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.