#UFC251 – new venue, 3 title fights, last minute drama – what more could you possibly ask for?
Usman vs Burns was the original headline for UFC251, but Burns was forced to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19. However, the BMF title holder, Jorge Masvidal, has stepped in at short notice to take on the welterweight champion.
It’s a fight that the fans wanted to see, after both men were seen engaged in a heated feud at the Super Bowl earlier this year. The only downside to this is that we never got to see the trash talking in the buildup to UFC251!
The card also features 2 rematches – Volkanovski v Holloway and Rose Namajunas v Jessica Andrade; plus Jose Aldo v Petr Yan and Paige VanZant v Amanda Ribas.
UFC251 Main Event
- Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal – Welterweight title
- Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway – Featherweight title
- Jose Aldo vs. Petr Yan – Vacant bantamweight title
- Rose Namajunas vs. Jéssica Andrade – Women’s strawweight bout
- Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas – Women’s flyweight bout
- Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiří Procházka – Light heavyweight Bout
- Elizeu Dos Santos v Muslin Salikhov – Welterweight Bout
- Makwav Amirkhani v Danny Henry – Featherweight Bout
- Leonardo Santos v Roman Bogatov – Lightweight Bout
Where, when, and how can I watch it?
- UFC 251 will take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The prelims will get underway at 11:00pm GMT on Saturday, July 11th, and the main card will commence at 3:00am GMT on Sunday, June 12th.
- All coverage will be shown live on BT Sport 1.
Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal
As far as last-minute match-ups go, it does not get any bigger and better than this. The ‘Street Jesus’ Jorge Masvidal is a superstar of the sport and steps up on 6 days’ notice to challenge for the Welterweight belt.
Kamaru Usman (above, 16-1) is unbeaten in the UFC and successfully defended his welterweight title for the first time in his last fight. The 33-year-old’s last bout came at UFC 245 in December 2019 where he scored an emphatic fifth-round TKO win over rival Colby Covington, to secure his first welterweight title defence.
Jorge Masvidal (pictured at the head of this piece, 35-13) may have some noticeable defeats on his record, but an incredible 2019 propelled him into household name status. Masvidal hammered Darren Till with a second round KO at the O2 arena in March, before going on to score the fastest KO in UFC history against Ben Askren, needing just 5 seconds to land a flying knee on ‘Funky Ben’.
Prediction – Jorge Masvidal by KO / TKO or DQ
Masvidal has scored a knockout in his last five victories, including a TKO win over Nate Diaz at UFC 244 last November. The Miami man is a on a wrecking mission, and I expect the ‘Street Jesus’ to enter the history books and collect the Welterweight title on just six days’ notice. You can back Masvidal to win by KO, TKO or DQ at 3/1.
Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway –
The co-main event features a rematch between former featherweight champion Max Holloway against the current champion Alexander Volkanovski. The pair fought back in December 2019 at UFC245, when Volkanovski produced one of his best UFC performances to dethrone Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway.
He will now make his first defence as champion, against the man he defeated to win it.
Prediction – Max Holloway by Decision
Volkanovski goes into the rematch as the favourite (1/2), and deservedly so. His tactics in their first meeting were spot on, as he constantly chopped at Holloway’s legs with a variety of leg-kicks to get inside.
Particularly, his inside leg-kicks off the jab were beautiful to behold. However, you can never rule out Holloway, as he is a former champion with a very strong heart.
Max did have some good moments of his own, with some beautiful work to the body. However, he couldn’t find his range for the most part of the fight.
In terms of preparation, Max claimed he has not sparred a single round for his rematch against Alexander Volkonovski – and instead trained using Zoom. However, Volkonovski doesn’t believe this and says, “I’m preparing for a fully prepared Max, either way.”
This may be an unfavourable opinion, but I believe Max will make the adjustments to win back his featherweight title. I think he’ll be more prepared to check those leg kicks and he’ll switch stances, which will help him significantly to pressure his opponent down. It’ll be a tough fight, but his experience in pressurised situations will help him to victory.
Jose Aldo vs. Petr Yan
The first of three title fights kicks off with a mouth-watering clash between Brazil’s Jose Also (28-6-0) and Russia’s Petr Yan (14-1-0) for the vacant UFC Bantamweight title following the retirement of Henry Cejudo.
‘Junior’ takes just his second bantamweight fight, with his first ending in a split decision defeat to Marlon Moraes. The veteran Aldo did have an illustrious featherweight campaign though, defending the belt on 7 successful occasions.
‘No Mercy’ is an established bantamweight contender, winning all six of his UFC bouts to date, with his most noticeable win coming at UFC 245 – a third round KO via head kick against Urijah Faber, which saw the Russian earn a performance of the night bonus.
Prediction – Petr Yan on points
I can see Yan taking this one on points against an ageing Aldo. The Brazilian’s recent record of 2-4 is a worrying statistic against someone as fresh, powerful, and well-schooled as Yan.
The weight-cut issues surrounding the former featherweight holder Jose Aldo are a negative for the Brazilian, who may also have cardio concerns during this potential 5-round-fight.
Rose Namajunas vs. Jéssica Andrade
Another rematch – and another banger! Rose will have an opportunity to revenge her loss to the person who took away her title at UFC237. Jessica Andrade (13/8) will also be looking to bounce back from her title defense loss to Zhang Weili, who has gone on to become a superstar in the UFC.
Prediction – Rose Namajunas by Decision
Despite her defeat at UFC237, Rose Namajunas goes into the fight as the favourite (1/2), and rightly so. She was completely dominant for 90% of the fight, her striking and movement causing Andrade some serious problems.
However, wrestling has always been a hole in the game of Namajunas, which was exploited as Andrade tied Rose up against the fence and horrifically KO-slammed Rose on her head.
Taking all things into account, I believe if Namajunas sticks to the game plan and avoids any similar situations to last time, she will get the victory.
Namajunas and her camp have always been excellent at breaking down an opponent and finding the best ways to exploit a weakness, maximising her strengths.
Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas
To kick-off the main card, rising star Amanda Ribas (9-1) will face off against the ever-so-popular Paige VanZant (8-4). Undefeated in the UFC, RIbas has made a name for herself with wins over Emily Whitmire in her debut, and decision wins over Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos.
On the otherside, Paige VanZant is coming off a submission win over Rachael Ostovich, after suffering 2 defeats in a row.
Prediction – Amanda Ribas by Submission
In my opinion I feel Paige is too inconsistent at times, but can still carry a threat. She’s a tough fighter and loves to pressure her opponents into uncomfortable situations.
However, her technical skills will not be able to measure up to Ribas, who will have the edge when it comes to takedown average per 15 minutes (Ribas 2.02, VanZant 1.31), takedown accuracy (Ribas 50 per cent, VanZant 33 per cent), takedown defense (Ribas 85 per cent, VanZant 35 per cent) and submission average per 15 minutes (Ribas 1.61, VanZant 0.98).
Therefore, I feel that Ribas will look to close the gap and grapple Paige to the ground and finish her off with a submission. Paige is at her most comfortable when the fight is on the feet.