In a battle of inactivity vs activity, Leon Edwards seeks to outclass the fringe top-fifteen Welterweight, Belal Muhammad, and make an undeniable claim for a title shot.
UFC Fight Night 187: Edwards vs Muhammad Predictions & Results
602 days. 14,448 hours. 866,880 minutes. That is how long has passed since Leon Edwards last fought in the Octagon. Inactivity is a factor that analysts often struggle to gauge. While an extended break often allows a fighter enough time to adopt new weapons or recuperate from any long-term injuries, an unforeseen spell of inactivity has just as often been the cause behind a complete career shutdown. Momentum is a powerful force in the world of combat sports, and at the highest level where the barest of margins can be the deciding factor on the night, it can tip the scale towards the in-form fighter. Just 27 days since cruising past Dhiego Lima, Belal Muhammad may be entering his first career-defining bout with the scales heavily weighted in his favour.
Just a week after the glittering displays of UFC 259, the UFC has opted for a far more reserved fight card this Saturday. Outside of the main event, the only other fights that jump out comprise a Featherweight brawl between Dan Ige and Gavin Tucker, and a Middleweight scrap involving Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart. That isn’t to say there isn’t a surprising amount of name power to be found littered throughout the prelims, but their match-ups struggle to inspire much excitement. Still, it would be difficult to complain as this cursed card has nine cancellations, including the hotly anticipated stylistic war between Dan Ige and Ryan Hall. Praise the Lord, however, that we aren’t forced to endure the previously scheduled Ben Rothwell and Philipe Lins drunken punch-up.
Leon Edwards (18-3) vs Belal Muhammad (18-3)
Edwards is regarded as a master of the clinch despite his somewhat slender frame for the division. Whether it is Edwards chasing the clinch, or if an opponent has locked onto him, Edwards’ masterful use of head placement ensures he always comes out on top. During the first minute against Gunnar Nelson, the Icelandic native forced Edwards against the cage and attempted to target the Brummie’s body. Edwards, however, created a barrier by flattening his back at a right angle and using his head as a barrier that prevented Nelson from striking the body cleanly. With Nelson left useless at such an awkward angle, Edwards was further able to capitalise by landing a short combination of knees that honed in on the liver. While the entire sequence of events took less than ten seconds, Edwards’ work has a ‘drop of water’ effect that gradually ramps up over a fight and takes its toll on an opponent.
On the feet, Edwards is competent and has certainly progressed leaps and bounds since his debut in the UFC. While he switches between stances, Edwards is far more comfortable fighting out of Southpaw. Edward’s long side-on stance leaves his lead leg open, and against a striker of the quality of RDA, it was chewed up. Worse still for Edwards, he struggles against fighters who throw quantity, presenting Muhammad as a stylistic match-up. Against an advancing opponent, Edwards can be caught flat-footed and left in no-mans land. To just walk down the Brit, however, is not the strategy. To beat Edwards, an opponent needs to ensure they don’t overstay their position in the pocket. RDA learned the hard way that remaining in range, even after a successful three-shot combination, will only result in Edwards snatching a collar tie and throwing a short elbow on the inside with blindingly fast efficiency. Muhammad’s failure to exit striking range against Vicente Luque led to him suffering a first-round knockout. Edward’s hands don’t carry the same power as Luque, but his accuracy will ensure that Edwards eventually cracks the chin.
A major factor that cannot be answered until Saturday night is whether Belal Muhammad is a competent five-round fighter. There is little reason to believe that Muhammad would be unable to cope with the extra ten minutes, his gas tank never having proved an issue before, yet it will be interesting to see if his relentless front-foot pressure is tempered during the early proceedings. The in-form fighter, Muhammad was able to fight his natural fight against the back-foot, one-punch counter striker Dhiego Lima. Muhammad’s swarming boxing combinations didn’t allow Lima to move off of the cage, and the regular posturing for takedowns kept Lima’s hands low all night. A lack of jab will be an issue against Edwards, who successfully stopped RDA’s advances with solid reactive one-twos. Moreover, Muhammad’s tendency to cross his feet to chase punches leaves his body wide open for a takedown. While neither man has a distance advantage on the mat, if Edwards can accrue a chunk of control time, it could prove the difference on the scorecards.
