the Name’ has stepped up for a quick turnaround and it is now official that he will face Edwards in the main event at UFC Vegas 21 on March 13th.

It’s an intriguing fight for Muhammad who following his win over Lima called out Li Jingliang for his next fight, claiming he was going to work his way up the rankings slowly having just broken into the top 15.

It seems now that he has abandoned that plan and decided to go for the jugular by accepting a bout with the number three ranked 170lbs fighter in the world.

For Edwards, the proposition put him in a position. He was desperate to fight, having seen four scheduled bouts fall through since March 2020 and not having fought since July 2019 when he defeated Rafael Dos Anjos with relative ease.

He has been pushing for a big name ever since and when a bout with Tyron Woodley fell through due to COVID-19 in March last year, he rallied for a fight with Covington or Jorge Masvidal. He was himself called out by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, but said he only wanted to fight up in rankings because he deserved a title shot.

Fast forward 12 months and Edwards would’ve killed for any of those fights to come to fruition. Covington refused, Masvidal looks set for another title shot after being called out by the champion, ‘Wonderboy’ is recovering from two broken hands after outclassing Geoff Neal and nobody else would step up.

For Edwards, that meant he’d either have to wait even longer for a fight or just take what was available. He chose the latter.

He’ll now have all the pressure on his back in a fight against someone who wasn’t ranked until a win a month before the fight takes place, knowing that everything he has worked for in recent years could be thrown out with a defeat.

Nobody expects him to lose the fight, considering the stylistic match up of the fight and the level of performance we’ve seen in the cage prior to now. Edwards is a few levels above, but this is MMA. Anything can happen at any time, to anyone.

It’s a risk Edwards had to take to stay relevant, but he now needs to deliver spectacularly to show that he is as good as he’s been talking about being for the last two years.

A win doesn’t necessarily get him closer to a title shot but it makes him even harder to deny for the likes of Covington and that in turn can only be a good thing for what he wants.