UFC: Alexander Volkanovski eyes two key fights for next title defense

Everything has been pretty quiet at the top of the featherweight division since UFC 251. Champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) has been in a state of limbo since he defeated the former champion, Max Holloway (21-6), for the second time.

The second fight was razor close, and at first, the UFC seemed interested in putting on the trilogy. However, Volkanovski didn’t seem interested as he had just defeated Holloway twice in his eyes. Can’t really blame the guy for wanting to move on.

Since then, the UFC has abandoned the idea. Now, Volkanovski is eyeing two key featherweight contests to determine who will face him next. Those two contests are the Chan Sung Jung – Brian Ortega fight and the Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez fight.

Who will be the next contender for the UFC featherweight crown?

On the upcoming fights, the UFC featherweight champion said to MMA Junkie, “I want these guys to go out and take their number one contender spot. Right now, if someone was just given the shot, it’s not a big fight.” Volkanovski wants his next fight to generate a ton of interest.

“At the end of the day, it’s what the UFC and fans want. It also depends on their performances. If someone has a big knockout, submission or a dominant performance, it can solidify them as the next guy,” Volkanovski said.

Brian Ortega (14-1, 1 NC), Chan Sung Jung (16-5), Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1), and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC) would all be deserving of a UFC title shot with a win. But whoever wins those contests must do it impressively. Sound like the most impressive could get the next shot at the champ.

What about Holloway?

As I pointed out above, originally the UFC was interested in a trilogy fight with Holloway. However, Volkanovski wants to see Holloway get active again in the division before he grants him another shot at the title. He does seem interested in the trilogy eventually.

“Even though I’m 2-0, there still seems to be unfinished business. I think it could definitely happen, but not anytime soon,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie. My guess is that Holloway is going to be paired up with someone like Calvin Kattar (22-4) before the year is over.

There is a lot of fluidity right now in the featherweight division. The UFC champ is happy to just watch it all play out. Whatever fight generates the most interest after all these matchups, Volkanovski will be ready for it and ready to defend.

How would Patricio “Pitbull” Freire fair in the UFC?

Patricio Pitbull Freire

Over the weekend, the media were quick to ask UFC President Dana White about the comments that Scott Coker made regarding Bellator’s light heavyweight division. Coker stated that their division was better than the UFC’s.

White responded with a short and quick, “Isn’t he cute?” The media followed-up by asking about if the UFC be interested in cross promotional super fights. White dismissed this saying nothing would be interesting.

When the media followed-up asking about arguably Bellator’s top fighter, Patricio Pitbull (30-4), White played it off. He said he couldn’t tell you anything about Bellator’s double champ. Pitbull wasn’t pleased with the response.

How would Pitbull fair in the UFC?

Let me start out by stating that I’m a big fan of Patricio Pitbull. I think he is a great fighter, and I truly believe that he can compete with anyone in the UFC‘s featherweight division. There is a reason that Pitbull is currently ranked 4th in the ESPN featherweight rankings.

I believe that Patricio Pitbull would be squarely in the top five of the UFC‘s featherweight rankings if he was with the promotion. Would he beat Alexander Volkanovski, Max Holloway, or Zabit Magomedsharipov? I’m not sure about that, but he would definitely be competitive.

Where I don’t see him being very competitive is in the UFC‘s lightweight division. Pitbull is the Bellator lightweight champion as well, but that’s not his natural weight class. The UFC‘s lightweight division is the deepest division in the history of the sport.

Yes, Patricio Freire has a knockout over top free agent Michael Chandler, but I’m not sure how he would do against the UFC‘s best. Imagine Pitbull against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, and I could go on and on. He’d be a sizable underdog in any of those contests.

If the UFC and Bellator would ever agree to such an event, I would implore Pitbull to take on the UFC‘s featherweight champion. That would be a competitive fight. However, I don’t think he could swim with those sharks at lightweight. What do you think?

 

UFC BREAKING: Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez off due to an ankle injury

Yair Rodriguez

One of the more anticipated UFC featherweight contests of 2020 will not happen. Dana White confirmed this evening that Yair Rodriguez (13-2) has injured his ankle and will not headline the August 29th fight night against Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1).

What does the UFC do?

The UFC has tried to make this fight multiple times over the last couple of years. Injuries have continued to get in the way of this fight being a reality.

Zabit and Rodriguez are two of the brighter stars in the UFC‘s lower weight classes. The fight between the two of them was likely to determine who would face Alexander Volkanovksi next for the featherweight title.

As ESPN’s Ariel Helwani suggested, Calvin Kattar has offered to step in to face Zabit in the main event of the August 29th card. Kattar and Zabit do have history.

