Leon Edwards currently reigns as the UFC welterweight champion but he’ll have plenty of challenges awaiting him in 2023.
All signs are currently pointing towards Edwards clashing with Kamaru Usman for a third time after he pulled off a miraculous comeback in their rematch to stun “The Nigerian Nightmare” with a fifth-round head kick knockout in their last meeting at UFC 278. As impressive as Edwards was in victory that night, fellow UFC welterweight Matt Brown still sees Usman likely getting the upper hand in a rematch to reclaim the title.
That said, Brown believes there’s an even bigger threat looming on the horizon at 170 pounds just waiting for the chance to face Usman, Edwards or anybody else sitting near the top of the division.
“If you want to talk about biggest threat to [Kamaru] Usman, I’m going with Belal Muhammad,” Brown said on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I think Belal Muhammad is probably the biggest threat to all of these guys. I think Usman beats Leon and the champ at the end of the year is either Belal or Usman.”
He’s been calling for matchups that would potentially earn him a title shot including numerous call outs to face Khamzat Chimaev, who many expect to become a UFC champion sooner rather than later.
As dangerous as Chimaev has been through his first six fights in the UFC, Brown sees Muhammad as the stylistic matchup that could give the Chechen wrestler his toughest possible matchup at 170 pounds, especially after watching his three round war with Gilbert Burns.
“Belal and Gilbert [Burns] are very similar body types, the way they throw punches and stuff but Belal keeps a much higher pace and stays a little bit more disciplined in his approach,” Brown said. “I think Belal beats Khamzat and I’m 50-50 on him beating Usman.
“That’s a really, really close fight that I think goes to a decision and is probably a really tough call for the judges.”
If Usman becomes champion again, Brown hopes that Muhammad will get a title shot because that might be his favorite fantasy matchup in the welterweight division.
Prior to his setback against Edwards this past August, Usman was already widely considered one of the greatest welterweights of all time but Brown says Muhammad would present a different kind of test than anybody he’s faced previously at 170 pounds.
“I think Belal is the biggest threat to Usman,” Brown said. “I don’t think anyone is going to disagree that Usman is probably going to beat Leon, barring another fifth round knockout kind of homerun hit. Something like that.
“We knew it before the first fight, stylistically Usman is a bad matchup for Leon. But Leon really proved a lot of us wrong taking Usman down in the first round. But those second, third, fourth and most of the fifth round, I think we saw what will probably end up seeing most of the next time they fight.”
Whether it’s Usman, Edwards, Chimaev or anybody else, Brown is very high on Muhammad’s potential to give anybody problems at welterweight.
It’s just a matter of Muhammad getting those opportunities and the chance to face the best of the best in the division to prove Brown right.
“Any fight is a winnable fight for Belal,” Brown said. “Him fighting Usman is what I would love to see. I’m 50-50 on that fight. I’m not totally convinced Usman beats Belal Muhammad. That’s a tough fight for him. Just again, it’s that pace. Belal keeps such a pace, has a great chin, keeps coming forward, keeps throwing punches, hits hard.
“He’s not like Colby [Covington] where he’s keeping a high pace but it’s kind of soft punches, kind of meaningless stuff that you can disregard and not really worry about. Colby will do so many different shots until he finally gets it whereas Belal, he’s a high pace work horse. He’s a truck. He’s coming hard the whole time. I think he poses a lot of threat for every single person in this division and I want to see him fight Usman.”