Belal Muhammad vs Gilbert Burns Prediction: UFC 288 Co-Main Event Is A Coin Flip



Belal Muhammad vs Gilbert Burns Prediction: UFC 288 Co-Main Event Is A Coin Flip

The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey rolls out the pay-per-view red carpet this Saturday night to welcome a stacked UFC 288 card. To set the stage for the main Bantamweight title fight between Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo, top-ranked Welterweights throw down to determine who is at the head of the queue for a shot at Leon Edwards for the world title in a fight made with only 12 days notice.

Gibert Burns and Belal Muhammad have been vocally calling for their shots at gold for a long time, and both fighters taking this fight on short notice is a risk that is likely to be rewarded by Dana White. Although the UFC president has, rather controversially, decided that Colby Covington is next in line for the shot at the Welterweight title, the winner of UFC 288’s co-main event will surely find themselves right behind ‘Chaos' Covington in the pecking order.

So, without further ado, lets dive into this intriguing fight and break it down before offering our Muhammad vs Burns prediction.

Belal Muhammad Preview: The Most Disrespected Fighter At 170 Pounds

If the casual fan to look at Belal Muhammad’s record, they’d probably expect the 34-year-old to have had at least one title shot by now. However, this has not been the case. Muhammad is currently on a nine-fight unbeaten streak, with a no contest against Leon Edwards that ended prematurely due to an accidental eye-poke.

Belal has beaten the whose who of the Welterweight division, with Vicente Luque, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Sean Brady just a few of his recent victories. His win streak has largely been ignored by the matchmakers. Maybe this is due to his style, which is not the most exciting in the UFC. It is by no means a boring fighting style, but one that often sees fights go to the judge’s scorecards.

Muhammad is a fighter with a diverse, well-rounded skill set. He has cardio for days and can stand and strike or take you to the ground and wrestle. In his last fight against Sean Brady, Belal made it a statement victory. His striking looked more polished and allowed him to chase the finish. Muhammad is a fighter who is getting better and better through every fight, but is Gilbert Burns a step too far for the American Palestinian?

Gilbert Burns Preview: Dynamic Veteran Chasing Another Title Shot

Burns is well on his way to what would be his second shot at the Welterweight belt. Unfortunately for Gilbert, his first shot was against a version of Kamaru Usman that may have been the greatest Welterweight in UFC history. That defeat was all the way back at UFC 258 in February 2021, and ‘Durinho’ has responded almost flawlessly since.

3-1 in his last four, including wins over Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, Neil Magny and most recently a decision victory over Jorge Masvidal that sent ‘gamebred’ into retirement. The lone defeat in those four fights was a razor thin decision loss to Khamzat Chimaev, one of the hottest prospects in the entire UFC.

Like Muhammad, Burns is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division. ‘Durinho’ can start fast and get his work done quickly, as shown with his first round KO victory over Damien Maia and a first round submission victory over Neil Magny back in January. The depth of Burns’ gas tank means he has no problem going five round either. He can drag opponents into deep waters without seemingly losing much energy or showing signs of fatigue. This is a skill his opponent also possesses, so we could be looking at a slugfest of a co-main event come Saturday night.

Belal Muhammad vs Gilbert Burns Prediction: Who Will Win The UFC 288 Co-Main Event?

This fight feels like a difficult one to call, and the oddsmakers agree. The Brazilian Burns comes in as the ever so slight favourite according to Vegas:

Burns -135

Muhammad +110

It will be interesting to see how the short notice nature of this fight will affect proceedings. As mentioned, there were roughly only 12 days between the announcement of the fight and the event itself, and given the fact both fighters will no doubt have completely different schedules it’s difficult to put 100% faith in a pick.

Even from a stylistic view, it’s a tough one to choose. It’s a clash of two fighters with similar skillsets; deep cardio and solid chins. If one fighter has an advantage over another in an area, it’s only marginal. The most likely aspect of this fight is the distance, in which both fighter’s records suggest this could be going to the judges.

Gilbert Burns might have the edge of Belal Muhammad coming into this fight due to the lac of preparation time. ‘Durinho’ has dipped into the Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone playbook of fighting at almost every opportunity so far in 2023. Saturday will be Burns’ third Octagon walk in the first four and a bit months of the year. By contrast, Muhammad hasn’t fought since October 2022. I am not saying ring rust will be an issue for Belal, but Gilbert is in full right now. Let’s just hope Gilbert doesn’t have a fatigue drop-off due to such activity.

It’ A Coin Flip, So We’re Backing The Underdog

This fight is a tough one to call, but it feels like it’s Burns’ finishing ability versus Muhammad’s pragmatic approach to adapt to any opponent he faces. With this considered, we’re backing Belal.

Muhammad has terrific takedown defense and durability which will make tough for ‘Durinho’ to get the finish. Given the sheer volume of work Burns has put into this calendar year so far, I’d be more comfortable backing the fresher fighter in Muhammad over the 25 minutes.

So there is our official Muhammad vs Burns prediction, we’re taking the slight underdog in Muhammad to keep his winning streak going at the expense of the Brazilian veteran.