The two men just fought and headlined a fight night back in November. Zabit won the three round main event, but Kattar was really coming on strong at the end. Many believe that Kattar could have won if it had been a traditional five round main event.

Kattar would make sense from a rankings perspective, but there’s no word on if Zabit would want to fight Kattar back-to-back. There are a couple of additional options for Zabit at 145 pounds.

Other Options

The UFC has been trying to book Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega for some time now. White has said that the UFC is close to booking that fight. However, maybe the promotion looks to see if one of them would be interested in stepping in to face Zabit.

Another outside the box option could be giving Max Holloway a call to see if he’d take the fight. The former champion could really establish that he should get another shot at Volkanovski if he can beat Zabit.

White said the Rodriguez has a high ankle sprain and a fracture. It’s unlikely, but if he recovers quickly, the UFC could shift gears to move up a main event and move back the Zabit – Rodriguez fight. Many options are on the table and we should expect the UFC to move quickly on this one.

 

UFC: Alexander Volkanovski Isn’t Fond Of Fighting Max Holloway Again

Dustin Poirier, UFC

We’ve never had a fighter take on the same opponent four straight times in the UFC, but that’s not one hundred percent out of the question with the current situation in the featherweight division. Alexander Volkanovski surprised the world by taking the belt from Max Holloway, and held onto it by defeating Holloway again, but now it’s unclear who his next opponent is and Dana White is partial to another fight against the former champ.

That poses some obvious problems, though. For one, Volkanovski has defeated Holloway two straight times already. It’s hard to say that Holloway deserves another rematch this soon. Second, if Holloway does win a rematch like this, it puts the matchmakers in a very awkward situation.

Volkanovski has done enough to earn an immediate rematch if he loses, after all. But this ‘rematch’ would actually be the fourth fight between him and Holloway.

For obvious reasons, the current champion isn’t too fond of the idea.

What did Volkanovski say about the potential fight?

“It’s pretty clear that like, you win back-to-back, two wins in a row. To make a third one, it just doesn’t really make sense, especially right now. Again, we know that last fight was close, but the judges gave me the decision, and that’s that. And in the first fight, even though it was competitive, I pretty clearly won that fight,” Volkanovski said to Submission Radio. “So, to just give him another rematch straight away and put the division on hold, it just doesn’t make any sense…”

He also implied that the UFC is looking to push one of their stars back to champion status by giving him a second instant rematch.

“We’ve got 15 people that are ranked for a reason, and what, we’re just gonna keep fighting until Max wins? You know what I mean? It just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s true that many of the other contenders in the division are occupied, but it does look bad for the UFC to give one of their former champions back to back shots at winning the belt again without giving other fighters a chance during the same period.

And if there is a fourth fight, it may not do as well from a ratings point of view. Fans want to see something different after a while, after all. This is anything but that. But with the current state of the division being what it is, we’ll just have to wait and see what the league eventually decides. There’s no telling what the decision from Dana White will be.

UFC: Max Holloway could get the next title shot according to Dana White

It was very clear that UFC president Dana White was not a fan of the decision at UFC 251 between featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, and former champion, Max Holloway.

The fight left the UFC in a bit of a pickle when it comes to what happens next. If Holloway had only lost that one time to Volkanovski, the promotion would have no issues booking the fight again.

However, Holloway has lost two consecutive fights to Volkanovski. Yes, the second fight was razor close, but still it’s two losses in the record books. With that, most thought that there is no way that the UFC would give Holloway another shot especially right away.

Despite that, White said to ESPN that, “It’s hard to not…” when considering booking Volkanovski – Holloway 3. White went on to talk about how Volkanovski wouldn’t enjoy that idea.

What should the UFC do?

The UFC is really in a tough spot when it comes to the featherweight division. The UFC is going to book Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez but that’s not finalized yet. They are also going to book Brian Ortega – Chan Sung Jung but that fight is also not finalized.

Those are all the contenders in the division outside of Calvin Kattar. I’m not convinced the UFC loves the idea of giving Kattar a shot at the title right now.

So with everyone booked, either Volkanovski is going to sit for a while or they run the fight back a third time. I definitely understand the frustration this would bring from the champion.

Volkanovski really has nothing to gain from fighting Holloway a third time meanwhile Holloway has everything to get back. Both of these fighters are so evenly matched. A third fight between the two would create more problems than solutions.

What if Max Holloway wins a close fight? How could you then deny Volkanovski a fourth fight since he won the first two? If you give Holloway another shot, it really hurts the division.

While he might not want to, I think the best thing would be for Volkanovski to sit on the sidelines for a bit. Maybe let Holloway fight a guy like Calvin Kattar next. Let the division play out more before giving Holloway a third fight with Volkanovski.

UFC: When will Henry Cejudo return?

