LAS VEGAS – In a rematch six years in the making, Belal Muhammad (21-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) was able to extract some revenge against Vicente Luque (21-8-1 MMA, 14-4 UFC) the second time around while also keeping his name relevant in the UFC's welterweight title picture.
Muhammad largely nullified Luque's aggression over the course of 25 minutes, taking home a clearcut decision win in the headlining bout of Saturday's UFC on ESPN 34 event at the UFC Apex.
As expected, Luque looked to press the pace early, but Muhammad moved well to avoid the charges and picked his opportunities to counter on the feet. In the latter stages of the opening frame, he was also able to drive forward and take the action to the floor, setting up a strategy he would use throughout the contest.
Muhammad's lateral movement, well-timed counters and slick takedowns saw him control the flow of the fight for all but a short stretch in the third frame, when Luque was able to land a few crisp left hooks on the feet that clearly took their toll. But Muhammad was ultimately able to recover and then again seize the momentum, controlling until the final bell and taking home the unanimous decision, 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.
Muhammad said the complete nature of his performance proved his well-rounded skills.
"I think it just showed that I can do it all," Muhammad said after the fight. "I can wrestle with the best. I can strike with the best. I can grapple with the best."
Entering the contest at No. 6 in the UFC's official welterweight rankings and will certainly see him slide up a bit after taking out No. 5 Luque. After the win, he called out No. 1 Colby Covington, suggesting the former interim champion has been cherry picking past opponents such as Jorge Masvidal and Tyron Woodley, and is currently angling for a fight with longtime lightweight contender Dustin Poirier.
"I'm gong to stop calling for the champ because nobody wants to give me that shot, so let me get the big-mouth Karen, Colby Covington, who's out here calling out '55ers," Muhammad said. "Come fight a real '70-pounder, you coward. I'm a real '70-pounder.
"I'm winning fights. I'm not Masvidal off of two losses. I'm not Woodley off five loses. I'm 'Bully B' off of seven wins. Come and fight a real challenge, coward."
Complete UFC on ESPN 34 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)
- Belal Muhammad def. Vicente Luque via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)
- Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev via technical decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27) – Round 3, 3:56
- Andre Fialho def. Miguel Baeza via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:39
- Mayra Bueno Silva def. Wu Yanan via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Pat Sabatini def. TJ Laramie via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
- Mounir Lazzez def. Ange Loosa via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN+)
- Devin Clark def. William Knight via knockout (punches) – Round 3, 3:21
- Pannie Kianzad def. Lina Lansberg via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Drakkar Klose def. Brandon Jenkins via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 0:33
- Rafa Garcia def. Jesse Ronson via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:50
- Chris Barnett def. Martin Buday via techical unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – Round 3, 1:38
- Jordan Leavitt def. Trey Ogden via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Sam Hughes def. Istela Nunes via majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28)
- Heili Alateng def. Kevin Croom vai TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:47