UFC on ESPN+ 45: Edwards vs. Muhammad Preview

Belal Muhammad will have the biggest fight of his career on Saturday night, competing in his first UFC main event in a welterweight bout against Leon Edwards. The bout headlines a UFC “Fight Night” card that is happening at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Here is a full preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (5:00PM EST / 2:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Jason Witt (18-6) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (7-2) (Welterweight)

Both returning after earning their first UFC win, Jason Witt and Matthew Semelsberger will compete on the prelims.

Semelsberger made his UFC debut back in August, defeating Carlton Minus on scorecards. The win was his fourth-in-a-row since 2019.

Bouncing back from a UFC debut loss to Takashi Sato, Witt returned in October to submit Cole Williams with an arm triangle choke.

Bout 2: Jinh Yu Frey (9-6) vs. Gloria de Paula (5-2) (Strawweight)

One of the many debuting competitors on the card, Gloria de Paula, will be stepping in the cage against former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion Jinh Yu Frey.

De Paula earned her UFC contract in November, earning a decision victory against Pauline Macias on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” The win was the fifth of her pro career, which dates back to 2017.

Entering her third UFC bout, Frey is still in search of her first win under the promotion. She has been unsuccessful since joining the UFC in June, as she has lost bouts to Kay Hansen and Loma Lookboonmee.

Bout 3: Cortney Casey (9-8) vs. JJ Aldrich (8-4) (Flyweight)

JJ Aldrich will make her return to action on the prelims when fighting Cortney Casey. Aldrich last fought in early 2020, where she lost a split decision to Sabina Mazo. Her current promotional record includes four wins and three losses.

Casey will be looking to bounce back from a submission loss to Gillian Robertson that she took last year. The loss came just one month after she submitted Mara Romero Borella.

Casey was scheduled to fight on a card in October against Priscila Cachoeira, although that fight was cancelled after Cachoeira had weight-cut issues.

Bout 4: Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs. Rafa Garcia (12-0) (Lightweight)

Former Combate Americas Lightweight Champion Rafa Garcia will get his UFC debut on Saturday, taking a short-notice fight against Nasrat Haqparast.

Garcia competed in Combate Americas for the majority of his career up to now. Joining the promotion in 2017, Garcia picked up eight wins in his run. His regional scene run culminated with a title win, defeating former UFC fighter Humberto Bandenay in February of 2020.

Garcia wasn’t originally meant to fight on Saturday. He’s taking the place of Don Madge, who was pulled from a fight after visa issues stopped him from travelling from South Africa to the United States.

Haqparast will be returning after earning a decision victory against Alex Munoz in August.

Bout 5: Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs. Ray Rodriguez (16-7) (Bantamweight)

Bantamweights Rani Yahya and Ray Rodriguez will look to look to return to the win column during their fight on the prelims.

Yahya has been inactive for just under a year, as his last fight dates back to March of 2020. He fought to a majority draw in his last bout, which was against Enrique Barzola. Prior to then, Yahya lost a decision to Ricky Simon. A win on Saturday would be his first victory since 2018.

Rodriguez will be in the hunt for his first UFC win. The experienced bantamweight lost his UFC debut in September in less than a minute, getting submitted by Brian Kelleher.

Rodriguez was originally meant to fight Irwin Rivera on Saturday’s card, although his opponent was changed after Rivera was charged with two counts of attempted murder in January.

Bout 6: Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs. Marcelo Rojo (16-6) (Featherweight)

Charles Jourdain has the chance to spoil the UFC debut of Marcelo Rojo on the prelims. Jourdain is returning to action after a year of close performances that did not go his way. He fought twice in 2020, losing a split decision to Andre Fili and a split draw against Joshua Culibao.

Rojo enters the UFC after an eight-fight run in Combate Americas. He finished his run on a high-note, stopping Victor Hugo Madrigal within a round with strikes in September of 2019.

Rojo was first scheduled to make his UFC debut in February against Raoni Barcelos, although that fight was scrapped after Barcelos tested positive for COVID-19. He now finds himself on Saturday’s card after Steve Garcia fell out of a bout against Jourdain.

Bout 7: Angela Hill (12-9) vs. Ashley Yoder (8-6) (Strawweight)

Strawweights Angela Hill and Ashley Yoder will conclude Saturday’s preliminary card. This bout was first meant to happen in late February, although it was moved to two weeks later after a cornerman for Yoder tested positive for COVID-19.

Hill will look to avoid falling into a three-fight skid for the first time in her pro career. Her last two fights were split decisions, losing a five-round bout to Michelle Waterson and a fight to Claudia Gadelha earlier in 2020.