UFC, Henry Cejudo

Back in early May, the UFC’s lower weight classes were turned on it’s head when “Triple C” Henry Cejduo announced that he was walking away from the sport.

Cejudo had just stopped Dominick Cruz in the second round of his first title defense in the bantamweight division. In the post-fight interview, Cejudo told Joe Rogan that at 33-years old, he was walking away.

The Motivation for Retirement

To Cejudo’s point in the post-fight interview, he could walk away with nothing to improve. He won and successfully defended belts in two UFC weight classes along with winning an Olympic gold medal.

Cejudo from a credentials standpoint is one of the greatest combat sports to have ever lived. You cannot deny him of that.

Cejudo began to mention that he wanted to get paid more. He started pushing this after he defeated TJ Dillashaw back in January of 2019.

Flyweights notoriously were not the highest paid guys in the UFC, but Cejudo wanted to change that based on his performances.

Cejudo moved up to fight Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 to try to become a double champ, and he successfully did that. Yet, it seemed Cejudo was still not happy with his compensation.

While he didn’t come right out and say that, one has to wonder if that was the primary reason that Triple C walked away from the sport after UFC 249.

When will he return to the UFC?

This is the million dollar question when it comes to Cejudo. When and will he actually return to the UFC?

Right after Cejudo retired, it was rumored that he was trying to get a boxing match against young standout, Ryan Garcia. The fight would net Cejudo a pretty penny if it came together, but nothing ever got close to getting done.

Cejudo has remained extremely active on Twitter calling out UFC fighters despite being retired. The one fighter he seems to be calling out the most is Alexander Volkanovski.

Volkanovski holds something that would cement Cejudo as a combat sport immortal. The UFC‘s featherweight title is something that Cejduo covets more than anything.

If the UFC were to ever put on that fight and Cejudo win, he would become the first man in UFC history to win a title in three weight classes to go along with his Olympic gold medal.

Cejudo told Joe Rogan on JRE that this would be the one fight he’d come back for. Of course Dana White and company are hesitant to make it happen. The reason being that Cejudo said he’d likely walk away again if he won the title before defending it.

I tend to believe that we have not seen the last of the King of Cringe. Cejudo is a natural competitor and I believe that before long, he’s going to be presented with something that makes him want to compete again.

UFC: Fights to make after UFC 251

Following any major UFC event, the fans want to know what comes next? UFC held their first event on Fight Island last night, and everyone wants to know what fights are going to be made following UFC 251. Here are five fights that the UFC should make.

Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns

This is a fight that we basically got confirmed from UFC president Dana White last night. In the post-fight press conference, White made it clear that Gilbert Burns (19-3) would be the next challenger for Kamaru Usman (17-1).

Burns was originally scheduled to be in the main event last night, but a positive COVID-19 test took him out. Once he recovers, he is the first guy in line for Usman. He’s also the one fighter who is the worst matchup for Usman in the division.

Usman did not win any new fans at UFC 251, but the champion did what he had to do in defeating Jorge Masvidal (35-14). Usman leaned on his wrestling and controlled the BMF title holder for five rounds.

Burns and Usman matchup extremely well. Usman’s wrestling can be neutralized by Burns’ elite skills on the ground. Burns has elite striking and speed which can give Usman issues.

Usman and Burns were once teammates which adds in another wrinkle to the fight. Expect this matchup to be booked in October/November.

Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington

Gamebred stepped up on six days notice, but he fell short in his quest to become the UFC’s welterweight champion. He made it clear that he wants to stay active and work his way back to the title. The quickest route to that is against his former training partner.

Colby Covington (15-2) would make the perfect opponent. Both men used to live together, but now they can’t stand each other. Both are coming off a loss to Usman which is a perfect setup for the fight.

This fight would have a ton of heat, and the winner would be guaranteed another shot at the UFC‘s welterweight title. With the drawing power of both men, this could headline a card on it’s own. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one occur around the same time that we see Usman-Burns.

Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas

It was known that the winner of the Rose Namajunas (9-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-8) fight would likely get the next shot at UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (21-1). Both women went to war last night, but Namajunas walked away with a decision.

To me, Namajunas has always been the second best strawweight in the world. I thought she was always better than Andrade, but got caught in that slam. I also firmly believe that Zhang is the absolute best in the world.

Thug Rose is going to get the title shot after last night’s victory, but I’m not sure how I feel about the matchup for her. This fight could be a springboard for Zhang.

If Zhang is able to defeat Namajunas, she could aim for a champion versus champion fight with Valentina Shevchenko next.

Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling

The UFC crowned a new bantamweight king last night, and his name is Petr Yan (15-1). It didn’t come easy, but Yan was able to stop Jose Aldo (28-7) in the fifth round to claim the UFC‘s bantamweight champion.

