UFC 304: At Long Last, Belal Muhammad Gets His Shot at a Championship

May 20, 2024
1 month

If mixed martial arts is truly about honor, there should have been little doubt Belal Muhammad would have an opportunity to fight for the welterweight championship sooner than UFC 304. But who gets championship opportunities isn’t always determined just by winning streaks or rankings. Sometimes, fighters who generate more interest may skip to the top of the line.

But the best MMA news sites show that Muhammad’s opportunity to fight Leon Edwards in Manchester was delayed by his fighting style. The UFC is a promotion that urges fighters to push to finish the fight.

Muhammad usually doesn’t. Nineteen of his 27 professional fights have gone the distance. Muhammad typically leans on his mix of grappling and striking to outpoint his foes. Earning an opportunity against Edwards feels appropriate for Muhammd.

The two men fought in March 2021, but the fight ended in the second round due to an eye poke that prevented Muhammad from competing. Edwards, who is 22-3, is still looking to define his championship era. His last win was a decisive title defense against Colby Covington at UFC 296, but many people believed Covington didn’t deserve the opportunity.

Edwards and Muhammad both have something to prove. That is the ingredient you need for a strong main event. The UFC announced all of the fights on the main card. Here’s a look at what is scheduled to go down.

Aspinall Gets Call for the Co-Main Event

Tom Aspinall will be happy to make his first interim title heavyweight defense in his home country. But MMAfighting latest news shows Aspinall would rather be battling Jon Jones to unify the belt. But Jones has committed to fighting former champion Stipe Miocic.

The heavyweight division is being held up by the mercurial Jones. Instead, Aspinall will get an opportunity to get a second look at Curtis Blaydes. Blaydes, an American wrestler, has long been in the top 10 of the rankings and in title contention at heavyweight. Blaydes handed Aspinall his last loss back in July 2022.

Aspinall suffered a first-round knee injury 15 seconds into the fight that gave Blaydes the victory. Blaydes followed that fight with a knockout loss to Sergei Pavlovich, who Aspinall beat in the first round to win the interim championship.

Paddy the Baddy Set for Return

Paddy Pimblett is one of the fan favorites for the UFC’s cards in England. But for the first time since he entered the promotion, Pimblett won’t be favored to beat veteran Bobby Green in a lightweight fight. Even at age 37, Green fights with such frequency and with such pressure that many younger opponents have a hard time handling the onslaught.

Green, who has won three of his past four fights, was one of the star attractions on the undercard of UFC 300. He battered fellow veteran Jim Miller. While Green couldn’t secure a finish, he gave Miller a ferocious battering.

Green has fought 49 times professionally and has been a staple in the UFC for a long time. Pimblett has battled issues with his weight. MMA latest updates show that Pimblett also became a father recently, as his wife gave birth to twin girls.

When Pimblett came into the UFC, it was a lightning bolt. He finished his first four opponents and looked like the promotion’s next star. But Pimblett is coming off back-to-back unimpressive wins over Tony Ferguson and Jared Gordon. 

Pimblett has said that he wanted to fight Green because he is the easiest fighter available with a ranking by his name. He doesn’t believe Green will be able to handle his grappling. As long as Pimblett can handle Green’s hands, it should make for a fun fight.

Pimblett has opened as the biggest betting underdog on the main card.

Ranked Featherweights Want to Separate Themselves

Giga Chikadze suffered his first career loss when he stepped into competition and fought Calvin Kattar. While Chikadze rebounded with a win against Alex Caceres, Chikadze still has a lot to prove against the division’s best. The question for Chikadze is whether he is catching Arnold Allen at the right time.

Allen is coming off back to back losses for the first time in his career. MMA news sites show that Allen ran into the brick wall that many contenders fall in traps with. Allen was asked to fight former champion Max Holloway in April 2023, but he ended up losing a unanimous decision.

When Allen attempted to bounce back against Movsar Evloev, Allen was once again outclassed at UFC 297. Now, Allen is looking to put himself back on the map in a wide-open featherweight division following Ilia Topuria’s win over Alexander Volkanovski.

Mokaev Demands Respect

Muhammad Mokaev was upset when he was leapfrogged by Steve Erceg for a shot at Alexandre Pantoja’s UFC flyweight belt. The British fighter is 12-0 but doesn’t feel like he is getting enough respect from the organization.

Mokaev did struggle in his last fight against former title challenger Alex Perez. Perez made Mokaev work, and he nearly allowed Perez to rally to steal the fight.

Mokaev will be getting an opponent who people thought could be a title challenger. However, Manel Kape missed weight for a scheduled fight with Matheus Nicolau in January. When the fight was rescheduled in April, Kape withdrew from that fight.

Kape is much more reliant on his striking than Mokaev. Kape has finished 11 of his 19 career victories by knockout. While Kape has five submission wins as well, he is vulnerable against top-level grapplers. Kape has been submitted twice.

For both men, this is a big opportunity. If Mokaev wins and stays undefeated, he will have a legitimate claim to the next shot. Kape winning impressively could have the same impact. However, Kape’s path is more complicated due to his recent issues with weight.

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By Dean McHugh.