It’s safe to say UFC 251, on paper, is one of the best cards that the UFC has put together in 2020. Three great title fights ending the show with the main header being Kamaru Usman defending his UFC Welterweight belt for the second time against the Number One ranked UFC Welterweight Gilbert Burns.
Originally UFC 251 was scheduled to take place on June 6th in Perth, Australia with the Main Event at the time being Valentina Shevchenko defending her UFC Flyweight belt against Joanna Calderwood but due to Covid-19 restrictions being put in place in Australia, the show was officially postponed by UFC officials.
With the UFC picking its schedule back up which began with UFC 249 taking place in Jacksonville, Florida. Which saw Justin Gaethje capture the Interim UFC Lightweight title after beating the long-reigning Number 1 contender and Former Interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson by fifth-round stoppage, breaking Tony Ferguson’s 12 Fight Win Streak in the process. This event opened the door for UFC events to start running again but with the USA currently in the conversation of having a second lockdown, Dana White announced the arrival of Fight Island which is located on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
UFC 251 is the first event that is going to be held at this venue with three title fights being held on the first card. Reigning UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman (16-1, 11-0 in the UFC) will be defending his title against Number 1 ranked Welterweight Gilbert Burns (19-3, 12-3 in the UFC). Kamaru Usman’s path to the Welterweight title came from dominating opponents and contenders including the likes of Demian Maia and Rafael Dos Anjos. Usman then went on to fight for the UFC Welterweight title at UFC 235 against long-time reigning Tyron Woodley which saw Usman dominate Woodley for 5 rounds to capture the Welterweight title. Usman went on later that year to defend his belt against arch-rival Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, which saw Usman and Covington go head to head for 4 full rounds leading to Usman dropping Covington twice in the fifth round before getting the late TKO to close 2019.
As soon as the Usman/Covington rivalry was put in the back pocket, fans started to move towards the possibility of Usman defending his title against 2019 Fighter of the Year, Jorge Masvidal, which saw him collect knockout finishes over Darren Till to start his 2019 campaign for a title shot which then led to Masvidal claiming one of the most devastating KO finishes ever in the UFC with a 5 second KO over Ben Askren with a Flying Knee which then led to Masvidal finishing his 2019 by headlining Madison Square Garden against Nate Diaz at UFC 244 for the BMF Belt where Masvidal made easy work of Diaz by presenting overwhelming aggression and finishing Diaz via Doctor Stoppage between rounds 3 and 4. A Usman Vs Masvidal fight for 2020 had fans eagerly waiting to hear the announcement but due to financial barriers recharging Jorge Masvidal from agreeing to fight Usman, this left the Champion without a clear contender to defend against until Gilbert Burns made his claim for a title shot very clear to Dana White after putting on a dominant performance over the former champion and Number 1 ranked Welterweight at the time, Tyron Woodley this past May, Burns is looking to make a quick turn and add Kamaru Usman to his current 6 Fight Win Streak which includes wins over the likes of Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson. The winner of this bout could possibly set up a fight against Jorge Masvidal later this year if the UFC and Masvidal finally come to agreeable, financial terms.
The Co-Main event of UFC 251 for the UFC Featherweight title between reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champion Max Holloway, was originally in the works to headline the original UFC 251 card in Perth, Australia on June 9th has now been rescheduled to take place as the Co-Main Event on Fight Island instead. Alexander Volkanovski (19-1, 8-0 in the UFC) dethroned Max Holloway (21-5, 17-5 in the UFC) this past December at UFC 245 by Unanimous decision to see him become the new UFC Featherweight champion after claiming wins over some of the UFCs best Featherweights such as Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes back to back. Volkanovski is looking to solidify himself as the best UFC Featherweight of all time by taking the title of Featherweight GOAT away from Max Holloway who has gone on a tear through the UFC Featherweight division by picking up wins over the likes of Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira before receiving an Interim UFC Featherweight title bout against Former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 206 which saw Holloway claim the Interim strap by beating Pettis via TKO in the 3rd round. This led to Holloway fighting longtime UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo at 212 the following year, Holloway unified the titles by dethroning Aldo by TKO in Round 3 before beating Aldo again in his first defence by TKO in Round 3. Since these two bouts, Holloway had gone on to defend his UFC Featherweight belt against the likes of Brian Ortega in a masterclass performance which saw him beat Ortega by TKO in Round 4 and a Unanimous decision win over Frankie Edgar before losing the title to Volkanovski. This title fight is guaranteed to be a striking masterclass between the two best UFC Featherweights and if Volkanovski wins, he has recently shown interest in a bout with former Bantamweight and Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo.