Predicted Result: Edwards Decision
Edward’s considerable 602-day absence from the Octagon is a factor that should not be brushed aside lightly. The Brummie is irrefutably a top-15 Welterweight, but anybody would struggle with such an extended absence. Worse still, Edwards has always struggled with maintaining output during the championship rounds – despite his regular success in five-rounders. As the in-form man, Muhammad’s pressure boxing and grinding wrestling could force Edward’s to fight at a pace that drains the gas tank. Muhammad’s tendency to overextend on punches, and his jumbled footwork against an opponent moving laterally, often leaves him trapped to an opponent seeking to clinch/shoot. Neither man holds a clear wrestling differential, but Edward’s laser-sharp elbows will find their home regularly against a fighter who often lingers in the pocket. Edward’s is far more composed in all facets of martial arts, however Muhammad’s tenacity and all-out aggression could make this a difficult fight for the judges to score.
Result: 🚫 NO CONTEST (accidental eye poke) 🚫
Light Heavyweight (205)
Misha Cirkunov (15-5) vs Ryan Spann (18-6)
Big Misha Cirkunov almost feels like a meme fighter at this point in his career. The well-school submission specialist has proven his worth in the UFC but has failed comically bad against the top LHW and fellow meme fighter, Johnny Walker. Let’s talk about his losses first. God damn are they bad’uns. Cirkunov was blown away on the feet by Johnny Walker in almost half a minute. Sure, Walker has freak power and athleticism, but he was caught frozen in the centre of the octagon. Against Glover Teixeira and Volkan Oezdemir (elite LHW), Cirkunov was beaten on the feet and on the mat. Whether it is a case of harsh match-making, or an inability to rise to the occasion, Cirkunov has been shoe-horned into a gatekeeper role at Light Heavyweight.
What a terrible title to be tagged with, as Cirkunov possesses bags of talent in a pretty barren division. The Latvian native has displayed crisp boxing and fantastic wrestling against tough fringe LHW’s in Jimmy Crute, Patrick Cummins, Nikita Krylov and Ion Cutelaba. In another universe, with those four fights scheduled back-to-back, it wouldn’t be too far fetched for fans to be calling for Cirkunov’s right to a title shot. Cirkunov’s greatest asset is his size, as he can bully opponents in the clinch before quite literally man-handling them to the mat. Moreover, Cirkunov is able to put his full weight into chokes and is often the key factor behind his killer submissions. Patrick Cummins, a rugged veteran who is very capable of off his back, was left shell shocked as Cirkunov crushed his windpipe and forced him to tap to a disgusting arm-triangle choke in under three minutes.
Ryan Spann has got to be one of the goofiest fighters on the whole roster. Superman Spann hasn’t exactly marketed himself well in the past two fights. A razor-thin decision against Sam Alvey that saw Spann both gas himself out by the third round and almost walk himself into a quick nap via Alvey’s power shots. More recently, Spann caught Walker with a beautiful counter left but failed to finish the Brazilian on the mat as he rushed into the ground and pound without securing position. After immediately shooting for another takedown, Spann held onto Walker’s leg steadfastly and as a result, had the side of his head caved in with brutal elbows.
Predicted Result: Cirkunov Submission Round 2
Spann is a lumbering giant on the feet, but he has tightened up his counter boxing somewhat since his sloppy striking display against Nogueira. There is no doubting that Superman carries a ton of power, and with his freakishly long limbs, it can only serve to benefit his overall game. Spann does struggle with pacing himself well over three rounds though, and has shown a chin quite capable of cracking (i.e. Johnny Walker and Sam Alvey). Cirkunov is an extremely underrated grinder at LHW who is at risk for however long this fight remains standing. Spann hasn’t proven too difficult to engage in the clinch, however, and in the grappling department, Cirkunov’s freak strength will see him eventually take Spann to the mat. Luis Henrique, a deeply average wrestler, was able to secure four messy takedowns against Spann. Cirkunov and his tighter boxing should be able to achieve an early takedown far more effectively.
