The Budokan Team was getting concerned that a new opponent was not chosen after George Sullivan was unceremoniously removed from the card because of his second PED violation. It was less than two weeks before the fight when there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
UFC was able to tap Belal Muhammad to fill in for Sullivan. Muhammad has a 10-2 record before accepting a role as a last minute replacement. He lost his first fight to Alan Jouban in July 2016, knocked out Augusto Montano in September 2016 , but then he himself was knocked out by Vincent Luque in November. The Jouban fight had its competitive moments and gave UFC the idea that Muhammad could be a real contender.
However, UFC tends to operate in 3s, namely they give you three opportunities to prove yourself before they decided whether to “keep you or cut you”. That makes this a terribly important fight for Muhammed. That being said with two losses and one win he is probably on the precipice of being cut by the organization.
Randy Brown after a slip up against Michael Graves has two wins against Erick Montano and Brian Camozzi. This is an important fight for Mr. Brown because he is attempting to solidify his position in the division, and he is no longer on the early preliminary card but on the main card. But although the short notice is usually seen as a detriment to the incoming fighter, the short notice is often very bad for the card fighter as he was preparing for a completely different opponent. Changing tactics with a week and a half to go is dicey at best. When I asked this question to Professor Ty, Randy’s strike coach he said, “We are not worried because one thing is consistent… we always come up with a solid game plan”. Although Randy is not a veteran, his team consists of veteran trainers and fighters who have worked with the likes of Dave Branch, Matt Brown, Rodrigo Gracie, Jamel Patterson to name a few. Professor Ty says, “Randy is improving dramatically and we have had a tight camp”.
Trains Corner sees Muhammad’s strengths as range control, ability to fire punches and kicks from either side. However, he is neither a high-level wrestler or grappler so he must win with strikes.
He has demonstrated questionable defense particularly when the opponent is striking in combination. Although he is not a veteran of wrestling or jujitsu there are some things he does well so one should not to take him completely for granted in these areas.
Here we think Randy does have the ability to upend Muhammad’s based upon Muhammad’s defensive liabilities. Belal drops his hand and does not bring his hands back when punching leaving himself open to counters. But he is tough enough to stay in the fight if you can’t finish him once he is in trouble. His money punch is his slinging right hook that can turn into a right over hand set up by a jab. Since Muhammad’s former opponent Jouban has had recent success, beating Muhammad will give Randy confidence and perhaps his UFC standing a well recognized boost. Tune in Saturday Night!