After the third cancellation of Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev, we will now have Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad. Belal Muhammad will step in as the replacement on short notice to face Leon Edwards. Muhammad (18-3), of Palestine, fought to a victory very recently on February 14 and will now face the top 3 ranked welterweight the Leon Edwards (18-3) on March 13th on UFC Fight Night: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad.
Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev and COVID
Edwards vs. Chimaev, originally booked for Dec 19, 2020, then was canceled due to COVID, booked again for Jan 2021 then was canceled due to COVID, booked again for March 2021 but then was canceled due to COVID. But why did the UFC keep re-booking this match-up? There isn’t bad blood like Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz, we’re not begging to see the style match-up like Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. TonyFerguson, this match is not two all-time greats like Georges St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. This match continues to get placement and fervor from the UFC even though it did not make much sense in the first place.
Leon Edwards (18-3), the Englishman, was on the cusp of getting shot but due to COVID was shelved for most of 2020. Lock-down in the UK meant he was unable to travel or leave the country. The UFC forced Edwards into this bout initially. Edwards protested saying fighting someone un-ranked was not worth his time (Chimaev at the time was not ranked in the top 15), as he had likely already earned himself a title shot. He had just defeated former champion Rafael dos Anjos and was promised a championship fight. The UFC answered this by removing Edwards from the ranking, and not offering him another name. Once Edwards had agreed to the bout, against Chimaev, the UFC reinstated his rank.
Russian-born Swedish citizen, Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) entered the UFC and fought an aggressive three fights in three months on Fight Island during 2020. In those bouts, he absorbed 1 significant strike and landed 87. Chimaev’s three UFC opponents have a combined UFC record of 7 wins and 13 losses, a win rate of 53%. Of his three wins none of those opponents were ranked in the top 15, and UFC sought to book him versus a title contender.
Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad
Belal Muhammad has been fighting in the UFC since 2016, has a UFC record of 9-3, and his opponents have a combined UFC record of 64-42, a win rate of 66%. Currently, Muhammad is on a four-fight win streak. In his last bout, against Dhiego Lima, he out-struck his opponent 129 strikes to 69; this fight was only one month ago.
Leon Edwards, born in Jamaica later moved to England, is looking for revenge against the current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Edwards has an un-avenged loss to Usman from 2015. With a win in Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad Edwards would certainly be next in line for a title shot at welterweight. This win would put Edwards at 9 consecutive wins. Leon Edwards was given a title shot off of his last victory in July of 2019, it would even headline in London, UK but COVID and lock-down put a stop to those dreams. Leon Edwards is gunning for a title shot with this victory.
In Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad, we see a long layoff versus a short rest, 20 months shelved for Edwards and only one month for Muhammad. Muhammad is looking to make a name for himself a having a win over a top 3 opponent would certainly move him to the top 5 in rank. Leon Edwards is hungry for a title shot that he feels he’s already earned.
But it’s still questionable as to why the UFC kept trying to book Edwards vs. Chimaev with such desperation. Moving a young up and comer against a long-time veteran is a risky move. A loss for Chimaev may stop his growth and momentum in the sport, and an Edwards’ victory does nothing by winning against an unranked opponent. It’s a tough sell for the UFC to market an un-ranked fighter versus a top contender. Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad is a much better fight to book. A top contender will be fighting a ranked opponent who has ample experience in the UFC. And Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards feels he was wronged by the UFC, he’s hungry to prove himself and is seeking revenge against Usman. Edwards picked the right fight to come back to.