Last month, Aljamain Sterling (19-3) made an emphatic statement that he’s the top contender at 135 pounds. In a fight with Cory Sandhagen (12-2) which was considered a title eliminator, Sterling finished Sandhagen in under 90 seconds.

Many people believe that Sterling was more deserving of a title shot than Yan was. Well, now the UFC can move to make this fight. There might not be a more exciting division in the UFC than bantamweight right now. Yan/Sterling is going to be incredibly fun to watch.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Winner of Zabit Magomedsharipov-Yair Rodriguez

The UFC‘s featherweight king didn’t get the clean victory he wanted last night. Many people, including Dana White, believe that he lost the fight. However, the judges are all that matter and they gave the fight to Alexander Volkanovski (22-1).

I can’t see the UFC moving to book Volkanovski-Holloway 3 with Alexander being up 2-0 in the series. The Australian champ wants to fight by the end of the year, so what makes the most sense?

Reportedly, Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2-1) are supposed to fight in August. Magomedsharipov is currently ranked right behind Holloway while Rodriguez is ranked fifth.

Both of these men are extremely popular and talented fighters. I think the UFC would be smart to make this fight the title eliminator. Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung who are also supposed to fight this year, have already had shots at the title.

Magomedsharipov is considered the next great Russian champion that’s in the UFC. If Zabit can defeat Rodriguez in August, it would be a massive global fight to pair him with the champion, Volkanovski.

UFC has great fights ahead

The UFC is going to put on some stacked cards the rest of this year. All of the fights listed above should take place before we hit 2021. Combine those with the fights that are already scheduled, and you should be expecting some stacked cards in the second half of 2020.

Dana White following UFC 251: “Does anyone think that Volkanovski won that fight?”

UFC, Dana White

One of the things that’s going to be talked about after UFC 251 is the decision in the Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) and Max Holloway (21-6). The fight was razor close with many in the media scoring the fight for Holloway.

In our live recap on ESM, I personally scored the fight for Volkanovski, but the third round could have gone either way. Holloway out-landed Volkanovski slightly in the third. UFC president Dana White gave his thoughts on the decision.

“We’ve got some bad judges. I’m sure Max is devastated. Does anyone think that Volkanovski won that fight?” White said to the media in the post-fight press conference.

UFC title won in that third round

The fight really came down to that third round. The first two round were clearly Holloway’s rounds while the last two were the UFC champs. Michael Bisping who was commentating told Volkanovski in the post-fight show that the stats would indicate that Holloway won the third.

“It is what it is. He made good adjustments, but I made good adjustments on the fly. Max’s is tough… I thought I won the last three rounds,” Volkanovski said to Bisping in response.

It’s going to be very interesting to see where the UFC goes from here. It’s hard to give Holloway a third fight with Volkanovski after losing two decisions. However, it’s clear the company thinks he won the fight.

Volkanovski said that he wants to fight at the end of this year in the post-fight press conference. Maybe it’s time for Holloway to move up to lightweight because I’m not sold that the UFC will give him a shot against Volkanovski anytime soon.

 

UFC 251 Recap: Kamaru Usman smothers Gamebred to retain his title

UFC 251 marked the first event on the infamous Fight Island. The first our four cards in just two weeks on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main event of the evening featured the much anticipated UFC welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman (16-1) and Jorge Masvidal (35-13). The UFC‘s debut on Fight Island did not disappoint.

Kamaru Usman suffocates the BMF

The main event of the evening featured the most anticipated matchup of the year. The UFC champ, Usman, taking on the BMF himself, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. A little over a week ago, Usman thought he’d be making the walk to fight his former teammate Gilbert Burns. However, a positive COVID-19 test led to the fight the fans have been waiting for all year long.

As the fight started, Masvidal landed some massive leg kicks. However, Usman immediately caught one and took Masvidal down. Usman was able to land some good elbows from the top position. Two minutes in Masvidal was able to get back to his feet. On the feet, Masvidal had the clear advantage landing some big shots.

Usman shot in and immediately pushed Masvidal up against the fence. Masvidal was able to break with about a minute left. Masvidal was clearly superior on the feet dominating the striking exchanges. Despite a takedown the challenger takes round one.

Early on in the second, Usman seemed desperate to take the fight to the ground. Masvidal defended well, but used a ton of energy to stay on his feet. Usman seemed content with just leaning on Masvidal against the cage early in the second. Masvidal had two cuts that developed from accidental headbutts.

Usman landed a good right during a break, but immediately shot back in for the clinch. The second round lacked in action, but Usman controlled position the entire time. Late in the second, Masvidal was able to get away and land some big shots. However, Usman’s control gives him the second.

