Three title fights take place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, with the card itself starting crazy early as the preliminaries kick off at 2AM, satiating the prime time North American audience. 12 July 2020.

Oh boy, its finally time to watch some killer action on the glorious sunlit beaches of the tropical paradise, FIGHT ISLAND! Oh wait… what is that I hear? Dana revealed that Fight Island™️ is an Abu Dhabi leisure resort that has already hosted three former UFC events (2010, 2014, 2019)? The octagon on the sand, though, that is pretty cool… if the fights were actually to take place there. Instead, UFC 251 will take place in an octagon that will mimic an arena with walls and a roof. Boooo! In all fairness, using an air conditioning unit is probably vital if the event is to start at 2 AM in the sweltering 43°C Abu Dhabi heat.

No worries, surely the main event is gripping enough, featuring former teammates Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman engaging in a chess match on the feet and mat. The fight for the title makes sense for once, as both men have resoundingly beaten former champ, Tyron Woodley, over five rounds. Wait a second. Burns just contracted COVID-19. Perhaps this matchmaking during a global pandemic is surprisingly risky to fighter health.

Usman’s chances of defending his belt at 251 are nout. Rumours circulating of Masvidal stepping up to the mettle are just plain wrong, Street Jesus is currently pioneering for better fighter pay and hinting at a long-overdue fighter union! Ah. Silly me. Money talks. What will probably emerge as an extra $50-100k, Masvidal has been coerced into ditching the hopes of the underpaid UFC roster in pursuit of his own riches. I don’t blame the man to personally benefit himself, it is a rough world. What is sad is that Dana White and the UFC cronies can once again leapfrog the financial abuse that they inflict upon their fighters. (The only chance now for a fighter union is if Jon Jones continues to stall out matchmaking – not the ideal leader for a movement based on justice).

The revised main event would amusingly have been a more entertaining affair than Burns-Usman, IF Masvidal had been able to enter a full training camp. Unfortunately, Masvidal has had to cut twenty pounds in just under a week, and even for the veteran, that is quite the monumental drain on the body. Usman is a five-round man whose output remains scarily robotic over the full twenty-five minutes, most likely in part down to natural supplements. The two fighters themselves have a level of animosity, however. There is an engaging narrative of dislike that casual fans can get behind if the UFC had been able to market the fight for just a few weeks prior. Timing do be a cruel mistress sometimes.

In an attempt to swindle his way to a title shot, Jorge Masvidal released a video calling out the Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and his fixation on the lower ranked Masvidal. April 2020.

Side Note: The main card is absolutely stacked. Four of the five fights (of which, three are title fights!) involve interesting match-ups between big names whilst the other fight is Dana’s attempts to create an women eye candy showdown. The main card holds weight for the future of several divisions. If Holloway loses to Volkanovski again, surely he moves up to lightweight. If Thug Rose loses again to Andrade, is it now time to hang up the gloves? If Aldo is to beat the Russian boogeyman and claim the Bantamweight belt, does Aldo cement himself as the P-4-P GOAT? And finally, if Masvidal is to beat Usman on just one weeks notice, does he truly earn the right to be the eternal BMF?

Main Event

Welterweight Championship (170)

Kamaru Usman (16-1) vs Jorge Masvidal (35-13)

Kamaru Usman is a beast. There is no other way to word it. Athletically, the man has a stellar gas tank combined with the strength of a middleweight. Technically, Usman has an incredible sense of position within the octagon and can routinely push his opponent’s backs to the cage without them ever noticing. Using the cage as his web, Spider Usman can suffocate opponents in grappling exchanges that rarely see Usman reversed from a grinding top position.

What Usman is not, is an exciting fighter. For some reason, Usman has recently gained a reputation as a man who brings fireworks. Guy Fawkes, he is not. Excluding the Colby Covington fight where both men had seemingly decided upon a gentleman’s agreement to only throw hands, Usman generally tends to lay and pray. Frustratingly, Usman can throw explosive and damaging ground and pound, but he prefers to maintain ground control and throw the bare minimum strikes to prevent the fight from being brought back to the feet. It is gross to watch for casuals and hardcore alike, but good Lord is it effective.

