UFC 251 Main Card Predictions
The time is finally upon us, Fight Island is here for the world to experience. UFC 251 will reside in Abu Dhabi, where the UFC has turned Yas Island into a combat sports stronghold. In an event and location that has become mythical before even taking place, the worldwide leader in Mixed Martial Arts is prepared to present one of the best cards ever. While there will be no fights on the beach, to many fans dismay, this event is primed to take the attention of sports fans everywhere.
UFC 251 Prelim Gems:
Volkan Oezdemir (17-4) vs. Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1)
Elizeu Zaleski (22-6) vs. Muslim Salikhov (16-2)
Leonardo Santos (17-3) vs. Roman Bagotov (10-0)
UFC 251 Main Card:
Amanda Ribas (9-1) vs. “12 Gauge” Paige Van Zant (8-4)
As Paige Van Zant enters the UFC octagon for what most believe to be the last time, Amanda Ribas will try to continue her impressive run since debuting in the UFC a little over a year ago. While “12 Gauge” seeks an improved contract with this bout being the last of her current deal, Ribas looks to notch her first victory at 125. Opening one of the most historic events in MMA history, these two flyweights have an opportunity to have a moment in the spotlight.
Van Zant has a record of (2-3) in her last five fights with both of her wins coming against opponents with losing records. Neither of those fighters is currently competing under the UFC banner. With Ribas dominating everyone of her matchups to date, there’s a reason the Brazilian comes in as a clear favorite.
Van Zant does have some of the best clinch-work in the UFC, that goes along with her ability to execute her freestyle wrestling into dominating ground-and-pound. Her abilities simply do not seem to be enough as she struggles with movement in the pocket, all while having mediocre takedown defense. Although Ribas is used to facing smaller competition, her consistent grappling performances give off the impression that she’ll be able to replicate the game plan of Van Zant’s previous opponents.
Ribas def. Van Zant via Submission (3rd Round)
“Thug” Rose Namajunas (9-4) vs. Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (20-7) II
About two and a half years ago, “Thug Rose” shocked the world and defeated the unstoppable Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win the Women’s Strawweight Championship. While Namajunas was happy to lift the strap, no one knew how much stress she took on carrying the weight of the division. Going on record describing how uncomfortable she was as champion, one has to think we’ll be able to see a rejuvenated former champ tonight from the Flash Forum.
Jessica Andrade will be standing across the cage from Namajunas for the first time since slamming her on her head to end her title reign in May of 2019. Before the sudden ending three minutes into the second round of their first bout, Namajunas put together one of the best outings of her career in the first round. There should be no rush to discredit the victory of Andrade, but the former champion was clearly in control of the first fight until she wasn’t.
If Namajunas can replicate her striking from the first fight and maintain control on the ground, there should be a different outcome in the rematch of these two elite strawweights.
Namajunas def. Andrade via Uniamous Decision
Jose “Junior” Aldo (28-6) vs. Petr “No Mercy” Yan (14-1)
Henry Cejudo left a void in the 135 LB division once he retired after successfully defending his Bantamweight Title against Dominick Cruz at UFC 249. There will be a new king crowned in the first of three title fights on the card. Petr Yan has been chomping at the bit for a shot at the belt for a while, Jose Aldo is and will always be legit, but it’s a much different scenario for the former featherweight champion.
As “No Mercy” has torn through the bantamweight division, Aldo is coming off of a close loss to a fellow contender, Marlon Moraes. Regardless if some believe Aldo won the fight, the Brazilian phenom getting a title shot hasn’t set well with quite a few people. Aljamain Sterling has gone as far as to say he is the uncrowned champ, well the winner will meet him at a later date.
In what seems like the best pure matchup on the card, these two bruisers are bound to bang it out for up to 25 minutes. Aldo loves a good dance partner, but Yan may not be the guy to tango with at this point in his career. The former Aldo that would take apart your legs from the outside and leave you vulnerable in the championship rounds is no more. So, we’ll have to wait and see if he decides to use his elusiveness and attempt to frustrate Yan with his notorious jab or if he wants to stand and throw.
If a war does indeed break out, the chips will fall in Yan’s favor. Looking to be Russia’s second UFC champion, Yan has the power and preciseness to take advantage of a Jose Also that isn’t as fresh as he once was.
Yan def. Aldo via KO (5th Round)
Max “Blessed” Holloway (21-5) vs. Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (21-1) II
To this day, both Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski think that they won the first chapter of their rivalry back in December of last year. That creates a very interesting dynamic, how much will either man change their gameplan, and who will benefit the most from it? Usually, the loser is at a detriment in that type of scenario.
In the first meeting of the two, Volkanovski executed his gameplan to perfection. He never let Holloway gain any momentum until it was too late. Also, he kept the taller Holloway hesitant with brutal leg kicks that didn’t let the blessed one ever get out of the gates. While Holloway got in a groove in the championship rounds, he’ll need to find a way past Volkanovski’s early point fighting defense to gain the advantage in the rematch.
Neither man was in any real danger of getting stopped in the first contest, so something will have to give for there to be a noticeable difference here. It all comes down to how much Holloway has changed his gameplan to address the striking style of the champion. The best featherweight of all time to most people’s acclaim will need to find his way inside earlier to push the pace in his way.
With Holloway joking about having his entire training camp on Zoom, a lot of his fans have become uneasy. That is more than likely not true, meaning he’ll be ready for another 25-minute scrap with the Australian. Holloway gets started faster and cuts Volkanovski’s title run short.
Holloway def. Volkanovski via Split Decision
Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (35-13) vs. Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (16-1)
Seven days ago, the main event for UFC 251 was a regularly scheduled contest that lined the number one contender Gilbert Burns against the Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. Unfortunately, Burns tested positive for COVID-19. With the Papa Dana stuck in between a rock and a hard place, he made the call. That call, alongside some tense negotiations, landed the company a main event that is registering on the McGregor/Nurmagomedov scale. Does the intrigue of Fight Island help bring attention to the event? Sure. That doesn’t change the fact that Jorge Masvidal is a superstar and will be a megastar if he pulls off the upset tonight in Abu Dhabi.
Not only do these two men hate each other, but the UFC is also in a win-win scenario. With “Gamebred” taking this fight on six days’ notice, the world will still respect Masvidal if he were to lose. While Dana White and Masvidal haven’t seen eye to eye recently, White understands what Masvidal means to the business and what a victory would do.
As Masvidal has taken the internet by storm, Kamaru Usman has quietly sat back and been able to adjust to this roller coaster of a week. Yes, Masvidal has the deck stacked against him, but there should be no dismissal of “The Nigerian Nightmare” and his approach to the fight. Burns is a universally different fighter than Masvidal, now Usman has been tasked to take on the most dangerous striker in the division with little time to audible.
Masvidal will come out aggressive, not likely to be looking for a five-round grind. Usman will have a chance to decide how he addresses that. Will he use his superior wrestling, or will he stand and bang to a finish as he did in an epic bout with Colby Covington in December? The former seems more sensical. If Masvidal can use his mind games to persuade Usman out of a 25-minute drag, he’ll get his chance to baptize the champion. If not, Usman retains far and away.
Usman def. Masvidal via Unanimous Decision