The third and title fight which is set to take place on Fight Island is for the Vacant UFC Bantamweight Title between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo. With Henry Cejudo’s sudden retirement announcement after recently defending his Bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz, this left an opportunity for the likes of Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes and other Bantamweight contenders to stake their claim to be chosen for the opportunity to compete for the vacant Bantamweight title. When Petr Yan was announced to fight for the title, the majority of fans believed that Aljamain Sterling was going to be Yan’s opponent but instead the UFC went with Jose Aldo which caused a considerable amount of backlash from fans as they felt that Sterling had been robbed of his overdue title shot. Jose Aldo recently made his decision to drop down from his long time weight at Featherweight to Bantamweight looking to reclaim a UFC strap which led to his first bout coming against Marlon Moraes who was coming off a loss to Henry Cejudo for the, then Vacant UFC Bantamweight title as well. Jose and Marlon battled it out for 3 rounds and although the majority of fans and Dana White included believed that Aldo won the bout, but the judges gave the decision to Marlon Moraes. Henry Cejudo who had then recently become Bantamweight champion wanted Jose Aldo to be his first Bantamweight title defence as he felt that Aldo had been robbed of a judges decision which was then later announced that Aldo would, in fact, be challenging Cejudo for the belt in May of 2020 in Brazil but due to Covid-19 restrictions being put in place, this left the fight to fall through and Cruz stepped in against Cejudo who finished Cruz by TKO in the second round. The UFC came to the agreement that Jose’s title shot should not and would not go to waste so they continued with his title shot which he will now receive against Petr Yan on Fight Island instead. Petr Yan is one of the front runners to become a long time reigning Bantamweight champion with his recent finish over Uriah Faber via Head kick in Round 3 at UFC 245. The debate for Yan being in the discussion for title contention was that he hadn’t faced any of the top contenders as it stands, he will now get his chance to prove that he belongs with the Bantamweight elites if he can get passed Jose Aldo and win the Bantamweight belt. This fight is one of the harder fights to predict an outcome because of how well these two Bantamweights match up with both showings off great striking in previous bouts and the chances of it staying a striking bout is very high with Jose Aldo holding a 91% takedown defence accuracy.
Another great fight on the UFC 251 card, is a bout between two former UFC Straw-weight champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas who originally met at UFC 237 with Namajunas defending her Straw-Weight belt against Andrade after Namajunas had recently picked up back to back wins over Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Rose then went on to defend her belt against Andrade in Brazil where she started off the bout well, utilizing her boxing against the shorter Andrade until Andrade shot in for a single leg takedown on Namajunas resulting in Andrade then going on to drop Namajunas on her head, rendering her unconscious to claim the UFC Straw-Weight title. Andrade then went on to defend and lose her title against current UFC Straw-Weight champion Weili Zhang. This bout is a fight between two of the top contenders in the UFCs Straw-Weight division and with Zhang currently not booked to fight, it could possibly result in the next title challenger if a great performance is displayed by either or both fighters.
Other notable fights on the UFC 251 card include the likes of:
• Amanda Ribas Vs Paige Vanzant.
• Makwan Amirkhani Vs Danny Henry
• Volkan Oezdemir vs Jiri Prochazka