UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs. Muhammad Preview

UFC Vegas 21 takes place this Saturday night in the UFC APEX. The event will be broadcast on BT Sports and streamed on ESPN+.

Leon Edwards will make his long awaited return to the octagon when he takes on Belal Muhammad in the main event. The Birmingham man was originally marked down to fight Tyron Woodley in his home nation in early 2020.

The world suddenly came to a halt due to the pandemic, and the Woodley fight got cancelled. Almost a year on, and three more cancelled fights, Edwards will be thrilled to have the feel of the canvas on his feet when he steps in to take on Muhammad.

Belal Muhammad responded fantastically to his unanimous decision defeat to Geoff Neal in 2019. The Roufusport standout went on a four fight win streak. He submitted Takashi Sato and picked up decision victories over Curtis Millender, Lyman Good and Dhiego Lima. Muhammad got that win over Lima only 28 days ago.

Edwards looks to be in phenomenal shape coming into this fight. His overall skillbase is better that Muhammad’s in my opinion. Belel is always game, and I love watching him fight, but I think this turnaround is a little too quick for him.

Edwards is a high level fighter, he possesses some great striking and his clinchwork is devastating at times. “Rocky” isn’t afraid to test out his grappling skills either. He has shared the cage with “Cowboy” Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and suffered a decision loss to the current champion Kamaru Usman in his early UFC days.

Leon finds himself in a main event slot and has the chance to make a real statement here. He needs finishes on his resume. If he approaches this fight with a finishing mentality, this will be a fantastic fight. Muhammad has everything to gain, and practically nothing to lose in this fight. There is no expectations on Belal, a win would see him move into the upper echelon of the welterweight ranks.

Two submission specialists will square off in the co-main event, Misha Cirkunov takes on Ryan Spann in the light heavyweight division. Both fighters will step in to the octagon with 20 submission victories between them. So we can expect this fight to play out mainly on the feet, as history goes when two grapplers collide inside the cage.

I would love to see how the fight plays out on the mat, and I do hope we get to see some grappling exchanges in this fight. Spann doesn’t like to hang about on his feet all too much, it will be interesting to see how he fairs if this becomes a striking standoff. Cirkunov, I believe, is the more well rounded fighter and packs a heavier punch than Spann. He has good kicks from the outside and that may play to his advantage on Saturday night.

Dan Ige returns to take on Canadian featherweight prospect Gavin Tucker. Ige, who lost to Calvin Katter in his last fight, has notable victories over Mirsad Bektić and Edson Barboza. He will go toe-to-toe with Tucker, who is currently on a three fight win streak. The Nova Scotia man picked up a win over Billy Quarantillo in his last outing. This contest has the potential to be fight of the night.

A rescheduled bout in the women’s 115 pound division will take place when Angela Hill squares off against Ashley Yoder. Former RIZIN champion Manel Kape looks for his first win under the UFC banner. He steps in to take on UFC debutant Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division.

Darren Stewart looks to bounce back into the win column in the middleweight division. The Londoner was beaten by Kevin Holland in his last fight. Stewart looks to change his fortunes when he goes up against Eryk Anders. Anders himself is coming off a loss. He was beaten by Krzysztof Jotko in his only fight in 2020, and he will be coming into this fight eager to get his hands raised.

Cortney Casey and JJ Aldrich will come to blows in the women’s flyweight division. Rani Yahya will step in to take on Ray Rodriguez in the 135-pound division. Quebec’s own Charles Jourdain, who went 0-1 in 2020 having lost to Andre Fili, will face off against Marcelo Rojo at 145 pounds. Rojo will make his UFC debut having signed from Campbell McLaren’s Combate Americas.

Jonathan Martinez will be looking to build on his win over Thomas Almeida last October. The Texan will face off against Davey Grant who fights out of the UK. Grant pulled off a stunning left hook knockout in his last fight against Martin Day.

Jinh Yu Frey will tussle with Gloria de Paula in the women’s straweightweight division. Yu Frey is still searching for her first win inside the octagon, she has started her UFC tenure with two losses. Gloria de Paula competed on DWCS last November, she will make her UFC debut on Saturday night. Matthew Semelsberger will take on Jason Witt in the middleweight division. That fight rounds off a decent card overall in Las Vegas.

Main Card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Welterweight Leon Edwards (18-3) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3)
Light Heavyweight Misha Cirkunov (15-5) vs. Ryan Spann (18-6)
Featherweight Dan Ige (14-3) vs. Gavin Tucker (13-1)
Women’s Strawweight Angela Hill (12-9) vs. Ashley Yoder (8-6)
Flyweight Matheus Nicolau (15-2-1) vs. Manel Kape (15-5)
Middleweight Eryk Anders (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6)

Preliminary card (BT Sports / ESPN+)

Women’s Flyweight Cortney Casey (9-8) vs. JJ Aldrich (8-4)
Bantamweight Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs. Ray Rodriguez (16-7)
Featherweight Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs. Marcelo Rojo (16-6)
Bantamweight Jonathan Martinez (13-3) vs. Davey Grant (10-4)
Women’s Strawweight Jinh Yu Frey (9-6) vs. Gloria de Paula (5-2)
Welterweight Matthew Semelsberger (7-2) vs. Jason Witt (18-6)

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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