In the third round, Usman seemed more content to strike early. However, after Masvidal landed some clean shots, Usman immediately engaged in another clinch. About a minute in, Masvidal broke and again landed some big shots. Usman immediately shot back in for another clinch.

A low shot caused a break in the action about halfway through the round. After Masvidal took some time to recover, action resumed. The two men started striking for a second, but Usman timed a double leg and got Masvidal to the ground. Masvidal got up but was taken right back down. Another slow round for the champion.

As the fourth round began, Usman was able to land a good body kick. He transitioned that into a takedown. Masvidal got back to his feet, but Usman held the clinch position. Halfway through the round, Masvidal broke free landing some really clean shots. However, Usman landed a couple good shots of his own and re-engaged the clinch. Nothing else happened in the fourth which translated to another slow round for Usman.

The final round began and Usman seemed content to strike with Masvidal. However, after Masvidal landed a clean counter shot, Usman shot in for another takedown. After no action, Masvidal tried to get back to his feet with two minutes left, but Usman gained side control.

Masvidal tried a scramble to get back up with a minute left. He was able to get to his feet, but Usman held him against the fence. Masvidal was able to separate and land some big shots late, but nothing that put Usman in danger. Masvidal brought the fight to Usman, but the champion wins this one 4-1 on my scorecard. The judges agreed giving Usman the unanimous decision as he retained his UFC welterweight title.

Volkanovski edges Holloway by Split Decision

The co-main event of the evening featured a featherweight title fight between UFC featherweight champ, Alexander Volkanovski (21-1), and former champion, Max Holloway (21-5). Holloway was considered to be the greatest featherweight of all time before Volkanovski defeated him in January. Many were considering this fight to be the fight that determined who is the real featherweight GOAT.

Early on in the first round, Holloway put pressure on Volkanovski. Both men took the first couple of minutes just feeling each other out, neither throwing anything serious. Halfway through, both men seemed to open up. Holloway did a really good job of landing some decent shots on Volkanovski coming in.

Holloway seemed to land a clean 1-2 that possibly wobbled Volkanovski late in the round. Max was looking a lot better in the first round than he did in the first fight. Volkanovski stayed patient and landed some good leg kicks. Holloway dropped Volkanovski late in round one. Great first round for the former champion.

Volkanovski seemed to be wearing it a little on his face to start the second round. Holloway landed a massive combination about a minute in that stunned Volkanovski again. Volkanovski threw some leg kicks, but in this fight, Holloway would follow with his own. Holloway just looked incredibly loose in this one. Right before the end of the second, Holloway drops Volkanovski for the second time. Clearly 2-0 for Holloway after two.

Volkanovski came right out in the third with heavy leg kicks, but again, Holloway countered with his own. Holloway landed a big knee about a minute in. Volkanovski just seemed to be out of reach in this one. About halfway through the third, Volkanovski did start to find his range landing some good shots.

Volkanovski shot in for a takedown, but wasn’t able to secure it. Volkanovski held onto a clinch, but Holloway was able to break free landing a couple of solid shots off the break. Holloway was getting caught a little more in the third. Volkanovski was finding a solid left hook throughout the round. Good bounce back round for the champion who takes the third in my opinion.

Both men were wearing a little damage to begin the fourth. Volkanovski seemed to be throwing much cleaner shots in the fourth. The champions confidence was definitely growing. About halfway through the round, Holloway landed a pretty good combination that backed up the champion.

With about two minutes left, Volkanovski landed a takedown, but he couldn’t keep Holloway down. Once the fight was back on the feet, Holloway seemed to get the better of the striking exchanges. However, with the takedown and more shots landed, I’ll give Volkanovski the round. I have it 2-2 going into the fifth.

Entering the fifth, this one is anyone’s fight. Holloway seemed extremely aggressive to start the fifth round. Volkanovski did a good job at countering with some big shots. These two men were so evenly matched. Volkanovski shot in for another takedown a minute into the round.

The two men landed good shots, but Volkanovski’s shots seemed to have a bit more pop on them. Both men nodded at each other and traded big combinations halfway through the round. Volkanovski secured a takedown with about two minutes left. Holloway was able to get right back up.

With a minute left both men got really aggressive. Volkanovski kept trying for takedowns, but couldn’t land them. The two men exchanged again, but Volkanovski was able to secure one more takedown at the end of the round. Razor close fight that I give to the champion 48-47. Two of the three judges ended up agreeing giving the fight to Volkanovski by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47). Volkanovski retains his UFC featherweight title in a decision that will definitely be debated.

