UFC 251 Main Card preview

UFC 251 Main Card preview

Fight Island kicks off with one of the most stacked cards the promotion has ever put together, title fights, huge stars and important match ups litter Saturday night’s event. Amongst the five fight main card there really is something for everyone, from legends to undisputed champions, top contenders to a Dancing with the Stars runner up, and even a BMF for good measure. Read our full preview below.

 

Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant

Amanda Ribas (9-1) is one of the brightest prospects in undoubtedly the most exciting division in the women’s game. The 26 year old got her career back on track after a two year USADA suspension was terminated last May, and her elevated Ostarine levels were concluded to be from a tainted supplement. Since then she has put together three UFC wins and has earmarked herself as a future champion. Training out of the American Top Team, Ribas has a Black Belt in both BJJ and Judo whilst also having solid Muay Thai skills on the feet, Ribas is truly one of the most well rounded fighters in the world and is only going to get better.

Vanzant (8-4) is a fighter with huge crossover appeal as can be seen from her successful stints on Dancing with the Stars and Chopped. Her popularity outside of the cage should not detract from her skills inside of it though, as she is also a very exciting fighter who always looks for the finish. Fighting is no longer the sole focus of her life though, as can be seen from the fact she has fought just twice in the past three and a half year, and with this being the last fight on her current deal, questions must be asked about how much she stills wants it. She has fought much stiffer competition than her opponent and will need to draw on that experience if she wants to end her UFC career in the win column.

 

Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas

In a rematch of last year’s epic strawweight title fight, Jessica Andrade (20-7) is set to face fellow ex-champion Rose Namajunas (8-4). Andrade had put together three wins on the bounce to earn her shot at the strawweight belt, and after overcoming a tough first round, slammed Thug Rose on her head to claim the title. She lost the belt in her first defence, as Zhang Weili stopped her in under a minute, and she now finds herself in a number one contenders match with the winner more than likely challenging for the belt. Andrade bullies her way forward, applying heavy volume and looks to overwhelm her opposition with punches, kicks and the unconventional use of slams.

Thug Rose shocked the world in dethroning strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their 2017 match, she then did the same again in defeating the Pole in a rematch. In her second defence Rose looked better than she ever had, using crisp boxing and clever movement to dominate the early going against Andrade, only to be slammed headfirst in the second, being separated from not only her consciousness but also her 115 title. A year on, Rose has been open about her struggles with mental health and finds herself at the start of a journey to reclaim everything she lost. A mouth-watering battle with Weili awaits the winner, expect fireworks.

 

Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo

Petr Yan (14-1) has remained incredibly active in racking up six UFC wins in the past two years, and is now set to challenge for his first taste at UFC gold. The Russian became just the fourth man to stop the resurgent Urijah Faber with a brutal head kick in his last fight, and when you add wins over Jimmie Rivera and John Dodson, seems very well prepared for his toughest test on paper. Yan is a classic pressure fighter, sets a fast pace and doesn’t stop coming forward whilst also being solid enough defensively to not get needlessly caught coming in. Training at the prestigious Tiger Muay Thai club in Thailand, Yan has brilliant boxing fundamentals, and also mixes in his Muay Thai kicks, elbows and knees to wicked effect.

Jose Aldo (28-6) simply put is a living legend after his long reign atop the featherweight division, spanning two organisations and an 18 fight unbeaten run. He’s since fallen on tougher times, losing five of his last eight and dropping down a division after falling out of contention in the featherweight division. Aldo now relies more heavily on his boxing as oppose to his Muay Thai, using good footwork and counters while still possessing knockout power to end the fight in an instant. The Brazilian has however all but abandoned the leg kicks that were a huge staple of his game during his title reign. In a battle of experience vs youthful freshness, this one has fight of the night potential.

 

Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway

Another title rematch sees Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) look to make his first defence against featherweight great Max Holloway (21-5). Volkanovski was almost flawless in stripping ‘Blessed’ of his title last December, putting an end to a 14 fight featherweight unbeaten run for the ex-champion. Another success story out of the City Kickboxing gym in Auckland, he also combines this with training at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, and as a result has developed a fierce stand up game combining his natural strength with technical kickboxing skills. Aside from this the Aussie can wrestle very well, has good takedowns and can deliver powerful ground and pound from the top.

Following a decision loss to a certain Conor McGregor in 2013, Max Holloway went on a legendary 14 fight run that saw him claim the featherweight title and stake a serious claim as the greatest featherweight of all time. A loss to Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title saw Holloway drop back down to defend his featherweight strap against Frankie Edgar, then came that Volkanovski loss last time out. Stylistically Holloway is perhaps the greatest example of a volume striker the sport has ever seen, setting a record for most significant strikes landed in a single fight when defeating Brian Ortega in 2018 and also holding the record for the most significant strikes landed in the UFC as a whole. Put simply once Holloway’s found his range, he’s going to pepper you all night.

 

Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal

No disrespect to Gilbert Burns, who has looked incredible in his last few outings, but Kamaru Usman (16-1) defending his belt against Jorge Masvidal (35-13) was the fight fans were crying out for. Usman upset champion Tyron Woodley last March in a dominating five round performance and then followed this up with a fifth round TKO over bitter rival Colby Covington in his first defence. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has a wrestling heavy suffocating style, that aims to push his opponents back to the fence before sweeping them off their feet and onto their backs. In a word Usman is relentless, but also has underrated power as can be seen from his seven career TKO/KO’s.

While Usman is a relentless machine, Masvidal is a pure fighter, whether its on the streets of Miami, or in the Fight Island cage ‘Gamebred’ is always ready for a tear up. 2019’s fighter of the year put together three astonishing finishes, stopping Darren Till and Ben Askren in their tracks and winning the BMF title against Nate Diaz to force himself into the title picture. And after it seemed a pay dispute would rob fans of one of the most anticipated fights in the world right now, a positive COVID test enabled negotiations to restart and Masvidal to slip back in, on six days’ notice. Masvidal will clearly have the advantage on the feet, and is not a man who can be taken down and controlled with ease, whichever way this one goes expect a dog fight.

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