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Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for Vicente Luque after UFC on ESPN 51 win?

Vicente Luque returned to action at UFC on ESPN 51 following one of the scariest situations a fighter can ever find themselves in, and he managed to get the win.

After his career was jeopardized by a brain bleed following his August 2022 knockout loss to Geoff Neal, Luque (22-9-1 MMA, 15-5 UFC) finally stepped back in the octagon on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and used a grappling-heavy strategy to defeat former UFC champ Rafael dos Anjos (33-15 MMA, 21-13 UFC) by unanimous decision.

The result snapped a two-fight losing skid for Luque, and was an important moment for the Brazilian to take the first steps of overcoming the emotional and physical trauma of his brain injury. He’s not typically known for his wrestling game, but Luque scored a career-best eight takedowns over 25 minutes to secure the win.

Typically known for being much more exciting, Luque did what he had to do to for the victory, and it’s hard to blame him. He made it clear post-fight that he wants to be back in the thick of things in the welterweight division, though, and that means facing someone in the top five. He also threw out the idea of welcoming Dustin Poirier to welterweight, but “The Diamond” hasn’t indicated of late that jump up from lightweight is part of his immediate plans.

Keeping Luque away from a massive hitter for at least one more fight doesn’t seem like the worst idea, though, and given who is booked, who is expected to be book and who is available at 170 pounds, matching him up against Sean Brady wouldn’t be an awful idea.

A pairing with Brady (15-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who hasn’t competed since suffering his lone career loss to Belal Muhammad at UFC 280 in October, would allow Luque to show how far his defensive grappling has truly come, and, if he can keep it standing, provide a window to add another vicious knockout to his record.

It seems like a smart booking on both sides, especially if Luque is looking to keep active and doesn’t want to wait for multiple other fights to play out before finding his next dance partner.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 51.

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