Belal Muhammad avenged the only knockout loss of his MMA career on Saturday with a decision win over Vicente Luque at UFC Vegas 51.
The two UFC welterweights first met in 2016 on the preliminary card of UFC 205. Neither man was ranked ahead of that matchup. Luque was on a three-fight UFC winning streak and 10-5-1 overall. Muhammad was 1-1 in the UFC and 10-1 in his career. Both fighters have been on a steady climb since their first meeting. When they faced off on Saturday, Luque sported a 21-7-1 record and was the No. 5 ranked fighter in the official UFC welterweight rankings. Meanwhile, Muhammad was 20-3 in his career with one no contest and the No. 6 UFC welterweight ranking.
With his win, the criticism that Muhammad can’t defeat top-level competition should quiet. Luque, unlike Muhammad’s two previous opponents — Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia — was on a four-fight winning streak ahead of the fight. At 30, Luque is still a fighter who is still at or near his prime.
Read on for the winners and losers from UFC Vegas 51, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card of the event aired on ESPN following prelims on ESPN+.
Belal Muhammad: Belal Muhammad picked up the biggest win of his UFC career on Saturday by earning a decision over the Vicente Luque, a fighter who had knocked out Muhammad in 2016. Unbeaten in his past eight trips to the octagon, Muhammad should break into the top five in the division with the win.
Muhammad showed good movement and improved striking in this matchup, but it was his wrestling and his ability to prevent his opponent from generating scoring opportunities that carried him to victory. Muhammad’s style is not one that the UFC matchmakers usually reward with big opportunities, but he keeps winning and keeps beating name opponents and that has to count for something.
Caio Borralho: Up until the point he threw an illegal knee to the head of his opponent, Gadzhi Omargadzhiev, Caio Borralho looked excellent. He exploited every mistake Omargadzhiev made and showed he is a very strong all-around fighter.
I should say, the reason Borralho is listed as a “winner” is because he won the fight. Had the referee, who will be discussed below, made the right decision and disqualified him, Borralho would have been in the “loser” category. With that, I guess, one could say Borralho earned a “technical victory” here.
Andre Fialho: Andre Fialho was on a run of four straight knockout wins ahead of his UFC debut. He lost that fight in January to Michel Pereira via unanimous decision. The 28-year-old Fialho got back on track on Saturday with a nasty first round stoppage win over Miguel Baeza.
Pat Sabatini: Pat Sabatini continues to rack up wins in the UFC. The former Cage Fury champion moved to 4-0 in the UFC with a decision win over T.J. Laramie. Sabatini has an impressive wrestling base and he used those skills to impose his will against Laramie. Sabatini was patient in his top game and he was overwhelming in every aspect of this contest.
Sabatini said he was disappointed in his performance, but the 31-year-old looked good in getting the win on Saturday and he should earn a step up in competition in his next outing.
Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa: The welterweight bout between Mounir Lazzez and Ange Loosa was an entertaining striking battle. Lazzez was the more effective of the two fighters. His power, output and ability to mix things up were enough to get him the win. However, Loosa deserves props for taking the fight on four days’ notice.
Devin Clark: Devin Clark showed good instincts in his heavyweight bout against William Knight. He did an admirable job of setting up his takedowns with powerful punches. Clark did a better job against the cage, when he took advantage of Knight exposing his chin to land an elbow followed by a left hook. Those two powerful strikes were the beginning of the end for Knight.
Pannie Kianzad: Pannie Kianzad seemed willing to fight in close against Lina Lansberg for the first two rounds of their bantamweight fight. She had some success with that approach, but after Lansberg knocked her down in the second round, she changed her approach in the third stanza. That change, fighting at distance and using her footwork to elude her opponent, made a big difference in the fight, which Kianzad won by decision.
Drakkar Klose: Drakkar Klose was one of the biggest favorites on the UFC Vegas 51 fight card, but he was coming back from a long time off after a serious injury. His knockout win over Brandon Jenkins should be a tremendous boost to his confidence. This was a great return to the octagon for Klose, who had not fought in over two years and hadn’t won since August 2019.
Rafa Garcia: Rafa Garcia performed admirably, except for landing an illegal knee, against Jesse Ronson. He did well in landing his right hand against the southpaw in the first round. Garcia was aggressive with his striking and takedowns and when the opportunity to sink a choke arose, he grabbed it and ended the fight.
Garcia was unbeaten when he joined the UFC in 2021, but he lost his first two fights via decision. He is now on a two-fight winning streak.
Sam Hughes: Sam Hughes lost the first round of her bout opposite Istela Nunes, but she made a smart adjustment in the middle of the fight and took control of the pace and location of the bout. That change in approach made an enormous difference and led to the win for Hughes, who was 0-3 in the UFC prior to UFC Vegas 51.
Heili Alateng: Following his fight at UFC Vegas 37, I wrote that Heili Alateng, “was not very aggressive.” That was not a problem at UFC Vegas 51. Alateng, who was winless in his past two outings, came out quickly against Kevin Croom and scored a knockout within the first minute of the contest via a well-timed overhand right.
Mark Smith: Referee Mark Smith took a point after the second eyepoke from Istela Nunes. Ideally this would be the norm in MMA refereeing, but anyone who has watched more than one event knows officials are more apt to give multiple warnings and not take points.
Mark Smith 2: Smith took a point from Rafa Garcia after an illegal knee to a downed opponent. The illegal blow did not earn Garcia a warning, Smith went right to the point deduction. I would love to see more referees follow Smith’s lead and enforce the rules as they are written.
Vicente Luque: I don’t think Vicente Luque intentionally gave up the first two rounds to Belal Muhammad, but I believe he and his team thought they would have the advantage in the final three rounds. It turns out that was not the case. Yes, Luque won the third round, but he could not sustain that momentum and turn the tide in his favor.
If there is a positive to take away from the loss, it’s that Luque has the experience of a five-round fight behind him and that knowledge should help him better plan for the next time he gets a main event opportunity.
Lina Lansberg: Lina Lansberg’s penchant for fighting in close cost her against Pannie Kianzad. Lansberg is a solid striker when she can get in close, but her striking at distance is lacking.
Jesse Ronson: It felt like Jesse Ronson was waiting for Rafa Garcia to slow down during their lightweight fight. Ronson was patient and did not overextend himself. The problem with Ronson’s style at UFC Vegas 51 was that Garcia did not fade and that resulted in Ronson losing via submission in the second stanza.
Istela Nunes: Istela Nunes is a fast and powerful striker with good footwork, but she is not someone who is comfortable when she is not leading the dance and that cost her in her bout against Sam Hughes.
Kevin Croom: Kevin Croom, who was winless in his first three UFC fights (0-2-0 one no contest), dropped from featherweight to bantamweight for UFC Vegas 51. The move was for naught. Heili Alateng knocked out Croom in 47 seconds. The loss is likely to end the UFC run of the FAC featherweight champ.
Daniel Cormier: At the end of the second round of the Jordan Leavitt vs. Trey Ogden fight, former two-division UFC champion and current UFC commentator asked, “How do you score leg kicks?” That’s something a former UFC champion and current UFC commentator should not need to ask.
Mounir Lazzez: Not a good move by Mounir Lazzez to give a shoutout to Daniel Kinahan after his win.
Dan Miragliotta: While Mark Smith had a good night officiating at UFC Vegas 51, the same cannot be said of Dan Miragliotta, who should have called the co-main event a disqualification, but did not do so.
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