Street Jesus, Jorge Masvidal, is a man on a suicide mission. Since his return in early 2019 following a year out of the sport, Masvidal has racked up unprecedented momentum across the rankings and media. Stopping Darren Till, decapitating Ben Askren and flicking Nate Diaz’ light switch on and off, Masvidal has become a fan favourite for his explosive volume striking which utilises fluid boxing with deceptively hurtful body kicks. The major complaint of Masvidal’s early career was his ease at which he cruised in fights to whatever range and tempo the opponent decided, resulting in a series of unnecessary decision losses. Renaissance man Masvidal now actively engages, using a variety of hand and shoulder feints to better understand an opponent rather than waiting inside a counter striking shell.

Sadly for Masvidal, he is utterly dwarfed by Usman, on top of a badly rushed weight cut (with no blame on Masvidal’s part, it is just the way last minute events transpire). The water drain will have a real impact on his abilities during the championship rounds if the fight is to make it there. Not good news before you have to face off with a fighter who can grapple for fifty rounds the same as he would five rounds. Takedown defence numbers (78%) confirms the views that Masvidal can prevent the fight hitting the mat, but he has also never faced an exceptional wrestler of Usman’s size. Defensive grappling, no matter how competent, will not suffice in beating Usman, especially as it will rapidly drain the already impacted gas tank of Masvidal.

Predicted Result: Usman Decision

Quite simply, Masvidal is too small to stop Usman from ragdolling him against the cage. Without the space to plant his feet and outstrike Usman, Masvidal will have to struggle his way through five rounds of suffocation.

UFC 239 Results: Jorge Masvidal Sets Record And Wins $50K With ...
A ‘super necessary’ knee by Jorge Masvidal on Ben Askren, marking the fasted KO in UFC history, taking just five seconds since the opening bell. UFC 239, 7 July 2019.

Result: Usman def. Masvidal // Decision (unanimous – 50–45, 50–45, 49–46)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Co-Main Event

Featherweight Championship (145)

Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) vs Max Holloway (21-5)

Former 400-pound Rugby League star, Volkanovski, shocked the odds when he decisioned champion Max Holloway last December. Unhappy with the lack of credit he received the first time around, Volkanovski is hoping to cement his legacy by beating Holloway more decisively in the rematch. The key to Volk’s success was a chopping leg kick that threw Holloway out of his comfortable stance, and follow-up punches that prevented Holloway from counter-striking the leg kicks. In the first three rounds, Volk was able to out-hustle volume-man Holloway, but during the championship rounds, it started to become apparent that his gas tank was depleting. Volk must protect his body tightly during the later rounds, especially from Holloway’s laser body hooks, if he wants to remain champion.

Holloway had a rough 2019, beating the remains of Frankie Edgar but enduring two punishing losses against Dustin Poirier and Volk. Holloway was starting to change the tide in the championship rounds against Volk, especially after he began to target the body with punches. If Holloway is to win the rematch, it is time to reintroduce a more effective kicking game to striking variety necessary to open up Volk’s shell. Moreover, a return of Holloway’s excellent jab should be targeting Volk’s body from the get-go.

Before this fight, both men openly spoke of their struggles to engage in a full training camp due to the global pandemic. It is a crying shame as both men are excellent tacticians and the fight itself will suffer as a result of rushed game plans. Although it depends on the result (and more importantly, the manner of result), but I would be more than happy to watch a third match between the two men. Apologies to the backlog of featherweight challengers, but I am greedy.

Predicted Result: Holloway TKO Round 4

Going against the grain here. Fans expressed their doubts prior to the Ortega fight, and Max showed his true championship calibre. A striker on the level of Holloway will be able to adjust to an opponent if given time. With five rounds of Volk already under his belt, Holloway can comfortably out-strike Volk and stop a fighter who has never had his heart truly questioned in the later rounds.

Alexander Volkanovski Defeats Max Holloway by Unanimous Decision ...
Holloway and Volkanovski share a brief moment of rest during their chess match at UFC 245, 14 December 2019.

Result: Volkanovski def. Holloway // Decision (split – 48–47, 48–47, 47–48)

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Main Card

Bantamweight Championship (135)

Petr Yan (14-1) vs Jose Aldo (28-6)

Petr Yan’s striking is poetry in motion. Fighting at a high pace, Yan calculates his offence two or three steps ahead of his opposition. Utilising a variety of feints that leave opponents looking silly as they paw at imaginary strikes, Yan capitalises on the holes that he exposed. Despite this, there is a lot that is unknown about Yan. How can he deal with fighting off his back for extended periods? Does the gas tank still hold up? In a solely striking affair though, Yan outpaces and cleanly outstrikes Aldo almost every time.