Yan becomes champ with a fifth round TKO

The third fight of the main card saw our first UFC title fight as Petr Yan (15-1) took on former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (28-7). Yan is considered by many to be the best bantamweight in the world. Aldo was promised a shot against Henry Cujudo, but had to miss the fight in May due to travel restrictions and that is how we go to Yan/Aldo.

Both men immediately took the center to start the fight. Neither man was using a ton of footwork early. About a minute in, Aldo threw a leg kick which reminded me of his older fights, but it was countered with a massive right from Yan. Yan was taken off his feet with another powerful leg kick, but he got right back up and landed some clean shots.

Aldo was looking really good in the first round. Yan landed some decent shots, but Aldo’s leg kicks and combinations were a major factor early. With about a minute left, Yan landed a massive body kick that caused Aldo to shoot for a takedown. Yan landed some massive shots and almost finished the fight. Yan gets the first round.

Aldo came out for round two with his hands very high after the way round one ended. Yan looked extremely patient to start the round just looking for his openings. Aldo continued to land strong kicks in the second. Aldo’s combinations and kicks were really effective in the second round. Yan landed a couple of shots, but seemed to be waiting a little too much. Aldo’s consistent output and kicks gave him the second.

Aldo came right out for the third and landed some massive body kicks. Yan looked extremely tentative to start the third. Aldo continued to chop Yan down with kicks to the body and the legs. Aldo hurt Yan bad with some body hooks about halfway through the round.

Yan tried to come back strong, but Aldo continued to land the cleaner shots. With about 90 seconds left in the round, Yan seemed to come alive landing some really clean shots. Confidence really began to grow for Yan late in the third as he hurt Aldo. Extremely close round three. I lean Yan with the way the round ended.

Yan immediately came forward aggressively to start the fourth round. About a minute in both men traded massive hooks. These two seemed content with fighting in a phone booth in the fourth round. Yan and Aldo both landed some clean shots, but Yan seemed to landing just a little more. Aldo seemed to be tiring a little in the fourth round.

Yan bloodied Aldo’s nose and put a ton of pressure on Aldo late in the fourth. Yan rocked Aldo late in the fourth which led to a solid leg sweep. Once on top, Yan relaxed into Aldo’s guard. Yan stacked up Aldo and landed some big ground shots late. Definitely Yan’s round in the fourth.

Both men hugged before the start of the fifth round. Yan dropped Aldo very early in the fifth round with a couple of big shots. Aldo found himself in a crucifix position and took some massive shots from Yan. Yan was able to get Aldo’s back which allowed him to unleash massive shots. After taking unanswered shots for about two minutes, the ref finally stops the action. Petr Yan is now the undisputed UFC bantamweight champion.

Thug Rose wins a war against Andrade

The second fight on the main card featured a rematch between former UFC strawweight champions Rose Namajunas (9-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-8). The two fought for the title back in May of last year. Namajunas controlled the fight until and Andrade slam put her out.

Early on in the first, Rose did a really good job of using her footwork. Rose did a fantastic job using straight shots to catch Andrade. Every time that Andrade would come in early, she was met with crisp shots from Thug Rose. Andrade kept trying to rush in with power hooks, but she was getting touched every time. Andrade landed a couple of good shots, but round one goes to Thug Rose with her crisp boxing.

Round two started out very similar to round one with Namajunas striking from distance. Andrade was using a ton of head movement, but it didn’t stop Rose from touching her. Jessica did start finding some success with some strong leg kicks in round two. However, Rose was clearly getting the better of the striking exchanges.

Halfway through the round, Andrade landed a massive right hand which caught Rose’s attention. Namajunas kept her composure and went right back to touching Andrade up. Despite a few good shots from Andrade including a strong closing fury, I give the second round to Namajunas

Andrade took the center aggressively to start round three. Jessica was doing a good job at ripping hooks to the body. Namajunas resumed the center of the cage landing straight shots like she did in the previous two rounds. Andrade bloodied Rose’s nose with a solid shot that seemed to hurt Namajunas.

Rose got rocked with a right hand from Andrade. Jessica landed a strong hip toss putting Namajunas on her back. Namajunas was busted up from the shots from Andrade. Rose worked her way back up to her feet with about two minutes left. The rest of the round featured both ladies trading some serious shots.

I gave the third round to Andrade, which on my scorecard would give Namajunas the fight 29-28. In the end, the judges came to a split decision giving the fight to Thug Rose (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). Absolutely fantastic fight and Namajunas now will be next in line to fight the champ, Weili Zhang.

Amanda Ribas subs Paige VanZant in the first

Kicking off the main card was a women’s flyweight contest between Amanda Ribas (10-1) and Paige VanZant (8-5). Ribas normally fights at strawweight but moved up to take on VanZant. VanZant entered the octagon on the last fight of her current UFC deal which has led many to believe it’s the last time we will see her in the octagon.