Yoder, however, will be returning after a win in her last performance. She broke a losing streak in November, defeating Miranda Granger on scorecards.

Main Card (8:00PM EST / 5:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 8: Eryk Anders (13-5) vs. Darren Stewart (12-6) (Middleweight)

Both returning after a recent loss, Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart will compete in the opening bout of the main card.

Stewart fought to a split decision in his last fight, losing in the end to Kevin Holland. Just a month before then, Stewart stopped Maki Pitolo within a round with a guillotine choke.

Anders fought on one of the UFC’s first cards back from their COVID-19 shutdown in May, losing a decision to Krzysztof Jotko. Anders was entering the fight with the momentum of two wins in 2019.

Bout 9: Matheus Nicolau (15-2-1) vs. Manel Kape (15-5) (Flyweight)

Matheus Nicolau will finally get to restart his UFC career on Saturday night, fighting former RIZIN Bantamweight Champion Manel Kape.

Nicolau has had his UFC return delayed throughout this year, as two previous bookings against Tagir Ulanbekov were cancelled. Now with a new fight in place, Nicolau will be starting his second UFC run. His first run in the promotion spanned from 2015 to 2018, resulting in three wins and one loss. He is now back in the promotion after earning two wins on the regional scene.

Kape is taking a quick turnaround after losing his UFC debut in February against Alexandre Pantoja. The scorecard loss saw Kape get out-struck by Pantoja throughout. Prior to his entrance into the UFC, Kape had a run in Japanese MMA promotion RIZIN which culminated with a title victory in 2019.

Bout 10: Jonathan Martinez (13-3) vs. Davey Grant (10-4) (Bantamweight)

Jonathan Martinez and Davey Grant will both have the chance to pick up their third consecutive win on Saturday when paired on the main card.

Martinez has earned two wins in recent months, as he defeated Frankie Sanez and Thomas Almeida in the latter half of 2020. A win for Martinez would give him a three-fight win streak for the first time in his career since 2015 when he fought on the regional scene.

While Grant struggled in the initial years of his UFC run, putting together one in and three losses in his first four, he is currently on a two-fight win streak. He was given a “Performance of the Night” award for his last fight, a third-round stoppage against Martin Day at UFC 251.

Bout 11: Dan Ige (14-3) vs. Gavin Tucker (13-1) (Featherweight)

Returning after taking his first loss in years, Dan Ige will fight Gavin Tucker. Ige had an impressive six-fight win streak stopped in July, as Calvin Kattar earned a unanimous decision win over him after a five-round battle.

Ige now fights Tucker, a fellow featherweight that is taking the place of Ryan Hall, who withdrew from the fight last month.

Tucker will be aiming to bring the momentum he has had over the past couple of years into 2021. He picked up two wins last year, submitting Justin Jaynes and fighting to a decision win against Billy Quarantillo.

Bout 12: Misha Cirkunov (15-5) vs. Ryan Spann (18-6) (Light Heavyweight)

Looking to return to his winning ways after being given his first UFC loss last year, Ryan Spann will compete in the co-main event against Misha Cirkunov.

Spann was finished for the first time in four years last year, as Johnny Walker stopped him within a round with strikes. The win for Walker halted the then-flawless four-fight run that Spann had pieced together since joining the UFC in 2018.

He fights Cirkunov, who is returning after over a year outside of the cage. His last fight dates back to September of 2019, where he submitted Jimmy Crute within a round.

Bout 13: Leon Edwards (18-3) vs. Belal Muhammad (18-3) (Welterweight)

Fighting in the main event for the first time in his UFC career, Belal Muhammad will fight in a welterweight contest against Leon Edwards. Muhammad took the fight on short notice, rising to the occasion after a main event slot was vacated.

Edwards was originally meant to face Khamzat Chimaev. That matchup was being attempted by the UFC since December, although three separate bookings were cancelled due to COVID-19. With the fight cancelled again, Edwards was given Muhammad this time.

Muhammad is returning just one month after his last fight. He picked up a unanimous decision win in his UFC 258 bout, defeating Dhiego Lima to earn his fourth consecutive win.

While Muhammad is returning just after his last fight, Edwards is quite the opposite. Edwards has been sidelined since 2019, as numerous cancelled bookings have kept him out of the cage for quite some time.

Returning for the first time in over a year, Edwards will attempt to build upon his eight-fight win streak which has been developed from 2016 to 2019. His last win was his most notable, as he earned a five-round decision win against Rafael dos Anjos in 2019.

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