Fifth-ranked welterweight Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad (21-3-1 professionally; 12-3-1 in the UFC) faces the Philly-King, Sean Brady (15-0 professionally; 5-0 in the UFC), currently ranked #8 in the welterweight division.
Both Belal and Brady have championship aspirations, with the same game plan of reaching the pinnacle of MMA – through grappling. Given the hyper-similarities in fight style coupled with having a combined 13-0 record since the last registered loss rationalizes this bout being incredibly high-level and one of the best-featured prelim bouts you will ever see!
Muhammad vs. Brady will feature on the UFC 280 preliminary card on Saturday. Fight fans in the United States can watch this fight live on ESPN+ before tuning into the ESPN+ PPV later in the afternoon to watch Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev, Aljamain Sterling vs. TJ Dillashaw, Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley, and more.
Sean Brady is a slight -150 favorite over Belal Muhammad, who comes back at a +120 dog.
Belal Muhammad is one of, if not, the most cerebral fighters currently on the UFC roster. Combine his intelligence with very difficult skills to beat, and Muhammad is one of the most challenging puzzles for any welterweight to solve.
The scary piece of the Muhammad puzzle is his newfound addition to his fight preparation, as he is now training with the arguable GOAT, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who will be in his corner come UFC 280 fight night. Khabib is a perfect addition for Muhammad as he looks to fight near the exact same style Khabib employed during his UFC dominance, with wrestling and weaponization of cardio being at the forefront of style. For Muhammad, weaponizing cardio is a trait he perhaps perfected, as he can put on a grappling pace and pressure that drags his opponents into deep waters seemingly fight over fight. Where Khabib can elevate Muhammad from a legitimate top 10 ranked fighter to a belt holder is his success with wrestling, particularly with inflicting damage once a takedown is secured. In the past, Muhammad has done a tremendous job shooting takedowns from a variety of angles and has gotten elite takedown defenders to the mat, but, has struggled to do much, if anything, on the canvas. Knowing he has the skills to get the fight to the mat, Khabib as his teacher, and the intelligence to learn, nets the conclusion that the ground and pound aspect of Belal’s game should be quickly improved and will need to be done if he seeks to beat the best of the best in the division.
Training with Khabib extends beyond grappling evolution alone, as Belal will likely employ a similar tactic on the feet as Khabib did throughout his UFC reign. I expect improvement given the style of striking was quite similar to Khabib prior to his new training, as Belal looks to fight behind a jab and close distance early in the fight, knowing the easiest path to victory is through grappling. If Belal is able to learn a few ancillary additives to fighting bending the jab, his ability to successfully wrestle should only be exacerbated against sound to subpar grappling opponents.
Being a sound grappler in the octagon would be a complete insult to Sean Brady, as he is one of the most talented grapplers in the UFC. To justify this statement, I will reference his most recent fight and competition outside the UFC. For the former, Sean Brady confidently grappled with the elite submission artist of Michael Chiesa in his last fight, and while confidence alone is adorable, the impressive conclusion from that bout is that Brady looked to be leaps and bounds ahead of the talented welterweight grappler of Chiesa on the mat. For the latter, Sean Brady, who routinely competes in grappling-only bouts to keep his mind and body sharp, beat one of the most talented BJJ practitioners, Craig Jones – An IBJJF world No-Gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion as a purple belt, Jones is a two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship silver medallist and a three-time Polaris Pro Grappling champion. This ability, to win grappling-only bouts versus grappling-only competitors, truly showcases the elite skills Sean Brady has in the grappling department.
Somewhat similar to Belal, Brady does look to frequently wrestle in the octagon which showcases a keen sense of awareness for identifying the easiest path to victory; but also like Belal, Brady understands the need for striking prior to wrestling. This need for striking has two main benefits: one, the more the opponent has to worry about defending strikes, the less they can focus on defending a takedown, thus making for an easier time shooting in on a shot; two, when fighting the elite of elite contenders, inflicting damage on the feet will aid in creating defense flaws once on the mat, thus leading to a greater chance of finishing the fight once there. For Brady, while the striking duration is similar to Belal, he differs in striking strategy given he throws with far more power – overhand rights – compared to fighting cautiously behind a jab. The reasoning for this deviance is that Brady is far more comfortable throwing strikes that create the potential for his opponent to land a takedown given he is incredibly confident wherever he is on the mat. So, Brady can throw strikes on the feet with little to no fear, making him an under-the-radar danger there, because he does have serious power which has not fully bloomed thus far in his UFC career.
This fight is incredibly interesting in a multitude of facets. On the feet, neither man is highly touted, but each has a game plan which sets up their elite grappling. The difference is Belal looks to use a jab and pressure to put on an unrelenting pace to set up a takedown while Brady throws haymaking blows, fully trusting he can secure a dominating grappling position no matter where he starts on the mat. Knowing the style of each means this fight comes down to the grappling, in particular, whether can Belal maintain the top position against Brady. Because I trust Brady’s grappling allows him to find success wherever the bout takes place on the mat, my answer to that question is no, thus am picking Brady in the fight.
Ultimately, I personally see little paths to victory for Belal – the weaponization of cardio is not an anticipatory weapon in this three-round affair – but, knowing Belal is incredibly intelligent and Khabib is the GOAT with MMA grappling, I cannot discount the fact they may see something I do not. Regardless, based on what has been shown in their fight careers and fight arsenals, I am confidently backing Brady in this matchup.
Bet: Sean Brady to win (-150 odds to win MyBookie)