José Aldo, the forgotten GOAT. The man has power, crushing top game and a sharp counter-striking arsenal. Why is Aldo being overlooked then? Back to back decision losses to Volkanovski and Marlon Moraes never look good for a very experienced fighter (the Yan fight signifying his thirty-fifth professional fight). Regardless, Yan often lingers in the pocket long enough to be tagged – as seen in the John Dodson fight. Aldo has the power and striking IQ to wipe Yan out if he enters the bout overconfident. Whether Aldo has the killer instinct anymore is another question. Aldo looked vacant as he dropped the decision loss to Volk, a stylistic match-up that Aldo would usually have thrived in, with strong TDD and superior striking.

Predicted Result: Aldo TKO Round 2

Maybe its my heart talking before my head, but Jose Aldo has an insane resume that trumps Yan’s handful of fights at the top UFC level. If Aldo brings back his leg kicks, this fight strongly falls into his favour as he can hammer Yan out of his boxing stance. Most likely without the return of the tree choppers, Aldo holds enough power in his hands to punish Yan’s tendency to watch his strikes.

Urijah Faber Suffers Gruesome Injury Against Petr Yan at UFC 245 ...
Petr Yan sends veteran, Urijah Faber, back to retirement with a vicous head that put an end to three rounds of striking punishment. UFC 245, 14 December 2019.

Result: Yan def. Aldo // TKO (punches) Round 5 3:24

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs Rose Namajunas (8-4)

Andrade is a size bully that bullrushes and overwhelms opponents. It is an entertaining style to be sure, but slams and wild hooks can only get you so far. Athletically gifted, if Andrade had joined a more professional gym then she may have been able to develop technically into an elite fighter. Sadly, Andrade has remained loyal to Paraná Vale Tudo, sparring with the likes of Priscila Cachoeira, and effectively stagnating her career.

Rose Namajunas is an exceptional women’s fighter who can easily switch between fighting on the front and back foot. Using an effective jab (rare for MMA, let alone WMMA), Rose chips away at opponents before introducing precise kicks to finish fights. Struggles outside of the octagon relating to mental health may have had an invisible part in hampering the training, preparation or actual fighting ability of Rose that we as outsiders may never know. Hopefully, with a decent time outside of the spotlight to focus on herself, Rose has been able to overcome any demons and can produce to her best ability on Saturday.

Predicted Result: Andrade Decision

Andrade forced Rose to fight uncomfortably against the cage and was starting to get the better of the striking affairs before being able to secure the spectacular slam KO. Andrade should be able to swarm Rose, relying on her chin as her primary defence.

Result: Namajunas def. Andrade // Decision (split – 29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Women’s Flyweight (125)

Paige VanZant (8-4) vs Amanda Ribas (9-1)

Paige VanZant is a tough fighter that is often overlooked by media as an Instagram model fashioned as a UFC fighter. Fighting only sporadically over the past few years, due to a series of injuries and contractual disputes, has not helped her brand value. Regardless, VanZant has a solid gas tank with decent enough fundamentals to justify her place on the UFC roster.

Ribas is fast rising the women’s flyweight division as a star to keep track of. Her decision victory over Mackenzie Dern will likely age well in the future, and defeating Randa Markos in March this year shows the fast-track that the UFC has placed Ribas on. A technical grappler, Ribas is more masterful than VanZant on the mat and can dominate if able to take the fight to the ground.

Predicted Result: Ribas Decision

VanZant is a tough cookie and will not wilt in the face of pressure, but Ribas’ skillset should be far too much to overcome.

Result: Ribas def. VanZant // Submission (armbar) Round 1 2:21

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Preliminary Card

Light Heavyweight (205)

Volkan Oezdemir (17-4) vs Jiří Procházka (26-3-1)

Yes, a very cool fight for an atrocious division. Oezdemir is an exciting striker who has revolutionised himself after embarrassing defeats to Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith. Destroying Gimli-lookalike Ilir Latifi in a two-round beatdown, Oezdemir also snagged a split decision victory over Aleksandar Rakić. Questionable on the ground, Oezdemir makes up for his deficiencies with a well-rounded offence that can sleep opponents on occasion.

Procházka is a Rizin transfer who is coming off of arguably his most impressive win, a first-round stoppage of former UFC fighter CB Dollaway. Relying on athleticism rather than technique, Procházka could use his power to end the night early. Through baptism by fire; Oezdemir is a tough ranked opponent yet if Procházka is to win then he is effectively fast-tracked to the title (due to the shallow nature of LHW).

