UFC Vegas 51 Predictions and Picks for Every Fight: Luque vs. Muhammad
- Jackson Hanover
- Apr 15, 2022, 10:45:29 PM
Credit: photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
April 16, 2022: UFC APEX, Las Vegas, Nevada
Kingpin's two staff writers predict the winners for every matchup for UFC Vegas 51 and provide a preview for each fight.
Main Event: Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad II (Welterweight)
Albeit Muhammad definitely has a path to victory with grounding Luque for 3/5 rounds in the small cage, I still like Luque in this matchup. He's fought a much higher level of competition, has great finishing ability, and will win the fight on the feet. He can outstrike/sprawl and brawl Belal to a decision victory, he can knock Belal out, and he can submit Belal in grappling exchanges. Simply put, Luque is a wrecking machine at this point in his career, and I'm not eager to step in front of him. Of note: this month is also the month of Ramadan, in which Belal is supposed to be fasting from sun-up to sun-down. Surely that limits his training ability in these weeks before the fight.
Luque is borderline my lock of the week. While I am somewhat biased as a longtime Silent Assassin fan, I think everything is in place for a complete destruction of Muhammad. Yes, Belal can wrestle, but he has very limited Jiu-Jitsu, and the black belt in Luque could always lock in his patented D'Arce any time the fight hits the mat. Luque is leagues above Belal in striking - while Belal isn't a terrible striker his defense gets very sloppy in combinations, which led to an early knockout in his last bout with Luque. Ever since, Luque has been on a war path against the best in the division, and I don't see him stopping now, especially against Belal (during Ramadan). Luque gets this done inside the distance.
Co-Main Event: Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (Middleweight)
I don't have a super great read on the level/potential of either of these fighters, but I'll take the fighter I think has greater IQ in this one. Borralho has shown a pretty well rounded game, with solid striking and a BJJ black belt. For that reason, I’m on him. He should be able to neutralize Gadzhi in his guard when he takes him down, and get up to where he wins the fight on the feet. Gadzhi got lucky in his DWCS fight, as he had little to offer while on top, and fell back onto a kneebar. This is an abnormality, and I think Borralho has more paths to victory in this fight.
I like a lot of what I have seen from both fighters. They aren’t household names or well-known commodities, but the winner soon could be. Borralho is going to have a striking advantage here, as he is good at maintaining distance, using head movement, and timing his shots well. He is a good scrambler as well, and has a shot to avoid being held down on the ground. Unfortunately, the Russian is a powerful chain wrestler with the ability to land takedowns from any position, and when he gets you down, he keeps you there while he attacks with ground and pound or looks for a submission. His DWCS fight didn't show this to its full extent, but the possibility and threat is real when he's in top control. Omargadzhiev’s wrestling will overwhelm Caio in this one, and despite the striking advantage, Borralho won’t get to use it too often.
Andre Fialho vs. Miguel Baeza (Welterweight)
Simply put, Baeza has Fialho covered everywhere here - he's a more dynamic striker with better grappling and likely better cardio. Baeza will be much larger than Fialho. He's also fought a much better level of competition, and Fialho has been cut by Bellator. This fight should be fairly straightforward, with Baeza taking this fight wherever he would like and dominating. The only concern is that Baeza could have a suspect chin, as he gets rocked in every fight, and Fialho does have some pop. Other than that though, Baeza should roll here.
I feel like I'm missing something here. Baeza has been a force in the UFC so far, only losing to high level competition in Ponzinibbio (close decision) and Khaos Williams (Death Touch). Fialho, on the other hand, is not nearly at the same level. Fialho is a capable striker, but after fighting Santiago and Khaos, this is a big step down for Baeza, who has power, technicality, and a decent ground game. I think I may be underestimating Fialho here, so I'm not going to jump all over this trappy-looking line, but I am confidently on Baeza to win.
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Wu Yanan (Women's Bantamweight)
Jackson: Bueno Silva
Bueno Silva is clearly the side in this matchup. She's fought and competed with a much higher level of competition than Yanan, and has a pretty well rounded skillset. Yanan doesn't really have any aspects to her game to right home about, and has lost to a suspect level of competition in the UFC. She definitely would have been cut after her first contract if she wasn't Chinese, a market the UFC is trying to break into. While Bueno Silva has questionable fight IQ, she should be able to keep this fight wherever she wants, and beat Yanan handedly.
Brandon: Bueno Silva
Yanan has so many holes in her game. Bueno Silva is very hittable, but her striking is pretty competent for someone who is primarily a grappler and she should be able to keep Yanan in striking mode long enough to get takedowns. When she does, her Jiu-Jitsu is slick and leagues above Wu's, and I think she gets a submission here. At the least, I think this is a pretty easy decision win for Mayra.
