UFC Vegas 45: Belal Muhammad Out-Grapples Stephen Thompson for Decision Win

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Belal Muhammad and Stephen Thompson, UFC Vegas 45
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: (R-L) Belal Muhammad punches Stephen Thompson in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The co-main event of UFC Vegas 45 saw top welterweights Stephen Thompson and Belal Muhammad face off.

Thompson, now 38, had seen a two-fight win streak snapped in his last outing care of fellow former title challenger Gilbert Burns. Still a top name in the 170lb division, “Wonderboy” was in the cross-hairs of Muhammad — who, coming off a win over Demian Maia, was still looking for a statement win to establish himself as a bonafide title threat.

Muhammad, not surprisingly, chose to test Thompson’s takedown defense in the opening minute. That didn’t go his way, and Thompson fired a kick upstairs — something he’d do another moments later, forcing Muhammad to block the dangerous strikes. Muhammad would pursue another takedown, tying up “Wonderboy” by the fence. The pair exchanged strikes while on their knees, tangled up; Muhammad appeared to be getting the better of things until Thompson was able to power back to his feet.

From there, Thompson was able to reverse the position, but things would turn back to Muhammad’s favor before long. He was able to get on Thompson’s back, peppering the striker with shots while he covered up. Belal would quite literally ride out the round there, but he didn’t seem able to hurt Thompson badly enough to concern the ref.

Early in the second, Muhammad had Thompson briefly down again, but not for long. Thompson was right back up, only to have his leg pulled out from under him care of an ankle pick. This time, Thompson was stuck on his back for an extended period with Muhammad in control. While there wasn’t a ton of damage coming, Muhammad was working on a kimura that kept the ref from intervening.

Round three, Belal Muhammad went right back to the well, immediately tying up with Thompson and hunting for a takedown against the fence. Within the opening minute of the round, the takedown was complete. Muhammad had mount, albeit with Thompson essentially sitting upright, back to the cage. Muhammad began landing short punches, but Thompson was able to escape up and out. Thompson threatened with a guillotine the next time Muhammad changed levels, and appeared to briefly have the upper hand before Muhammad got back on top.

With most of the fight playing out on the ground, Thompson never had much room to show his vast striking arsenal. Muhammad stuck to the game plan, setting a personal best in takedowns en route to a unanimous decision win.

Official Result: Belal Muhammad def. Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)

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