UFC Vegas 51: Belal Muhammad’s Wrestling, Movement Key in Win Over Vicente Luque

Belal Muhammad and Vicente Luque, UFC Vegas 51
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 16: (L-R) Belal Muhammad kicks Vicente Luque of Brazil in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

When Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad first met years ago, at UFC 205 in 2016, the fight was almost an afterthought.

Both fighters, still early in their UFC runs, were dwarfed by the larger names on that historic card in New York City. But six years or so on, it was a very different story as they met for the second time atop UFC Vegas 51. This time, the welterweight duo were in the thick of the hunt in the welterweight division, with the winner inching closer to a title shot in a weight class where Kamaru Usman was quickly lapping the competition.

Luque took center early in Saturday’s main event, pressing forward while Muhammad circled. Luque fired a leg kick, while Muhammad looked for a way inside to implement his wrestling. Luque’s jab hit home, followed by another low kick. The pair settled in, with Luque still the aggressor; he switched stances, but Muhammad would eventually change levels and blast through a double leg takedown. That put Luque on his back with two minutes remaining. More importantly, the fighters were dry, and Luque was well away from the fence. That earned Muhammad some top time, but they’d head to the second.

Again in round two, Luque put the pressure on early. The leg kicks continued be there for Luque, in a round that was back-and-forth through the first half. However, again, Muhammad was able to land a takedown in the second half of the frame. This time, he had ninety seconds to work, and he stayed active on top, going body/head and taking Luque out of his comfort zone. Luque scrambled back to the fence, surviving the round.

In the third, Luque fired a knee and a short left. The left hurt Muhammad, who was still using his lateral movement. Another left landed for Luque. Muhammad shot for a single-leg takedown, this time more out of desperation than anything else. He wouldn’t land it, but maybe thirty seconds later, he’d get the fight back down. Luque was now on his back practically dead center in the octagon. He’d escape back up, and by the end of the round was walking Muhammad down again.

Heading into round four, Luque found himself in uncharted territory, having never gone past the third round in his career. Muhammad landed a takedown ninety seconds in, once again planting Luque on his back at center. Luque’s takedown defense was failing him at a key point in the fight; even if Muhammad couldn’t do much on top, he was dictating the fight. Luque would eventually escape out, and they’d finish the round trading.

Luque went after Muhammad early in round five, drawing him into an exchange in the pocket. Muhammad answered with a takedown attempt, but Luque pulled out of it. Luque switched stances, and tried to cut off the cage. Muhammad then shot in, and gave up his neck; Luque went for a choke, but didn’t have it. Another takedown attempt followed, that left Luque on his knees by the fence, with Muhammad controlling from the back, one hook in. Muhammad’s fifth round, frankly, was impressive — his wrestling was just too much for Luque to overcome. Years after their first meeting, it was Belal Muhammad showing more improvements, and walking away with his hand raised. The wrestling and lateral movement of Muhammad, in particular, were key.

After the win, Muhammad called out the “big mouth Karen” Colby Covington, accusing him of calling out lightweights.

Official Result: Belal Muhammad def. Vicente Luque by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-47)