UFC 251 is in the books and the event was a huge success for the company, seemingly running without any major hiccups and marking the start of four events in July on Yas Island. The card was one of the biggest of the year, featuring three title fights and a string of top contenders and prospects. Here’s five talking points from the UFC’s first event on Fight Island.
Roman Bogatov is a wild man (bad)
When it was announced ex M-1 lightweight champion Roman Bogatov had signed with the promotion, many fans were intrigued to see how the 10-0 prospect would fare against the best talent in the world. What many didn’t expect was perhaps one of the dirtiest displays in modern MMA history, as the Russian showed an impressive array of eye pokes, groin strikes and knees to a grounded opponent that saw him deducted two points and drop a unanimous decision to Leonardo Santos. Mixed in with all that, he also showed he had a granite chin and very good gas tank, and after weathering a storm that saw him nearly finished in round two, could’ve been well on his way to victory as Santos gassed himself out. But instead he let his opponent off the hook in the third, twice landing low blows, before kneeing poor Santos in the head as he knelt on the mat, a bizarre debut all round.
Jiri Prochazka is a wild man (good)
A lot was expected of Jiri Prochazka’s UFC debut, and the 27 year old didn’t disappoint in dispatching #7 ranked Volkan Oezdemir with a brutal head kick and crisp 1-2 just 49 seconds into the second round. Prochazka’s style is, different to say the least, as the Czech light heavyweight dances round with his hands low and his chin very much in the air, looking at times as if he was going through the motions in a sparring session with someone he was much better than. The only issue was he was getting caught often in the first round himself and against the elite of the elite of the division he won’t be able to get away with being so reckless. But for now he could well be in some brilliant scraps and undoubtedly has the power to knock anyone at 205 lbs out cold.
Amanda Ribas, future star?
Many fans thought Paige VanZant was being fed to a young hungry lion in Amanda Ribas and that’s exactly how it played out on the night. Ribas wasted no time in submitting PVZ after just two minutes of the very first round, and the 26 year old showed exactly why she’s been earmarked as a future champion at 115 lbs. As brilliant as her performance was in the cage, Ribas really mesmerised in her post-fight interview, showing the kind of infectious personality that could see her really become a star in the women’s game. With world class skills, a knack of finishing fights and the kind of personality that will see fans flock to her in huge numbers, Ribas has all the traits to transcend the sport and become the next face of women’s MMA.
Questionable officiating decisions
It was a tricky night for the officials as a number of poor decisions and suspect scorecards threatened to overshadow the event. Beginning in the very first fight of the night, where despite having his jaw broken and nearly being finished, one judge scored round one for Davey Grant in his clash with Martin Day. Controversial scorecards also saw Muslim Salikohv and Alexander Volkanovski win split decisions over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Max Holloway respectively, when many fans felt the result should’ve gone the other way. And finally referee Leon Roberts allowed Jose Aldo to take an obscene amount of punishment in his title fight with Petr Yan, with the Russian landing 113 strikes to Aldo’s one in the final round. With many of the top judges and referees not boarding the plane to Fight Island, there could be more shaky officiating calls to come over the next three cards.
Kamaru Usman is a problem
Kamaru Usman looked dominant in controlling Jorge Masvidal for five rounds in their main event scrap for the UFC welterweight title. It may not have fans rushing to buy his next pay per view, but there can be no doubt Usman is head and shoulders above everyone else at 170 lbs and is starting to build a resume that stands up with some of the best the division has seen. Usman looked confident on the feet and was dominant in the clinch and on the ground, nullifying Masvidal’s offence and tiring him out down the stretch. Some debate could be had as to whether ‘Gamebred’ would fare any better if he had a full camp under his belt, and did do enough to win the first round in the eyes of many fans, but there can be no debate Usman is a serious problem.