UFC welterweight Belal Muhammad is one of the best follows on Twitter for fight fans. He’s often humorous, frequently posts news and shares interesting videos from around MMA and the sports world.
But after the UFC’s event in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Jan. 25, there may be another group who wishes to follow the 16-3 welterweight: Bettors who wager on MMA fights.
Muhammad went 12-0 on his picks for UFC Raleigh, hitting on 10 favorites and correctly tabbing the two underdogs who won: welterweight Michael Chiesa, who closed plus-170 against Rafael dos Anjos at the MGM Grand sports book; and Justine Kish, who closed at plus-150 against Lucie Pudilova.
If Muhammad had laid money on each of the favorites and took the plus money on Chiesa and Kish for $100 each, he’d have made a tidy profit of $1,320.
Muhammad said his eye for evaluating fights came early in his MMA career, when he trained in a small gym with Louis Taylor. Because there were few other professionals at the gym, he’d serve as Taylor’s sparring partner when Taylor was preparing for fights and would imitate the opponent. Taylor did the same for him.
He said it helped him understand what different types of fighters tried to do.
“I’d watch tapes of the guys Louis was fighting and then I’d emulate what I’d seen, and doing that it made me better as an analyst,” he said. “I love fighting in general, and whenever there are fights on, whatever it is, I’ll watch and I think my ability to break down the fights comes from that to a large degree.”
Given Muhammad’s success at Raleigh, we put him to the test: make picks for the main card of UFC 247 Saturday in Houston, which is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and unbeaten Dominick Reyes. I used the lines from Friday morning Pacific time at the MGM Grand sports book in Las Vegas.
The following are Muhammad’s picks for the five main-card bouts, with the line:
Jones (minus-500) over Reyes (plus-360): I like Jones because I believe he’s fought literally every version of a fighter you could fight. He’s fought guys who have great knockout power; guys who have great wrestling; guys who are karate specialists. Jones has seen it all, and I don’t think Reyes has seen anybody like Jones. When I hear Reyes talk, on Embedded and [the countdown show], I don’t think he believes what he’s saying. It seems to me he’s saying these things to show he’s confident, but I think it’s going to be too much for him when he gets up there. I think this is similar to when Jon fought Anthony Smith. Anthony is good, but I think Jon was too much for him and when the fight happened, [Smith] didn’t throw and let loose. He’d talked a lot, but he was saying what I think he felt he was supposed to say. That’s how I feel about what Reyes is doing, so I’m going with Jones to win this one.
Valentina Shevchenko (minus-1000) over Katlyn Chookagian (plus-600) to retain the women’s flyweight title: I don’t think anybody can mess with Valentina now, especially in that division. She’s good everywhere and is extremely dangerous. I don’t think Katlyn’s going to be able to do much with her. Valentina is much better, and that’s no disrespect to Katlyn. She’s just on another level from all of those women. I think the only woman who could beat her is [bantamweight/featherweight champion] Amanda Nunes, and they had a couple of amazingly close fights. This is Valentina’s fight.
Justin Tafa (plus-190) over Juan Adams (minus-240): I’m not too big on Juan Adams. I think he breaks pretty easily. Justin got caught in his last fight, but he’s a guy who looks like he comes to bang and who loves to fight. I think he’s a pretty tough guy and he’s one of the underdogs I like a lot on this one. I’ll go with Tafa here.
Dan Ige (plus-110) over Mirsad Bektić (minus-140): I love Ige in this. He’s really grown since his first loss and he’s looked like a killer in his last couple of fights. He’s good everywhere, and he’s getting better all the time. Bektić is coming off a loss to Josh Emmett, and I’m not sure what impact that’s going to have on him. Ige is on a roll and momentum is big in this sport. He believes and he’s a talented fighter, so I’m going to take Ige as another one of my underdogs.
Ilir Latifi (plus-200) over Derrick Lewis (minus-250): This is another fight where the underdog could win. Derrick’s weakness is his wrestling and that’s what Latifi loves to do. All he’s going to do is try to wrestle Derrick. There’s a big size advantage here and Latifi is moving up [from light heavyweight]. Latifi will have the gas tank to shoot and take him down and keep coming. Derrick’s ground game is not the best and he doesn’t show a lot on the ground. His last fight, he showed some explosive movements on the ground, but I think Latifi has the edge there. I know Latifi has been drained by some of his weight cuts, so moving up he might be more explosive. This could be the one where the big underdog does it. I think Latifi will do it with his wrestling and his ground game.
So Muhammad is taking three underdogs and playing two favorites. He’ll risk $500 in an attempt to win $100 on Jones; and he’ll risk $1,000 to win $100 on Shevchenko. He’s going to bet $100 on Tafa to win $190; $100 on Ige to win $110 and $100 on Latifi to win $200. For the five bets, he’ll risk $1,800. If he wins all five, he’d get that $1,800 back and would make a profit of $700.
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