Early on in the first, Ribas did a really good job of cutting off the cage. Ribas engaged in a clinch early, and landed some massive knees to the body. Following the knees, Ribas landed a massive hip toss to take the fight to the ground.

VanZant tried to escape, but Ribas caught her in an arm bar. VanZant taps and Ribas takes the first round submission. A good win for Ribas when it comes to name recognition. For VanZant, this might be the last time we see her in the UFC.

Final Takeaways from UFC 251

UFC 251 delivered when you think about the card as a whole. The main event was lackluster simply because Usman did what he had to do. Jorge Masvidal was far superior on the feet so Usman had to lean (pun intended) on his grappling. A night of three UFC title fights delivered for fight fans everywhere. The UFC has three more fights on Fight Island before they return to the US in August. It’s gonna be a fun two weeks for fight fans.

UFC 251 Preview: Jorge Masvidal looks to dethrone Kamaru Usman

This Saturday night, the UFC makes it’s long anticipated debut on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The UFC is coming out swinging with a massive PPV card that features three title fights. The main event features a welterweight title contest between the champ, Kamaru Usman (16-1), and the BMF himself, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (35-13). Two additional title fights and a stacked card make this arguably the most anticipated UFC PPV of the year. Let’s dive into the main card and preview Saturday night’s action.

Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal

The main event of the evening might be the most anticipated matchup of 2020. A fight that came together in six days after it was planned for the entire year. For the UFC‘s BMF, Jorge Masvidal, Saturday night is the culmination of his meteoric rise to stardom since the beginning of 2019. Gamebred was always considered a good fighter, but the former backyard brawler became elite in the last year and a half. 

Masvidal is extremely well-rounded, but shines when the fight is on the feet. Masvidal possesses arguably the best boxing in the UFC‘s welterweight division. He also has ruthless body kicks which he throws everything into. He’s coming into Saturday on a three fight winning streak that features two highlight reel knockouts over Darren Till and Ben Askren.

Standing across from Masvidal is the UFC welterweight champion, Usman. The Nigerian Nightmare hasn’t lost in seven years, and he’s dominated virtually every opponent he’s had since. Usman has incredible wrestling and cardio which allows him to put on an incredible pace. In his last title defense against Colby Covington, Usman also showed that he can do some serious damage on his feet.

This fight is pretty easy to preview when you think about it. Masvidal wants to keep the fight standing while Usman wants to take it to the ground. While Usman showed improved striking, he has no chance to win a stand-up fight with Gamebred. I think you’ll see Usman test the waters on the feet, but ultimately look to take the fight to the ground. If Masvidal can keep the fight standing, he can finish this fight, but I don’t think he’ll be able to over five rounds. I think Masvidal is going to find some success early, but I think as the fight goes on, Usman will be able to impose his will. I don’t see Usman getting a finish, but I think his full training camp and wrestling will give him the nod here.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman by Unanimous Decision

Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway

A rematch months in the making occurs in the co-main event as former UFC featherweight champion, Max Holloway (21-5), looks to regain his title against champion, Alexander Volkanovski (21-1). Since 2017, you can make the argument that Volkanovski has been the best fighter in the UFC. He’s gone 7-0 with almost nobody giving him trouble inside the octagon.

Volkanovski is a former rugby player who at one point weighed above the light heavyweight limit and carries an extreme amount of power. Volkanovski combines that power with great accuracy and a high level Fight-IQ. He used both of those things to out-point Holloway back at UFC 245. He used his leg kicks and explosive speed to fluster the former champion. Many people have dubbed Holloway as the greatest featherweight ever. However, if Volkanovski is able to win, he’ll hold a win over Jose Aldo and two wins over Holloway which would arguably make him the best featherweight ever.

A year and a half ago, Max Holloway looked invincible. After losing to Conor McGregor in 2013, Holloway rattled off 13 consecutive wins including two over former featherweight king, Jose Aldo. Holloway is as tough as they come, and he’s a sniper on the feet. Holloway’s precision striking is what carried him to the title. However, the last three fights have shown a vulnerable Holloway.

Holloway has gone 1-2 in his last three fights losing to Volkanovski and Dustin Poirier. In those fights, Holloway struggled to be first. He seemed to be fighting more off of his backfoot which gave him issues. For Holloway to be successful against Volkanovski, he has to be more aggressive in this fight. If he sits back too much, he’s going to lose another decision.

This fight is going to be razor close. I will not be shocked by whoever wins in this one. Both men will have their moments, but I’m not hopping off the Blessed Express just yet. I think Volkanovski will have big moments in the fight, but I expect to see a much more aggressive Max Holloway. I think Holloway’s aggressive but precise attack will be just enough to get a close decision in this one. However, if he doesn’t go first in this one, expect Volkanovski to keep the title.

