Muhammad was knocked out in the first round by Vicente Luque when the pair met in 2016, and this rematch promises a lot more than a first-round showdown. In their first meeting, a left hook landed on Muhammad’s jaw, sending him out in the cold.
Belal Muhammad is off the back of an impressive run as of late, winning four of his last five fights, with the fifth considered a no contest when he squared up against Leon Edwards and could not continue after a nasty eye poke. Though Belal is not known to be a finisher, he has grown to be a powerful wrestler who also possesses the boxing skills required to keep his opponent’s points within his reach.
Luque has, however, acknowledged Belal’s improvement since their last bout and promised to take the bulls by the born when both fighters meet.
"Yeah, I mean Belal has definitely improved a lot," Luque said while speaking to Combate. “He has a great winning streak right now. He has developed his game a lot. I mean, it impressed me how he controlled [Stephen] Thompson in his last fight. So, that’s one of the fights that I’ve really been watching to kind of get – His timing, his movement, it has changed since we fought. And I think this is a new fight. I don’t take much of our first fight. I think that was a quick knockout, so there isn’t much I can take from it."
Both fighters have different styles, and Luque is mainly known for his excellent finishing technique. Of his 21 wins in the promotion, ‘The Silent Assassin’ has recorded 19 finishes either coming by knockout or submission, making him one of the most renowned finishers in the Octagon.
“I Can Neutralize His Game"
The 30-year-old is well aware of Muhammad"s grappling technique and has revealed his tactics to keep him at bay. He has a record of eight submission wins and would be heavily banking on his submission nous to settle the scores if both fighters get to the ground.
"Of course I’d prefer it if we stayed on the feet, but I think the chances of that are slim, I knocked him out in our first fight, so he knows how dangerous I am on the feet. I think he’ll opt for the wrestling game, which he’s very good at. He dominated Thompson, won every round very decisively. I think he’ll try to turn out fight into a wrestling match. He’ll try to smother me against the fence or take me down and not let let my hands go."
"I’ve been practicing a lot of wrestling," said Luque. “I’ve had my whole career, so I can neutralize his game. I will neutralize it, I’ll try to impose my striking and get the KO. I’m very dangerous on the ground, too, like I’ve shown in my last fights. I have submission skills. My style is always about attacking and finishing the fight. I think he’ll try to avoid that, make the fight a little more boring and win by decision."
“It"s Not Going the Distance"
Despite Belal’s resurgence since their last bout and his impressive record against some heavy welterweight names, Luque still believes it would be no different from their previous matchup as he"s confident he"ll get the job done before the final seconds.
"I can promise you a lot of action and a very aggressive fight. I don’t know how it’s going to be, but I don’t think it goes the distance. I believe I’ll get a knockout or a submission. We have five rounds. I’m an aggressive guy, I look for openings. When you add all that, it’s not going the distance."
Both fighters are on an impressive run, and it"ll be interesting to see who comes out victorious when they meet on the 16th of April.
Featured image credit to UFC