Belal Muhammad proves his elite skills with a short-term victory over Gilbert Burns
Belal Muhammad is not a flashy or dynamic fighter but he is as good as they come. He proved that in Saturday’s UFC 288 co-main event at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ when he dominated No. 5 Gilbert Burns and won a lopsided unanimous decision.
The judges had it twice 49-46 and 50-45 for Muhammad. Yahoo Sports had it 50-45 for Muhammad.
Muhammad, who has an almost impregnable takedown defense, hit Burns with body kicks. Burns injured his left shoulder on a failed takedown attempt in the first round and then couldn’t throw it far for the rest of the fight. Muhammad frequently attacked the right side of Burns’ body and in the championship rounds, Burns didn’t use the right side much either.
It was a brilliant performance by Muhammad who entered the fight with just 16 days notice. Burns wanted the fight in hopes of building momentum toward a welterweight title shot. In 2023 he was already 2-0 with a win over Neil Magny in January and another on April 7 over Jorge Masvidal in Miami.
Burns called out Muhammad, who accepted the fight despite being in the middle of Ramadan. Muhammad showed it was a wise decision by thoroughly dominating his Brazilian rival.
Muhammad noted that Burns wasn’t using the left flank and that was one less issue to worry about.
“I could see him shaking it out a bit,” Muhammad said afterwards in the Octagon. “He has an excellent left hook.”
When it wasn’t useful, it took away one of his greatest weapons. Getting Muhammad down where he could use his amazing Jiu-Jitsu skills to try and achieve submission was always a challenge for Burns.
After the first-round shoulder injury that saw Burns land hard on it after Muhammad shook off a takedown attempt, he pretty much lost use of his left arm for the rest of the fight.
Muhammad would change stances frequently, but mostly kicked to the body from a southpaw position. He hit Burns in the right arm but also in the body and that took a lot of steam out of Burns.
Burns seemed worn down by his activity and Muhammad tore him apart.
Muhammad wanted to look good enough to win a welterweight title next. He probably didn’t do that, but he clearly proved that he’s one of the elite fighters in the world, and that’s only positive.