Best bets for UFC Fight Night: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad


Leon Edwards has watched the welterweight division evolve without him. Despite not having fought in nearly two years, Edwards is the third-ranked welterweight contender and the highest-ranked fighter who has not yet earned a title shot.

That makes this Saturday's main event critical to determining if Edwards will leap into title contention, or if a loss or lackluster performance will open the door for someone else.

Prelims begin at 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+, and the main card starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

Odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Welterweight main event: No. 3 Leon Edwards (-260) vs. No. 13 Belal Muhammad (+220)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Welterweight Welterweight
Age 29 32
Height 74 71
Reach 74 72
Stance Southpaw Orthodox
Analyzed minutes 183 148
Stand-up striking offense
Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 4:1 0:6
Distance knockdown rate 2.2% 0.0%
Head jab accuracy 27% 31%
Head power accuracy 37% 35%
Total stand-up strike ratio 1.1 1.0
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 71% 73%
Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 99% 96%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.43 0.55
Takedown accuracy 31% 31%
Advances per takedown/top control 1.5 1.0
Opponent takedown attempts 67 12
Takedown defense 70% 83%
Share of total ground time in control 54% 87%
Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.14 0.09
Combined, these two are on a 12-fight win streak in an already crowded division. While they've mostly been favored in their recent matchups, there's no arguing that such a streak is hard to do without being a well-rounded MMA fighter. And on paper, we see both showing strong performance metrics on the feet, as well as on the ground.

Both are accurate strikers and use a similar pace of output. Neither excels at strike avoidance, but Edwards is the one more likely to threaten with knockout power. Although Muhammad delivered an exemplary striking performance just last month, in his long UFC career he has yet to score a single knockdown. He has suffered six in total, in three fights, which were his only three losses.

These two should have plenty of chances to stand toe-to-toe, and the long layoff for Edwards will be a concern if he takes some time to get going at full speed. But he has also faced (and defeated) better strikers than Muhammad, so Edwards should have the edge as long as it's standing. In contrast, Muhammad's recent activity four weeks ago could work against him, as he has not had much time to recover.

The ground metrics are more of a wash. Both men have solid take-down defense but below average take-down success rates. These factors could cancel each other out, though Muhammad is more likely to change levels -- especially if he runs into trouble on the feet.

It's more likely that close rounds early will entice them to continue to strike, where Edwards should get leans on the cards and potentially threaten a finish.

E+ recommends: Money-line lean on Edwards. Over 1.5 rounds for parlays.

Best bets elsewhere on the card

The co-main event pits light heavyweights who are both ranked and trying to gain some traction in a shallow division. It's also a matchup with lots of finishing potential. Misha Cirkunov's (-130) specialty is clearly his grappling. He has finished all six of his UFC wins, five by way of submission. But when he doesn't get the finish, he has been TKO'd three times. That's nine UFC appearances to date, none of which went to the cards.

Pair that with Ryan Spann (+110), who prefers to keep fights standing, where he has excellent knockdown power and accuracy. His take-down defense is mediocre, so if he gets taken down, he'll clearly by vulnerable to Cirkunov's submissions. But Spann could also score a knockout when the fight is still standing or in transition. The numbers lean towards the grappler here, and the near even price makes him playable. But consider additional angles that factor in Spann's knockout potential.

E+ recommends: Money-line play on Cirkunov. Under 2.5 rounds.

Angela Hill (-370) and Ashley Yoder (+290) successfully weighed in for their matchup two weeks ago, only to have the bout postponed on fight day due to COVID-19 protocols involving a corner. The betting odds have held steady with Hill as the heavy favorite. While the lean is with Hill, the price is too high to play. Yoder's best game plan is a grinding on the mats, and she will have the wrestling edge here. Expect Yoder to make it close and force a decision.

E+ recommends: Fight goes the distance for parlays.