The UFC dropped a bomb today as they announced the full main card for UFC 251, on Fight Island, with THREE huge title fights headlining.
Dana White took to Facebook Live to confirm the leaked location for Fight Island was in fact true and is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, where UFC 112 was located. White then confirmed the UFC had finalised bout agreements for 3 title fights to headline the card.
Kamaru Usman will defend his Welterweight title against team-mate Gilbert Burns, with the Brazilian fresh off a big win over former champ Tyron Woodley just two weekends ago. Alexander Volkanovski will fight Max Holloway in their rematch for the Featherweight title, with the New Zealander looking to do the double over ‘Blessed’. If that wasn’t enough, the anticipated bout between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the vacant Bantamweight title is also confirmed for this card. The rest of the card will comprise of two women’s fights, with Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas finally meeting in their long-awaited rematch while Paige van Zant will fight Amanda Ribas. The card will take place on July 11th 2020.
Burns is rewarded for his “willingness to fight”, having already competed twice since the Covid-19 pandemic took over the world. He fought and KO’d Demian Maia in the main event of UFC Fight Night Brasilia in March in the first behind closed doors event, before his win over Woodley earlier this month.
According to Ariel Helwani, the UFC tried again to get Usman and Jorge Masvidal made but when that collapsed again they moved on to Gilbert Burns.
Alexander Volkanovski has been expected to make his first defence against former champion Max Holloway for a while, but the date is finally confirmed. Volkanovski beat Holloway in a one-sided unanimous decision for the belt back in December but had acknowledged prior to that fight that if he won he’d grant Holloway an immediate rematch. Before that fight, ‘Blessed’ was on a 14-fight win streak at Featherweight, including 3 successful title defences.
Petr Yan will look to cash in on the hype he’s received recently when he runs into Jose Aldo on Fight Island. Yan is undefeated in the UFC defeating John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera and Urijah Faber in his last three bouts. Aldo on the other hand can count himself lucky to be in this fight. The Brazilian has lost 5 of his last 8 fights in the UFC, including his debut in the Bantamweight division to Marlon Moraes in December. Many people believed he won that fight, including Dana White, which is why he was considered for the bout to begin with – although Aljamain Sterling put his name into the hat even more-so with his big win at UFC 250.
My early thoughts on these fights are that you’re unlikely to see many surprises on this card. Usman and Burns are teammates and even share the same coaches in the Blackzillians camp. They’ll know each other better than any of their other opponents possibly could, which should make for an intriguing fight. Usman though is the bigger fighter and we’ve seen how dominant he can be when he implements a wrestling game and how dangerous he can be on his feet. Burns is a BJJ world champion and a crisp striker himself, but Usman’s size will prove too much for him and ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ will emerge victorious.
Similarly, I expect Volkanovski to retain his belt too. In MMA, it’s very rare that a rematch in a title fight has a differing result the second time around. Alexander ‘The Great’ executed a picture perfect game-plan when these two fought for the first time, keeping the up with the pace of Holloway and landing heavy leg-kicks to slow down his opponent. Holloway landed strikes but nothing that looked even remotely troubling Volkanovski and I’d be surprised if this fight didn’t go in a very similar way to the first one.
The Bantamweight title fight is a clash of two different sides of momentum. Yan is on a hot-streak and Aldo is on the total opposite. Aldo looked good in his Bantamweight debut and still came short according to the judges, while Yan steamrolled through Urijah Faber with a KO win. ‘No Mercy’ will look to start quickly and overwhelm Aldo, who’s career is beginning to spiral. I’m going with a KO win for Yan inside three rounds.