Result: Spann def. Cirkunov // TKO (punches) Round 1:11
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Dan Ige (14-3) vs Gavin Tucker (13-1)
Dan Ige is a terribly frustrating fighter to follow. Possessing a granite chin, elite gas tank, and exceptional grappling, it is dreadful to watch Ige regularly fight to the tune of his opponent. It isn’t that Ige is unable to control the distance or pace of a fight, but he seemingly fights in the best environment for his opponent. Against Barboza, Ige was touching up the Brazilian on the feet. Rather than keep Barboza locked against the cage though (a tried and tested method of success), Ige instead slipping out the side and allowed his foe to reset his feet. While he attempted to drag Calvin Kattar out of his comfort zone last time out, Ige was unable to secure a single takedown (0/9) and only really attempted to break away from the stand-up after dropping the first three rounds. Still, Ige carries understated power in his hands and his jagged switch-stance entries into the pocket that mask his hooks. Moreover, Ige throws his hooks to both body and head which regularly catch opponents off-guard and force them to reel back on the back-foot. If Ige could cleanly transition between his striking and grappling, rather than shooting blind, he would have more opportunity to showcase his ridiculously strong top game.
Gavin Tucker finally deserves his credit after a fantastic three-fight streak against incrementally tougher opposition. Tucker’s three-round domination of hot prospect, Billy Quarantillo, saw him out-class the New York man on the feet and the mat. Using a teep kick to keep opponents at a distance and read their advances, Tucker’s best work on the feet stems from his counter right hook and straight left. While a simple combo, Tucker carries enough power to sting opponents and snap up a collar tie from which he can launch short knees to the body. Furthermore, from the clinch, Tucker offers another look by hitting clean outside trips and transitioning to the ground where he can threaten with his scary submission arsenal. Look no further than the Justin Jaynes fight to see the power behind the grip of Tucker.
Predicted Result: Ige Decision
This fight has all the potential to a barnburner fight of the night. Both men have proven willing to duel on the feet, despite their best work coming from the mat. Although not the biggest Featherweight, Ige’s iron chin and tenacity earns him great success if he reduces the stand-up to short, snappy trades. While Tucker’s prodding jab was able to stop Justin Jaynes from entering striking range, Ige has never been afraid to eat one to trade a couple. Moreover, Ige’s issues with wrestling may not prove an issue if Tucker is the fighter determined to take the fight to the ground. While the Canadian has regularly been the underdog in recent memory, this represents a sizeable jump in opposition quality.
Result: Ige def. Tucker // KO (punch) Round 1 0:22
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Jonathan Martinez (13-3) vs Davey Grant (10-4)
Jonathan Martinez boosted his profile immeasurable last time out as he out-worked Thomas Almeida over three rounds. Never allowing the flashy Brazilian striker to settle into a comfortable pace, Martinez threw regular front kicks and jabs to keep Almeida stranded on the outside. While Martinez doesn’t always land his shots, it isn’t Michelle Waterson levels of whiffing, and when Martinez lands the sting is apparent. While Martinez’s ground game is still levels below the elite of the division, he can avoid grappling with smart distance management and constantly remaining aware of the takedown.
Davey Grant entered the UFC on the back of his grappling ability, yet his three losses in the organisation have all involved succumbing to submissions. Seemingly having learned from his mistakes, Grant has made great efforts to improve his striking. Against Martin Day, a tricky counter puncher, Grant continually changed his stance to change up his angles of entry. Moreover, while Grant doesn’t throw much outside of a few tried and tested combinations, his balance is exceptional. It is rare to see Grant without his feet perfectly set beneath himself.
