UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal

Preview and Predictions for UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal by Danny Rourke and Darell Garner 

The UFC has officially landed on Fight Island and is geared up for its first of three events this month at the exotic makeshift locale on Yas Island, in Abu Dhabi, of the United Arab Emirates. Fight Island will provide a ‘safe’ international destination to host fight events during these heady coronavirus pandemic times, and allow non-American fighters on the roster the opportunity to compete. The UFC Fight Island debut will feature three title fights on the stacked UFC 251 PPVMain Card, and has a bunch of fun matchups scheduled from start to finish. The action will begin with the Early Prelims on ESPN at 6:00PM/ET, followed by the Prelims at 8:00PM/ET, and concludes with the five fight PPV Main Card at 10:00PM/ET.  

UFC 251 Main Card Predictions
#14 (SW) Amanda Ribas (-900) vs. Paige Van Zant (+550)
Kicking off the UFC 251 Main Card, Amanda Ribas (9-1-0) takes on “12 Guage” Paige Van Zant (8-4-0) in a Women’s Flyweight contest. Entering the last bout on her UFC contract, Paige Van Zant will be a significant and sizable underdog as she returns to make her first Octagon appearance since defeating Rachel Ostovich by Submission back in January 2019. The often injured Van Zant is 5-3 since joining the promotion in December 2014 and has only fought twice in the last three and a half years, with frustrations spilling over with both Van Zant and the UFC brass. Since losing to fellow UFC Flyweight Poliana Viana by TKO at Jungle Fight 83 in November 2015, Amanda Ribas is on a four fight win streak, including wins over Emily Whitmire, Mackenzie Dern, and Randa Markos to start her UFC career a perfect 3-0. Ribas will be looking to add a hallmark name to her resume, while Paige Van Zant will want to prove that her star power is just as bright as when she began her UFC career and when she was on Dancing with the Stars. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction: Ribas via First Round Submission 
D’Bo’s Pick: Ribas via Second Round TKO

#1 Jessica Andrade (+170) vs. #2 Rose Namajunas (-200)
Former Strawweight Champions Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (20-7-0) and “Thug” Rose Namajunas (9-4-0) meet for a second time in a bout that could very well determine who will contend next for the Strawweight title. Thug Rose makes her first Octagon appearance in fifteen months since losing her title to Jessica Andrade via Second Round TKO (Slam) at UFC 237. With time to reflect and recover, an addition to having Flyweight Champion Valentina Schevchenko as a training partner, Thug Rose is the favorite in her rematch with Andrade, and to setup a potential showdown with Zhang Weili. After becoming UFC World Champion, Jessica Andrade was unable to defend her belt, losing two months later against current Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili in under a minute via TKO. Since 2016,  Jessica Andrade exceeded all expectations and went on a hell of a run winning seven of nine and reaching the pinnacle of her sport by becoming UFC Strawweight Champion The question to be answered in this second meeting between Andrade and Namajunas,  will be who is the more mentally determined and focused fighter to get back and regain another chance at UFC gold, and can perform under pressure on Fight Island. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction: Namajunas via Second Round Submission D’Bo’s Pick: Namajunas via Decision 

Vacated UFC Men’s Bantamweight Championship 
#3 Petr Yan (-250) vs. #6 Jose Aldo (+200)
Petr “No Mercy” Yan (14-1-0) looks to gain his first UFC title and put an end to the Jose Aldo Jr.  (28-6-0) experiment at 135 pounds.  Aldo and Yan will compete for the vacated Men’s UFC Bantamweight Championship relinquished by Henry Cejudo in the first of three title fights in the UFC 251 Main Card. After defeating Dominick Cruz and surprising many with his retirement two months ago, Henry Cejudo’s departure has created the opportunity to crown a new 135 pound Champion in an ever increasingly competitive Bantamweight division. Petr Yan has exploded onto the scene and taken the division by storm with six straight wins to start his UFC career including victories over division stalwarts John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera, and Uriah Faber. To me, Yan has proven his Championship mettle and that he is one of the best Bantamweights in the world. Yan can cement his name in UFC history if he can get past former Featherweight king, Jose Aldo Jr., who, despite losing a Split Decision to Marlon Moraes in his Bantamweight debut, Aldo was awarded a title shot opportunity over the likes of other worthy potential title challengers such Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes, or Cory Sandhagen. Aldo has dropped four of his last six, and this very well could be his last opportunity to wear UFC gold. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction: Yan via Decision 
D’Bo’s Pick: Yan via Third Round TKO 

UFC Men’s Featherweight Championship 
{C} Alexander Volkanovski (-240) vs. #1 Max Holloway (-200)
Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (21-1-0) will face Max “Blessed” Holloway (21-5-0) in a rematch for the UFC Featherweight Championship. Last December, Alexander Volkanovski became the second UFC Champ under Eugene Barreman at City Kickboxing in New Zealand, improving to 8-0 inside the Octagon and extending his impressive overall winning streak to eighteen, by defeating Max Holloway, one of the best Featherweights to ever lace’em up, at UFC 245 by Unanimous Decision. In his last three fights, Volkanovski has defeated former title holders Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo Jr. and Max Holloway. A second consecutive win over Holloway will certainly cement Volkanovski’s legacy amongst the greats in UFC Featherweight history. In fact, Alexander the Great already has by defeating Blessed, who had dethroned Aldo and was on a fourteen Featherweight division win streak, before losing to Volkanovski. Their first matchup at UFC 245 was close, but I have Volkanovski, who jumped out to a dominant lead in the early rounds by constantly scoring with leg kicks and controlling tempo, as the favorite to get the job done again. Max Holloway is one of favorites. I have been a huge fan of his for a long time and saw his ability to take out Aldo early in his career. Max has such heart and is such a great fighter, even in his losses to Dustin Poirier for the Interim   Lightweight title, and in his most recent Featherweight title loss to Volkanovski, Max never backs down and is always returning fire.  Holloway has never been KO/TKO’D in his career, that will be a surprise and a huge feather in the cap for Volkanovski, but Alex is great and unique in his own right and will once again grind out a Decision win, in what should be a great title fight. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction: Volkanovski via Decision 
D’Bo’s Pick: Holloway via Third Round TKO

UFC Men’s Welterweight Championship 
{C} Kamaru Usman (-230) vs. #3 Jorge Masvidal (+210) “The Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman (16-1-0) looks tomake the second successful title defense in his stint as UFC Welterweight Champion, as he takes on short notice replacement, the BMF Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (35-13-0). After a dominant performance to become champ against Tyron Woodley, and a thrilling back and forth five round battle with nemesis Colby “Chaos” Covington, Kamaru Usman has continued to ride the wave of success enjoyed by UFC Nigerian born fighters, but mostly the success of himself and terrifying Heavyweight title contender, “The Predator” Francis Ngannou. Usman is 11-0 since officially joining the promotion in 2015, and is on a combined fifteen fight win streak. I don’t think Kamaru Usman has ever fought a fighter with the street smarts, swagger and explosiveness of Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal grew up fighting with Kimbo Slice in the backyards of Miami, and last November graduated by headlining and defeating Nate Diaz at UFC 244 in Madison Square Garden, and given the Baddest Motherfucker (BMF) Title by none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Masvidal’s popularity has rivaled only the explosiveness of his last few Octagon appearances, which the veteran fighter has dubbed The Resurrection. 
This one should be fun. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction: Masvidal via Second Round TKO
D’Bo’s Pick: Masvidal via First Round TKO

Next weekend, UFC Fight Island will host UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Ige. Share your thoughts and picks for UFC 251 with us in the Comments section below, and enjoy the fights!! 

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