Predicted Result: Oezdemir TKO Round 1

Oezdemir has recreated himself with a more calculated offence and will be able to avoid the erratic power of Procházka before punishing his technical shortcomings.

Result: Procházka def. Oezdemir // KO (punch) Round 2 0:49

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Welterweight (170)

Elizeu Zaleski (22-6) vs Muslim Salikhov (16-2)

Another fun fight that is flying under the radar. Vastly better on the feet, Salikhov can cause Zaleski havoc if he allows the fight to remain standing. Salikhov throws some pretty gangster Kung Fu strikes that are a joy to watch whether they land or not. Zaleski is a freaky striker who patches together show-stopping strikes as a form of competent offence. The key to a Zaleski victory will be taking the fight to the ground and nullifying the fluid kickboxing of Salikhov.

Predicted Result: Zaleski Decision

I think this will be a joy to watch for the first round. Zaleski will thereafter be able to secure regular takedowns and prevent the fans from seeing two men throw spinning s**t – the biggest appeal of MMA.

Result: Salikhov def. Zaleski // Decision (split – 30-27, 29-28, 28-29)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Featherweight (145)

Makwan Amirkhani (15-4) vs Danny Henry (12-3)

I have a soft spot for Amirkhani. He shoots regular takedowns, he shoots regular submission attempts and he regularly shoots himself in the foot with a terrible gas tank. Danny Henry cannot physically match Amirkhani, but he can outlast him. Through virtue of simply being more athletic, Henry could finish this fight in the third.

Predicted Result: Amirkhani Submission Round 1

Amirkhani thrives against smaller opposition like Henry, there is no reason to believe that Amirkhani will not be able to take his man down and submit him without breaking a sweat.

Result: Amirkhani def. Henry // Submission (anaconda choke) Round 1 3:15

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Lightweight (155)

Leonardo Santos (17-3-1) vs Roman Bogatov (10-0)

Forgotten man, Leonardo Santos, returns to the octagon at the ripe age of 40. An insanely talented grappler with too-good-to-be-true counter striking stripes, Santos is a beast when he is not injured. Bogatov is an unknown entity, entering as a UFC debutant. Preferring to fight on the ground when possible, this is not the ideal strategy against a fighter as good as Santos.

Predicted Result: Santos Submission Round 3

Bogatov is a tough fighter with some experience on the mat and Santos still has ring rust that needs to be shaken. It should still be a dominating performance, however.

Result: Santos def. Bogatov // Decision (unanimous – 29-26, 29-26, 29-26)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Early Preliminary Card

Heavyweight (265)

Marcin Tybura (18-6) vs Maxim Grishin (30-7-2)

I don’t want to preview this fight. It is going to suck.

Predicted Result: Tybura Decision

Enjoy watching Tybura snuggle on top of Grishin for fifteen minutes.

Result: Tybura def. Grishin // Decision (unanimous – 30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Flyweight (125)

Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-3) vs Raulian Paiva (19-3)

Regional fighter Zhumagulov makes his debut against rugged Brazilian decision master, Raulian Paiva. With enough decisions to share between the two of them, it should suggest a decision result. Probably not, though. Zhumagulov has been drafted in to give Paiva a highlight reel stoppage.

Predicted Result: Paiva TKO Round 2

Paiva can enter into a gatekeeper role with a victory over Zhumagulov.

Result: Paiva def. Zhumagulov // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Women’s Bantamweight (135)

Vanessa Melo (10-7) vs Karol Rosa (10-3)

Women’s bantamweight is already a terrible division to begin with. Now we have to watch two fighters that are far below the division’s best? Nah. Rosa has decent grappling chops at least.

Predicted Result: Rosa Decision

Please end early.

Result: Rosa def. Melo // Decision (unanimous – 30-26, 30-26, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Bantamweight (135)

Martin Day (8-3) vs Davey Grant (9-4)

Fun little scrap between two bantamweights that need a win if they want to justify their position on the UFC roster. Grant is very susceptible to being submitted, Day prefers to keep the fight standing.

Predicted Result: Day Submission Round 3

Result: Grant def. Day // KO (punch) Round 3 2:38

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ✔️

Prediction Accuracy

UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal

Winner: 7/13

Method: 7/13

Round: 7/13

2020 MMA Season

Winner: 28/55

Method: 28/55

Round: 26/55

Takeaway comments: Petr Yan is the real deal, I repent my sins of doubting.

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