Beginning to make noise in the welterweight division is Blackzilians’ rising contender Vicente Luque who picked up a huge knockout win over Belal Muhammad this past Saturday at UFC 205.
He stepped in on short notice as Muhammad’s original opponent, Lyman Good was forced off the card when he was flagged by USADA. With only 2 and a half weeks left for the organisation’s biggest show, Luque got the opportunity of a lifetime and answered the call when he was in Brazil.
“I took the fight right away,” Luque said. “I wanted to be on UFC New York and it was a really good opponent so it made sense to take the fight. The only worry I had was making weight because I was 31 pounds over but I knew I could do it. That was my main focus in those two weeks and a half, to cut the weight and get there in shape.”
He was excited to fight very close to where he was born (New Jersey) and compete in the world’s most famous arena at MSG. His KO win marked his fourth straight finish and back to back knockouts making the moment more special than he could have ever imagined.
“Yeah definitely,” Luque said on this being the biggest moment of his career. “I mean not only the event but I had a really tough opponent in Belal Muhammad who was 10-1, Titan FC champion and his only loss was to Alan Jouban which was a very hard fight. I definitely think he was my hardest opponent until now and my biggest win”
Muhammad who’s a dangerous striker himself, showed an incredible chin in his UFC debut versus Alan Jouban which made Luque’s quick knockout win that much more impressive.
“The game plan was to stand for sure but I did not expect to knock him out. I was ready to go 3 rounds, I knew he was a really tough guy and he could take a punch. My style has always been striking and I’ve always had a lot of power in my hands but I don’t go out there trying to knock people out. I just go out there and try to do my best and always looking to get the right shots with speed and precision and that’s what I did.”
“The left hook landed and it was a quick and precise shot. It wasn’t really a super strong punch trying to knock him out, it was just in the right moment and it clipped him and I was able to finish him on the ground.”
Fresh off the biggest win of his MMA career, he jetted straight to Sao Paulo to corner his good friend and teammate, Kamaru Usman who takes on Warlley Alves this Saturday. With plans on returning early next year, Luque now has his sights on the welterweight’s elite and is eyeing a top 15 fight.
“Taking this fight on short notice and performing the way I did I definitely think I deserve a top 15 opponent, that’s what I’m aiming for. I want to get in that mix to go for the title eventually so top 15 next. I don’t have any names in mind but looking at the top 15 now the guys that are available maybe Kelvin or Lorenz Larkin, I think he’s a really good striker. I’d fight anyone at this point; I think I’m ready for the top 15.”
Scoring back to back first round knockouts has definitely made Luque a feared striker. Although he started his journey in MMA training Muay Thai at the age of 15, we’ve seen his striking improve leaps and bounds under the tutelage of the great Henri Hooft.
“Working with Henri is amazing. He brings so much to MMA and he’s been in MMA for many years now. You can see that his kickboxing has adapted so well to MMA and it works so efficiently. Even with the wrestling, before I’ve always been a striker but I was taken down a lot and now we’ve made adjustments to my striking which have helped me in the defensive wrestling. Just the movement, I feel I get hit a lot less than I used to and I’m more precise.”
A McGregor-esque precise left hook is what earned Luque the finish and a perfect 3-0 in 2016. Looking to surge into the rankings next year, the Blackzilians young star will look to climb the ladder in the welterweight division as he may just be 2016’s breakout star.