Pat Sabatini vs. TJ Laramie (Featherweight)
If Sabatini can get this fight to the ground, which I expect him to as he has in every fight in the UFC thus far and because he will have a size advantage over TJ Laramie, I expect him to have great success from the top position. His BJJ is top notch, and I don't see many fighters on the roster fairing well with him on top, let alone a fighter that doesn't have a win with the promotion yet. If this fight stays standing, it could get dicey, as Sabatini is not the best striker. Sabatini will be a lot to handle for any fighter that is 0-1 in the UFC, and I expect his grappling attack to be too much for Laramie in this matchup.
Pat Sabatini is an absolute force to be reckoned with on the ground, and TJ Laramie is not about to put a stop to his run. It took Laramie all of 52 seconds to get submitted in his UFC debut, and Sabatini's ground game is every bit as good as Minner's with his Renzo Gracie Black Belt. Sabatini takes this fight to the mat early and threatens with submissions until he gets the tap.
Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa (Welterweight)
Mounir Lazzez has a lot to like about him - he is primarily a striker, but appears to have a decent ground game as well. However, after a brilliant win in his UFC debut against Abdul Razak Alhassan, he absolutely laid a dud in his sophomore outing against Warley Alves. If we get a performance between the two, I think Lazzez should win this fight. Ange Loosa is a generalist that is decent enough everywhere, but doesn't really have a part of his game that will provide him a clear path to victory. Plus, he fought 15 minutes 2 weeks ago. That can't be good coming into this fight. I like Lazzez, but his unreliability scares me in this fight.
I’m not super high on Lazzez as a fighter due to his inconsistent performances, but all the variables line up here for him to bounce back with a victory. He is a long and accurate striker, which will help him stay out of range from Loosa’s striking and avoid what happened last time out against Alves. Loosa is nowhere near the level of the last two fighters Lazzez has faced, and he is stepping in on four days’ notice while Lazzez has had a full camp. This fight almost certainly will go the distance, but Lazzez should be able to use his length, output, and accuracy to get it done here.
Devlin Clark vs. William Knight (Heavyweight)
After the last fight with Grishin, I am henceforth OUT on Thick Willy. He is not particularly good at anything, other than being a thick boy. He's had little success in the UFC, with his only wins coming against absolute bums and a horrible decision against Alonzo Menifield. Clark, on the other hand, has largely only lost to a high level of competition in the UFC, and has soundly beaten fighters on Knight's level. To add, Willy has shown that it is easy for him to get put on his back, which will prove to be a path to victory for Clark. I think Clark rolls here, by TKO G&P or decision.
Clark's record isn't the prettiest, but he's a fringe-ranked fighter in this division, losing to very high-level competition. William Knight does not fall into this category. I mistakenly took William Knight in his last fight out against Maxim Grishin, where I overestimated his wrestling and fight IQ. He thinks he's a much better striker than he is, and gets into losing battles with his striking. He will do this again against Clark, who is in a different tier from him and looking to get back on track with an emphatic win. Clark rolls here.
Lina Lansberg vs. Pannie Kianzad (Women's Bantamweight)
Simply put, Pannie Kianzad is a younger and better version of Lina Lansberg. She'll have better output, and should have an edge on the 40 year old in every facet of the fight. However, this will be an MMA fight between two women that's likely going to decision, so there's always a possibility it gets greasy. However, I'm fairly confident Kianzad rolls here..
Rocky may have laid the blueprints to defeating Kianzad, but Lansberg is not Rocky. She’s 40 and hasn’t fought in over 2 years, and simply doesn’t have the physical ability to hang with the technical boxing display that Kianzad is likely to bring to the octagon. Kianzad will pick her apart up close and at range until she gets the unanimous decision win.
Drakkar Klose vs. Brandon Jenkins (Lightweight)
The discrepancy in level of competition between these two fighters is ENORMOUS. Drakkar Klose has been a fringe ranked lightweight for some time now, and just lost to the #4 ranked lightweight in the world where he almost knocked him out. Meanwhile, Brandon Jenkins has zero wins in the promotion, and has lost by knockout to Rong Zhu. Yes, that Rong Zhu. Barring any serious step down in fighting ability from the long lay off and "the shove" from Jeremy Stephens at the last weigh in, Klose should have Jenkins covered EVERYWHERE. Klose isn't really a finish guy, but I could see one of Jenkins if he performs.
Simply put, I'm in no rush to back a large underdog who just got knocked out by Rong Zhu. Klose is coming back after a layoff due to an injury sustained in face-offs with Jeremy Stephens, but before then he beat three very quality fighters in a row. He's got good output and is a capable wrestler, and I think Jenkins is a can that he will crush.
Rafa Garcia vs. Jesse Ronson (Welterweight)
In a fight between a fighter that I'm not particularly high on that is also undersized, and a 31 fight veteran that has almost seen it all in the fight game, I'd like to take the veteran in Ronson in this one. Rafa Garcia has largely underperformed in his UFC career, with largely the only skill he has offered being decent wrestling. Other than that, his standup is below average, and his cardio is suspect. I expect Ronson to use his veteran savvy to sprawl and brawl Rafa, or even possibly find a submission.
