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.