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Muhammad (19-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) may have sent Maia (28-11 UFC, 22-11 UFC) into retirement after defending nearly all of the Brazilian’s takedown attempts over three rounds.
The welterweight bout was part of the UFC 263 main card at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. It aired on ESPN following early prelims on ESPN+ and ahead of the main card on pay-per-view.
After a few striking exchanges at the beginning of the first round, Maia went to what he knows best and brought the fight to the mat. Muhammad did well to defend Maia from advancing and worked his way back to his feet without any damage.
For the remainder of the round, Maia continued to look for takedowns while Muhammad defended and landed punches when the two were separated.
To start the second round, Muhammad took the center of the cage and began popping out a quick jab to keep Maia at distance. After stopping a couple of takedown attempts, Muhammad’s confidence on the feet grew, and he began to turn up the volume on his striking.
In the final round, Maia attempted a takedown quickly, but once again, Muhammad’s takedown defense shined beautifully. Continuing to work behind his sharp left jab, Muhammad was content to pick off Maia at distance, while mixing in a kick or two. Maia never stopped trying to get the fight to the ground, but it just wasn’t going to happen for him on Saturday.
The judges scored the bout for Muhammad unanimously with scores of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28.
Since losing to Geoff Neal in 2019, Muhammad, 32, has put together a run of five wins with one no contest. After a bad eye poke by Leon Edwards, their main event fight in March was stopped early in the second round as Muhammad could not continue.
Muhammad has been eager to get back in the Octagon with Edwards to prove he can get the job done and solidify a bid for a title shot in the process.
Coming into Saturday’s bout, he believed a win over Maia would set him up for a No. 1 contender fight, which potentially could be a rematch against Edwards, depending on how his fight plays out against Nate Diaz.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 263 results include:
Belal Muhammad def. Demian Maia via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Brad Riddell def. Drew Dober via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Eryk Anders def. Darren Stewart via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Lauren Murphy def. Joanne Calderwood via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Movsar Evloev def. Hakeem Dawodu via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
Pannie Kianzad def. Alexis Davis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Terrance McKinney def. Matt Frevola via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:07
Steven Peterson def. Chase Hooper via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Fares Ziam def. Luigi Vendramini via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28)
Carlos Felipe def. Jake Collier via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)