Ronson had a tough first stint in the UFC, dropping three tight decisions to three very good fighters. He is looking to put his stamp on the UFC, and has a good matchup opportunity to do it against Garcia. I’m not impressed with Garcia – his striking and cardio have been inconsistent and looked bad in his losses in the UFC. Garcia is likely to get some top control here, but his cardio is inconsistent and will almost certainly get picked apart in striking exchanges. Ronson will lead with volume early and often, and this should be enough to offset the wrestling of Garcia. Ronson will finally find his way onto the right side of a decision in the UFC here.
Chris Barnett vs. Martin Buday (Heavyweight)
Let's be honest folks - we've already seen the one version of Chris Barnett that can win a fight in the UFC. He needed an absolute bum of an opponent, and to land the magical shot. It was certainly glorious, but is also unbelievably unlikely to happen again. Against a legitimate heavyweight that didn't roll off of the couch for a retirement fight, Chris Barnett has no business being in the octagon. Martin Buday is not certainly skilled in the striking, but is a legitimate heavyweight that will tower over Barnett and be able to push him up against the cage and do whatever he wants with him. Buday by TKO.
Everything in me wishes I could take Chris Barnett, as he produced one of the best knockouts I have ever seen, followed by one of the funniest celebrations I have ever seen. I love the person, but the reality is that he just is not good. Buday will be significantly bigger than him, and I have a hard time seeing where Barnett can be effective against fighters better than a geriatric Gian Villante who was winning until he got caught with the wheel kick of the century. I love Beastboy and can't wait to watch him, but I don't see him winning.
Jordan Leavitt vs. Trey Ogden (Lightweight)
From what I've seen in the UFC, Leavitt is an absolutely inept striker that will only be able to win against fighters with serious grappling deficiencies. He must be in with the matchmakers, because he's already gotten 2 of those matchups thus far. To be fair his grappling is pretty solid, but there are a lot of holes in his game otherwise. Trey Ogden is a grappler himself, who should be able to avoid being on bottom of Leavitt for an extended period of time. To add, this should be an easy gameplan for James Krause to draw up against such a one dimensional fighter in Leavitt. I like Ogden to get it done in this one.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t likely to be a striking affair. Two grappling-heavy fighters will square off, and Leavitt has next to nothing in the striking department other than a jab and some bare leg kicks. But Ogden has been submitted three times by lesser fighters, and gets aggressive when hunting submissions. For a skilled submission artist such as Leavitt, he will be patient and not look to give up his neck or arm, whereas Ogden may overpursue and expose himself. Leavitt also has a wrestling advantage here, and I look for him to be the aggressor in terms of takedowns.
Istela Nunes vs. Sam Hughes (Women's Strawweight)
Istela Nunes is a fairly promising prospect, who had some success against a very solid opponent in her UFC debut, and Sam Hughes is quite possibly the worst female fighter on the roster. Nunes should soundly outstrike Hughes, who has little to offer offensively. Perhaps the only path to victory for Sampage is a grappling attack, but there's been no evidence in her UFC tenure thusfar that she has the tools to execute that gameplan. I've got Nunes by a very one-sided decision in this one.
Sam Hughes is the worst women's fighter on the roster. Yes, Tecia Torres is a very good fighter, but it is comical to get knocked out in the first round by Torres. Hughes simply cannot handle competent striking, and Nunes has it. Against Carnelossi in her last time out, who is a great fighter, she outstruck her significantly, and only got beaten due to Ariane's excellent ground game. Hughes doesn't have this, nor does she have the ability to defend against Nunes' skilled kickboxing attack. Nunes could even get a knockout here, but I'm strongly on her to win.
Alateng Heili vs. Kevin Croom (Bantamweight)
As much as Croom is fadeable in most fights, I think he has a lot positives in this matchup here. First off, he will have a 6 inch height advantage and 7 inch reach advantage. As we saw in his last fight with Brian Kelleher, this presents significant issues for opponents in the striking. Croom does have decent striking and very solid striking output, and will be able to outvolume and outpoint Heili on the feet. He's also facing an opponent in Heili that has very questionable fight IQ, and will absolutely need the takedowns to secure this victory. Croom will soundly outstrike Heili, but I'm not confident Heili will be able to execute the Brian Kelleher gameplan - he doesn't have nearly the fight IQ that Kelleher has. There is a chance Heili could wet blanket Croom for two rounds - who has shown poor takedown defense, but I'm just not confident Heili can pull off that gameplan with a long and lanky Croom beating him up on the feet. I expect Croom to outwork Heili, and earn a decision victory.
Croom needs a win to stay afloat in the promotion, and I think Heili is a great matchup for him to do so. Croom has a significant size advantage on Heili, which will allow Croom to keep him at range and pick him apart with straight shots and leg kicks. Heili likes to keep it tight with dirty boxing and wrestling, but Croom keeping him at distance will allow for sprawls, and Croom is no slouch on the ground himself. I think all of the pieces are there for an upset, and I see Croom getting it done for his first win in the UFC.
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