Predicted Result: Martinez Decision
Although Grant’s boxing has drastically improved since his UFC debut, he will still struggle to work inside the barrage of front kicks that Martinez fires down the middle. While Grant would have a clear advantage on the mat, his struggle has always been securing the takedown. If the fight is to stay standing, as expected, Martinez’s kicking game offers more than Grant’s crisp but limited combinations.
Result: Grant def. Martinez // KO (punch) Round 2 3:03
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Mattheus Nicolau (15-2-1) vs Manel Kape (15-5)
It is a pleasure to see the return of Mattheus Nicolau to the UFC. Before Dana White’s strange purge of the Flyweight division (classic tomato head), Nicolau was touted as one of the finest prospects at 125. Now reaching his physical prime at twenty-eight years old, Nicolau’s well-rounded skillset should be peaking. Nicolau carries underrated power in his hands, yet the success largely comes from Nicolau’s willingness to fire at all levels and keep an opponent under pressure. On the mat, Nicolau can comfortably lay down brutal ground and pound with the knowledge that he can always out-grapple his opponent if he loses position.
Manel Kape did himself no favours during his UFC debut. Although Alexandre Pantoja is a top Flyweight, and a fighter who is disgustingly underrated, Kape allowed himself to drown in volume as he foolishly searching for a highlight reel stoppage. Sure, its Kape’s thing, but it was strange to see no sense of urgency in the third round when he was being walked down by Pantoja.
Predicted Result: Kape Decision
A wonderful fight that would be significantly more exciting if Nicolau wasn’t a last-minute replacement. Pre-Dana White Flyweight purge, Nicolau was one of the most hotly anticipated prospects in the division because of his rounded skillset. To tap into his groundwork, however, Nicolau looks to soften his opponent on the feet first. Against the freak one-shot power of Kape, it will be an immensely difficult task to stay in striking range.
Result: Nicolau def. Kape // Decision (split – 28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Eryk Anders (13-5) vs Darren Stewart (12-6)
Eryk Anders is pretty much finished as a prospect in the Middleweight division. The thirty-three-year-old has endured a stonkingly poor run since 2018. Once perceived as an exciting brick s**thouse of a man who walked opponents down and broke them, Anders has been exposed as a one-dimensional, plodding grinder since the Lyoto Machida match-up. His size in the clinch results in a decent amount of success, but Anders inability to set a decent pace on the feet often leaves him being countered to the tune of his opponent.
Big Darren Stewart could see himself developing into a strange Michael Bisping role over the coming years if he keeps sharpening his tools. Although thirty-years-old, Stewart has looked fantastic in his previous two. Snapping up a rapid first-round guillotine choke against the explosive striker, Maki Pitolo, and then dropping a VERY dubious split decision to 2020 breakout fighter, Kevin Holland, it is safe to say that Darren Stewart is a problem at 185. While not athletically as gifted as many in the organisation, he is a grinder who has recently perfected the transition between pressure boxing and roughing up opponents against the cage.
Predicted Result: Stewart Decision
Anders is a physical specimen, but that has always been his strongest attribute. While he has attempted to improve his activity on the feet, he is too often at fault for allowing opponents to fire off combinations unanswered. Stewart isn’t going to win a Golden Gloves anytime soon, but the Brit has ironed out many of the technical flaws in his boxing and is competent enough to watch out for Anders’ bursts of offence. Moreover, if the fight is to end up in the clinch (both men’s preferred arena), Stewart’s constant chipping knees and elbows will see him clean out the scorecards.
Result: 🚫 NO CONTEST (illegal knee) 🚫
Women’s Strawweight (115)
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6)
Angela Hill and her fans may whine and shriek, but she is just as fault for her two-fight slide as are the judges. Sure, Hill stuffed SEVENTEEN takedown attempts from Michelle Waterson, yet the Karate Hottie was still able to secure almost a full round of ground control. Furthermore, Waterson still had the energy to out-volume Hill by almost a hundred strikes. There is no denying that Hill has rounded out her skillset massively in the past few years, but she struggles with output – especially in the later rounds.