Prediction: Max Holloway by Split Decision

Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo

The first of three title fights features former featherweight king, Jose Aldo (28-6), and Russian star, Petr Yan (14-1). For Aldo, you might be looking at his last chance at UFC gold. The former champ hasn’t been the same guy that was once ranked as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world just a few years ago. Aldo is coming into this fight on a two-fight losing streak, although most people believe he won his last fight.

When he’s on, Aldo has elite all-around skills. Aldo is incredibly fast and powerful with his striking. He’s also got some of the best takedown defense in the sport. Aldo is at his best when he immediately is aggressive. His best chance in this fight is to come at Yan fast and hard.

For Petr Yan, he’s looking to become the UFC‘s second Russian champion alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov. Since joining the UFC back in 2018, Yan has looked sensational. Yan does not have a weakness in his game. He’s got good grappling and elite striking. He might have the cleanest boxing and the most power out of anyone in the bantamweight division.

That power was on full display in his last fight against Urijah Faber at UFC 245. “No Mercy” completely dismantled the hall of famer, dropping him multiple times. Yan picked up the third round knockout in that one. Yan is the type of fighter who will likely take the first round to gauge Aldo’s gameplan. Look for Yan to really start getting aggressive towards the end of round one or early round two.

I think this fight is going to play out a lot like Max Holloway-Jose Aldo 1. I think Aldo is going to find some good success early being aggressive. However, as the fight goes on, I think Yan is going to start taking over. By the third round, I think Yan is going to find his groove and he’s going to land something that hurts Aldo bad. Yan will follow-up heavy and get the stoppage setting up the anticipated fight with Aljamain Sterling.

Prediction: Petr Yan by TKO – Round 3

Rose Namajunas vs Jessica Andrade

The second fight on the main card features a strawweight rematch between former champions Rose Namajunas (8-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-7). These two ladies met just over a year ago at UFC 237 and Andrade took that fight by a knockout slam. Andrade is one of the most powerful women in the world at 115 pounds. Andrade has crazy power, good leg kicks, and slams that can knock anybody out.

In this fight, Andrade is going to have to utilize her leg kicks early. In the first fight, Namajunas was having her way with the stand-up. Andrade started finding some success when attacking Namajunas’ legs. Andrade cannot be too patient or she could get touched up early and often by “Thug” Rose.

Namajunas was a budding star in 2019, but she was facing some serious demons. The weight of being UFC champion was a lot on her shoulders. When she lost the title, she looked more relieved than anything else. She admittedly said she wasn’t sure she was going to fight again after she lost the title.

However, recently Namajunas found the love for the sport again. Namajunas has elite footwork for the division. Her striking is quick and precise thanks to her training with Trevor Wittman and Pat Berry. Namajunas was controlling the first fight before she was caught up in that slam. If she doesn’t get slammed, it’s hard to imagine Andrade winning that fight.

In all transparency, it’s hard for me to see Andrade winning this fight unless she gets a flukey knockout. I think Namajunas is so much better on the feet and she’s much faster. I think she’s going to put on a clinic at UFC 251 which will setup a title fight with Weili Zhang down the line.

Prediction: Rose Namajunas by Unanimous Decision

Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant

The opening fight of the main card also features the most lopsided odds as Amanda Ribas (9-1) takes on Paige VanZant (8-4). Ribas comes into this fight as a -900 favorite on most betting lines. The Brazilian has a very impressive overall game and she’s been dominant since joining the UFC with wins over Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos. Ribas has good striking, and she’s very good on the ground. She’s being touted as a potential title contender down the road.

VanZant is on the last fight of her current UFC deal. She burst onto the scene back in 2014 as the next big-time female UFC star. She’s extremely marketable, but she’s struggled against top competition. VanZant has a solid overall game, but against top-tier UFC fighters, she hasn’t found success. She has a 5-3 record in the octagon, but all three of those losses were against top-ten opponents. While VanZant has shown flashes, I’m struggling to see her having much success in this one.

I think this is a brilliant booking decision by the UFC. Ribas has the potential to become a very popular strawweight, and they’ve pitted her against a well-known fighter that is clearly inferior. I think Ribas will control this fight from the opening bell to the end of the fight. I think this will be the last time that we see VanZant inside the octagon.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas by Unanimous Decision

UFC 251 Outlook

UFC 251 is going to be absolutely insane. The card is stacked with so many interesting fights and story lines. I do not think that the fans are going to be disappointed with this card. The UFC is about to kickoff a furious stretch where they have four fight cards in the span of two weeks. Buckle up fight fans, because it’s going to be a fun ride on Fight Island.