UFC Atlantic City: The Welterweight Dark Horse You Can’t Miss

Of the 15 ranked UFC welterweight fighters, one name flies under the radar the most.

#12 ‘The Silent Assassin’ Vicente Luque is a criminally underrated finisher, and he’s looking to make a statement at UFC Atlantic City on March 30 where he fights Joaquin Buckley.

What’s Good About Luque?

Luque possesses some of the heaviest hands in the division, mixed in with a prominent grappling threat and a potent submission game, especially from the front-headlock position. The Cerrado MMA product has trained with the likes of Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman and was even on the cusp of challenging the latter fighter for his title after finishing Michael Chiesa at UFC 265.

Vicente Luque locks in the D'arce Choke against Michael Chiesa at UFC 265. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Vicente Luque locks in the D’arce Choke against Michael Chiesa at UFC 265. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

In terms of durability, there’s no question that Luque had one of the strongest chins in the UFC — without exaggeration.

This was until his 2022 fight with Geoff Neal where the Brazilian suffered his first KO loss and endured a brain bleed post-fight.

“I was thinking, ‘What’s going to happen? Will I recover?’” Luque told MMA Junkie. “That’s when my faith came in because I would speak to God. Yes, I had doubts, but I also had faith. Throughout those conversations and reflecting on my career, I was able to get many answers to things.”

Luque emphasised that his time off with the injury forced him to reevaluate his UFC aspirations, and is once again pursuing UFC gold. He was originally slated to fight Ian Garry at UFC 296, then Sean Brady in the main event of UFC Atlantic City, before receiving Buckley as the replacement in a co-main spot.

UFC Atlantic City: A Chance for Luque to Set Records

A victory this weekend means Luque will be tied fourth with Matt Hughes for all-time victories at welterweight. A finish would mark his 14th finish at welterweight, edging closer to Matt Brown’s top spot with 15. A TKO/KO would also break a three-way tie for second most in welterweight history with Thiago Alves and Li Jingliang.

Vicente Luque was the last man to finish Jalin Turner

Luque already holds the record for D’Arce Chokes in the UFC. He’d also tie Brown for second most welterweight fight night bonuses if he secures one in Atlantic City.

Why Isn’t Luque More Popular?

Luque owes his low profile to the fact he took the hard road in the UFC. After losing two straight bouts on The Ultimate Fighter, Luque endured a gauntlet of fighters including Belal Muhammad, Leon Edwards, Niko Price, Jalin Turner, Bryan Barbarena, and Mike Perry. Surprisingly, he only lost to Edwards on that run, and would then have a six-fight streak ended by Stephen Thompson.

Vicente Luque dropped Tyron Woodley before locking in a D’Arce Choke. Photo: Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

After fighting ‘Wonderboy’, the Brazilian found his star power by going on a four-fight finish streak, including a statement win over former champion Tyron Woodley. Luque was on the cusp of a title fight when he dropped the rematch to Belal Muhammad and was subsequently KO’d by Neal. Luque has since recovered with a dominant five-round decision over Rafael dos Anjos.

Luque is 15-5 in the UFC and faces a dynamic striker in Buckley this weekend. It’s the fight to watch.

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