Overlooked and overshadowed no more, it’s time for Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad

If good things come to those who wait for them, then the two super featherweights who headline Saturday’s UFC Fight Night have a lot to look forward to.

This weekend, the very overlooked Leon Edwards (18-3) will take on the very overlooked Belal Muhammad (also 18-3) in the main event of UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Edwards and Muhammad have a combined record of 19-5 in the UFC, but both have been trying to get the division’s attention.

Ironically, either or both may eventually erupt and fight with each other.

Edwards is on the verge of winning his first title in years – his eighth fight is the second-longest in the division, behind 13-fight champion Kamar Usman – and UFC president Dana White has hinted that Edwards could contend for the title with one more win.

The main combatants, Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad, are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Edwards, the No. 4 welterweight according to ESPN, will fight for the first time since July 2019 after numerous delays. In exactly one month, Muhammad is coming off a win over Douglas Lima, winning four consecutive fights and eight of his last nine in the UFC.

UFC Fight Night: Edwards v. Muhammad
– Saturday, 13. March, UFC Apex, Las Vegas
main card: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+
preliminary rounds: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Subscribe to ESPN+ for exclusive live UFC events, weigh-ins and more, Ariel and the Bad Guy, Dana White’s Contender Series and more exclusive MMA content.

And for Muhammad, Saturday will be his first main event fight in the UFC, where he has fought exclusively since mid-2016. The lure of this fight and the chance to fight in the main event was so strong for Muhammad that he accepted the fight just five days after defeating Diego Lima at UFC 257 on the 13th. February agreed, the quickest turnaround of his career.

The welterweight division of the UFC is in a unique phase, as the top names have spent a lot of time in position lately. Usman challenges Jorge Masvidal (presumably for name recognition), although he defeated Masvidal convincingly last July. Former interim champion Colby Covington has only fought once in 2020 and is currently not booked.

Edwards was supposed to take on 2020 escapee Hamzat Chimaev in this main event, but Chimaev had to withdraw due to the lingering effects of COVID-19. Edwards responded to the news by offering to fight anyone in the weight class, he said he just had to fight.

It will be interesting to see how things play out at 170 pounds, with different fighters employing different strategies. While the biggest names are obviously selective about who they fight, two welterweights will take on just about anyone on Saturday.

Illustration ESPN

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ESPN Statistics and Information

2.05 : Edwards’ absorbed kicks per minute in the UFC move him into second place among active lifters along with Neil Magny (behind Ramazan Emeev at 1.99). Edwards has not been knocked out in his last four fights.

2 Connected

129 : In his last fight, a victory over Diego Lima on the 13th. February, Muhammad was taking a lot of beatings. It was a highlight of Muhammad’s career in the UFC.

28 : The days will be the night of battle since Mohammed defeated Lima. Muhammad is the eighth fighter in the modern UFC era to fight in the main event in 28 days or less. The previous seven were 2-3 in their return.

602 : Fight night will mark the day Edwards last fought, in a win over Rafael dos Anjos on the 20th. July 2019.

12 : A combined win for both main fighters. Edwards has won eight in a row, Muhammad four.

Sources: ESPN stats and UFC news and stats

Five against five

Leon Edwards latest results
Win : Rafael dos Anjos (UD, July 20, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
win: Gunnar Nelson (SD, March 16, 2019; watching on ESPN+)
win: Donald Cerrone (UD, June 23, 2018)
win: Peter Sobotta (TKO3, March 17, 2018)
win: Brian Barberena (UD, September 2, 2017).

Belal Muhammad’s current results
Victory: Diego Lima (UD, Feb. 13, 2021; watch on ESPN+)
win: Lyman Goode (UD, June 20, 2020; continued on ESPN+)
win: Takashi Sato (Sub3, Sept. 7, 2019; watching on ESPN+)
win: Curtis Millender (UD, April 13, 2019; times on ESPN+) 1-9 loss: Jeff Neal (UD, Jan. 19, 2019; times on ESPN+).

And the winner is…

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What an entertaining fight for these two guys, Xtreme Couture’s trainer Eric Nicksickick told ESPN in Las Vegas. Edwards is the man who holds his own. It’s effective. I feel like he’s always there for you and always pushing you. … Belal Muhammad gets better with every fight he takes part in. That’s a problem. Here you see a man who consistently wins these tough decisions. Can he maintain the same pace over five laps?

Watch Nicksick and other experts break down the main event.

How to follow the battles

Watch the fights on ESPN+. If you don’t have ESPN+, bring it here.

There’s also FightCenter, which provides real-time updates for every UFC card.

Saturday Battle Map

ESPN+, 8pm. ETLeon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad | WelterweightMisha Cirkunov vs Ryan Span | WelterweightDan Ige vs Gavin Tucker | WelterweightJonathan Martinez vs Ryan Span Davey Grant vs men’s welterweightManel Kape vs Matheus Nicolau vs men’s welterweightEric Anders vs Darren Stewart Middleweight ESPN+, 5:00 pm. ETA Angela Hill vs Ashley Yoder | StrawweightCharles Jourdain vs Marcelo Rojo | Men’s FeatherweightRoni Yahya vs Ray Rodriguez | Men’s FeatherweightNasrat Hakparast vs Nasrat Hakparast at Welterweight. Rafa Garcia | LightweightCourtney Casey v JJ Aldrich | WelterweightGloria de Paula v Jin Yu Frey | WelterweightMatthew Semelsberger v Jason Witt | Welterweight

Three more things to know (from ESPN stats and information)

Monday through Friday, host Pablo Torre brings you ESPN’s most interesting stories from the world’s top reporters and insiders. Listening

1. Misha Sirkunov, fighting Ryan Spann, apparently (and wisely) does not trust MMA referees. Since Cirkunov joined the UFC in 2015, each of his nine fights have ended in stoppage, with the Latvian-born Canadian holding a 6-3 record at light heavyweight. Only five modern fighters started their UFC careers with 10 consecutive fights that ended in a stoppage (Luke Rockhold, Nikita Krylov, Gabriel Gonzaga, Andrei Arlovski and DaMarques Johnson).

2. Angela Hill enters her 17th UFC fight when she takes on Ashley Yoder at bantamweight. The only fighter with more appearances than Hill is Jessica Andrade (18).

3. Dan Ige returns to the Octagon for the first time since Calvin Kattar ended his five-match winning streak in July. The 29-year-old Hawaiian will take on Canadian Gavin Tucker. Since his UFC debut in 2018, Ige has six wins, tied with Alexander Volkanovski for the most wins.

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed this preview of the fight.

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