Ashley Yoder is a sloppy striker who needs to hit the mat to get her best work off. On the ground, Yoder overwhelms opponents with her size and it allows her to posture up to rain down surprisingly effective ground and pound. While Yoder will often search for a submission after creating an opening through punishment from above, she does struggle to secure finishes. Yoder is a tough cookie that won’t stop prying until the end but she will struggle to keep up with Hill on the feet.
Predicted Result: Hill Decision
These two last fought four years ago in the Ultimate Fighter Finale, and there is little reason to believe that the result will be any different this time around. Hill has rounded out her game since her decision victory and developed her skillset far beyond Yoder. Hill proved in her last outing against Waterson that she is a nuisance to drag down to the mat, and if the fight is to stay standing, her phenomenal speed will always beat Yoder to the punch.
Result: Hill def. Yoder // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-6)
I absolutely love and hate Charles Jourdain. The man is brimming with talent and elite athleticism. Jourdain has the potential to successfully pull off the crazy spinning elbows and superman punches, while also possessing the dog to scrap in the phone booth when the going gets tough. Jourdain’s head movement is also a pleasure to watch, slipping back masterfully having already read his opponent’s advances. Jourdain does struggle at times when pressured against the cage, and his refusal to consistently use a jab means he struggles to control his position in the octagon.
Regional fighter, Marcelo Rojo, is an aggressive boxer-wrestler who will bring the dogfight out of Jourdain. While Rojo is susceptible to submissions on the ground, the Argentinian wants to keep the fight standing to land his power shots. Rojo is a real firecracker who will certainly catch Jourdain, but his reckless combinations leave his chin exposed,
Predicted Result: Jourdain TKO Round 3
Rojo epitomised aggression at the regional level, walking down all his opponents with furious boxing combinations and killer ground and pound. Rojo leaves himself wide open after his extended combinations, however, as well as showing a weakness to body shots. Furthermore, Rojo can find himself in horrendous positions on the mat although it is debatable whether the fight will ever get there in the first place. The flashy power striking of Jourdain will eventually crack the chin of the Argentinian, or in this case, his liver.
Result: Jourdain def. Rojo // TKO (punches) Round 3 4:31
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7)
Rani Yahya is a fabulous submission artist, evidenced by his long list of accolades in BJJ, but at thirty-six it is time to be realistic regarding his title credentials. Yahya striking is solely used as a means to close the distance and find a takedown by any means (usually by pulling guard). Usually, if Yahya managed to snap up your back, he was able to work his way to the submission. Last time out against Enrique Barzola, however, Yahya’s lack of natural athleticism was evident. Barzola was often able to simply out-muscle his way off of the mat, and take clean shots to the chin with little effect.
Regional fighter, Ray Rodriguez, enters his second UFC fight on the back of a thirty-nine-second submission loss. Rodriguez is a sharpish striker on the feet, but his preference for kicks often leaves him open for the takedown. Moreover, his best work is on the mat, but he will struggle to deal with Yahya even on top.
Predicted Result: Yahya Submission Round 2
Yahya’s time is slowly running out with the UFC, but he is still a fabulous submission artist who will be more than able to trick Rodriguez to the mat. Rodriguez’s kicking game leaves him wide open for the takedown, and while his experience on the mat may allow him to initially survive, he won’t be able to last long in Yahya’s world.
Result: Yahya def. Rodriguez // Submission (arm-triangle choke) Round 2 3:09
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0)
Although I’ve never been totally sold on Haqparast, he still deserves more respect than he has received since being stunned by Drew Dober in a round. Haqparast was able to shut-out banana peel fighters Marc Diakiese and Joaquim Silva. A strong TDD, Haqparast can keep the fight standing where he is able to methodically pick apart his opponent. Masterfully dancing around striking range, Haqparast baits opponents in by leaning his head forward before snapping it back and firing a powerful counter hook or uppercut.
