by David Joaqui
After many rumors and speculation, Fight Island has arrived and will be the host to one of the biggest cards of the year, UFC 251. Live from Abu Dhabi, Dana White and the UFC have put in extreme measures to make sure Fight Island is safe and that the viewers get their monies worth.
Fight Island is roughly 25 square kilometers and located in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates. UFC will administer 3,300 COVID-19 tests and has installed 5-foot-wide mist tunnels to sanitize everyone entering. Now to the fight card.
UFC 251 will feature three championship title bouts. Not 1, not 2, but 3! That alone is a draw on its own.
Amanda Ribas vs. Paige VanZant
This matchup was booked to take place at UFC Fight Night 170, but rescheduled due to VanZant having to pull out due to her fracturing her right arm again. It has again been noted that VanZant will have one more arm surgery after UFC 251 to hopefully stave off any future injuries. Taking VanZant’s arm injuries, and the hungry Ribas, I think she might just shelve “’12 Gauge” for some time and climb the rankings.
Prediction: Amanda Ribas
Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
This is the first bout of the night to be a rematch, with Namajunas looking to avenge a KO loss to Andrade back at UFC 237. Namajunas looked to be in control of the match, until a costly error had Andrade slamming her for the win. Andrade is coming off a loss to Zhang Weili, and is looking to rebound back into the title picture. However, I think Namajunas comes into this fight much more focused and finishes what she started.
Prediction: Rose Namajunas
Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the Bantamweight Championship
Henry Cejudo cemented his name in UFC history after defeating Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 and possibly becoming the greatest Bantamweight fighter. His sudden retirement after the fight left everyone wondering who would step up. Yan and Aldo have risen to the challenge, and look to have a slug fest to determine the new champion. In this one, I see Yan’s speed and explosiveness being too much for the aging Aldo. Then again you can never count out Aldo.
Prediction: Petr Yan
Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway for the Featherweight Championship
Once the rematch was set between these two it had everyone’s attention. Their first bout went the distance and had Volkanovski edge out a narrow victory. His leg strikes are what essentially won him the match. Although Holloway did fight his way back in rounds four and five, it wasn’t enough to defeat the Australian. I believe this rematch will be much of the same with Volkanovski proving it wasn’t a fluke win.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski
Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal for the Welterweight Championship
Six days’ notice. That is the amount of time Masvidal gave before agreeing to step in for this title bout. Originally scheduled as Usman vs. Burns, Masvidal took the fight after Burns and his coach tested positive for COVID-19. And although no one wishes anyone to test positive for COVID-19, this was the best possible outcome. This fight alone turned the Pay Per View into a must-see event you do not want to miss.
Usman and Masvidal first had fighting words at radio row during the Super Bowl this year. Then when things seemed right, Masvidal and the UFC could not come into terms on the match. Fast forward to this week, Masvidal managed to drop to 170 lbs. on six days’ notice and is ready for the fight of his life. This has storybook written all over it. Masvidal has been ready for a fight and this moment his entire life. As long as his takedown defense holds up, we will be hearing “AND NEW” at the end of the night. There’s a reason they call him “Gamebred” and the world will see that tonight. Get ready for the baptism.
Prediction: Jorge Masvidal
UFC 251 will be live at 10 p.m. E/T on ESPN+, prelims start at 8 p.m. E/T on ESPN.