Yet another regional fighter in Rafa Garcia. At least this time, Garcia represents a legitimate prospect with an undefeated record and a stellar finish rate. Bobbing on the feet, Garcia bull-rushes his way into power shots with the sole aim of taking the fight down. His short stature hurts his chances of securing takedowns, but on the mat, he has shown himself to be a fine grappler.
Predicted Result: Haqparast TKO Round 3
For Garcia’s best chance to win he desperately needs the fight to hit the mat. Unfortunately, Garcia has repeatedly struggled to coax his foes to the ground and has been forced instead to knock them down. The slick counter-punching and distance management of Haqparast will piece apart Garcia, while his solid TDD ensures he doesn’t venture away from the stand-up.
Result: Haqparast def. Garcia // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Cortney Casey (9-8) vs JJ Aldrich (8-4)
Bruh. Watching Cortney Casey fight is a chore, and I refuse to believe that anybody actively enjoys it. Lost when she ends up on her back, Casey instead needs the fight to remain standing. From there, Casey just plants her feet and launches five/six punch combinations. It is a shame then that Casey doesn’t move her feet, head or land many of the shots during those blitzes.
JJ Aldrich is a patient counter puncher but she bags more skill than Casey. It is a shame then that she is at a complete physical disadvantage to almost every Flyweight in the division. Aldrich’s lead hook out of the Southpaw stance usually catches her opponent off-guard, but her lack of power means they are not stopped from advancing upon her.
Predicted Result: Casey Decision
Awful fight to watch. Casey is woeful to watch but her physical advantages and aggression have carried her in a division where you are rarely punished for sloppy striking defence. Aldrich lacks the front-foot pressure or power to stop Casey’s volume, and there has never been a sign that Aldrich has competent wrestling in her locker.
Result: Aldrich def. Casey // Decision (split – 28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Women’s Strawweight (115)
Jihn Yu Frey (9-6) vs Gloria de Paula (5-2)
You know what, the UFC have done achieved the unachievable. They have managed to shoehorn in an even worse fight than the Casey/Aldrich bout. Jinh Yu Frey tore up Invicta on the back of her athleticism and power hooks. Her bullying front-foot style has not transitioned well to the UFC however, and was bullied on the mat by Kay Hansen and against the cage by Loma Lookboonmee.
DWCS prospect, Gloria de Paula, is a clinch fighter that lacks real experience at a decent level. She is also an absolute snoozefest to watch.
Predicted Result: Yu Frey Decision
Whether Yu Frey breaks her two-fight slide or not, I simply do not care. Garbage fight, but Yu Frey’s experience should be enough to trump the limited grappling base of de Paula.
Result: Yu Frey def. de Paula // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Jason Witt (18-6) vs Matthew Semelsberger (7-2)
Jason Witt is a grappling bully. While Witt’s exceptional wrestling against Cole Williams should be taken with a pinch of salt, he has still proven throughout his career that he will successfully grind an opponent unless they can keep him at bay with power.
Semelsberger is a long volume puncher who seemingly creates his combinations on the spot. It actually plays into Semelberger’s strength, however, as his sharp accuracy means he tends to sneak through the guard of his opponent. Semelsberger does struggle in the clinch, however, no matter his strong striking.
Predicted Result: Witt Submission Round 3
Semelsberger is an entertaining striker, but this isn’t his ideal match-up. Witt is a ferocious wrestler and will happily grind out an opponent until the opportunity for a submission arises. Semelsberger’s accuracy on the feet is exceptionally good, but he was bullied in the clinch at the regional level and this will only play into Witt’s hands.
Result: Semelsberger def. Witt // KO (punch) Round 1 0:16
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
UFC Fight Night 187
2021 MMA Season
Takeaway comments: Don’t worry lads, Dana said he would update the gloves back in 2009, we don’t have long left to wait!
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