UFC 251 Preview: All you need to know ahead of tonight’s fights

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It’s here, it’s finally here… UFC Fight Island has arrived and what a time we are in for, 4 fight cards over 14 days with some of the biggest names in the fighting game going toe to toe and we start it off with the best card of the event, the UFC 251 PPV card which includes 3 title fights and much more. Let’s get into each and every fight! 

There are 4 fights in store for fight fans during the early prelims, with the show starting with a bantamweight bout between Martin Day and Davey Grant, followed by a womens bantamweight bout between Karol Rosa and Vanessa Melo, followed by a flyweight bout between #14 ranked flyweight Raulian Paiva and Zhalgas Zhumagulov and to round the early prelims out we have a heavyweight bout between Marcin Tybura and Maxim Grishin. In terms of who I think win these fights I’ll go with Day, Melo, Zhumagulov and Grishin. 

Prelims:  

Leonardo Santos vs Roman Bogatov – Lightweight Bout 

Kicking off the prelims is a lightweight bout between Leonardo Santos and Roman Bogatov. Leonardo Santos had a bright future back in 2014 when he won the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” however he’s only had a handful of fights in the UFC since then. He has impressed in these fights, winning against guys like Steven Ray and Kevin Lee. 

Roman Bogatov is an undefeated Russian fighter who’s making his UFC debut, he’s a competent fighter who loves to wrestle his opponents for the majority of the fight. With a 10-0 record he could pose a decent threat to Santos, especially given we don’t know the exact level he can compete at. 

Overall, I’m taking Santos here, he has enough power in his stand-up game to cause Bogatov issues out of the blocks and his submission game is impressive, however, he is 40 now so maybe this is the fight he looks his age and Bogatov can take advantage and gain a huge scalp in his first UFC fight. 

Makwan Amirkhani vs Danny Henry – Featherweight Bout 

Up next is a battle between the featherweights as Makwan Amirkhani takes on Danny Henry. Makwan had a very impressive UFC debut last time out, as he destroyed Andy Ogle within 8 seconds which was even more surprising given, he’s known to be an aggressive grappler which will probably be his gameplan in this fight.  

I had the pleasure of watching Danny Henry live in his last fight against Dan Ige in London and he was just outclassed, which isn’t surprising given where Ige has gone with his career since. Henry had a really good win streak going before that fight and he’s a jack of all trades, you just never know what his gameplan will be. 

I’m taking Henry in the fight, just off the basis that Amirkhani can be drawn into a fight on the feet and if that happens, Henry should be able to beat him up to a point where Amirkhani can’t switch to his grappling game effectively. 

Elizeu Dos Santos vs Muslim Salikhov – Welterweight Bout 

The third fight of the prelims sees welterweights do battle as Dos Santos takes on Salikhov. Dos Santos has been pretty shaky during his UFC career, especially in recent times when he got a pretty unimpressive win against Alexey Kunchenko in March. 

Muslim Salikhov has promised a lot since making the switch to the UFC with his reputation of having flashy violent fights in the past. Fans didn’t get that in his debut but his following 3 wins have been via brutal knockouts and it seems he’s finally found his footing within the UFC. 

Personally, I can’t see Dos Santos winning this fight at all. Salikhov is brilliant and brutal on the feet and going to the floor doesn’t really suit Dos Santos, meaning he’ll have to win this fight on the feet and his last few outings hasn’t filled me with any confidence of him beating Salikhov.  

#7 Volkan Oezdemir vs Jiri Prochazka – Light Heavyweight Bout 

The featured prelim bout is one that gets the mouth-watering as it’s a fascinating light heavyweight contest. Volkan Oezdemir has been a consistent fighter of his career, and whilst his UFC record of 5-3 isn’t a standout record, he’s found so much consistency recently that he can cause huge waves at light heavyweight. His last loss was against recent title contender Dominick Reyes, a fight I saw live and thought Volkan won, like many did. 

Jiri Prochazka is making his UFC debut today after destroying in Rizin and holding their light heavyweight belt for a period of time. His record is 26-3-1, with 23 knockouts and that’s all he has to his game, it’s not very technical, just sheer power and violence. He manages to pull out knockouts when he’s on the backfoot in fights and that’s what makes him such a threat to fighters and it will be the same tonight when he takes on Volkan. 

This one is a tough fight to call as we won’t know what Jiri will do with this step-up in competition, especially when it’s against a former title contender in Volkan. Personally, I’m siding with the consistent Volkan in this fight, however, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jiri pull off a knockout in the third round from nowhere. 

Main Card: 

#14 Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant – Women’s Flyweight Bout 

The women are kicking off the main card with a fantastic matchup between Amanda Ribas and Paige VanZant. Ribas has taken the UFC by the scruff of its neck and really showed why she was a hot prospect coming into the company, winning all 3 of her UFC bouts. Ribas is incredibly physical and powerful, especially given she fights at flyweight and her wins have come evenly between methods with 3 knockouts, submissions and decisions.  

This fight is probably Paige VanZant’s final one in the UFC, it’s definitely the final one on her current contract and the rumours swirling at the moment is that she will join her husband in Bellator, so the UFC have decided to spite book her against Ribas in her final fight. VanZant is coming off a win her last bout against Rachael Ostovich but she’s struggled in her UFC career for consistency at the top level. 

Personally, I can’t see VanZant winning this goodbye fight, Ribas is just too powerful and physical and VanZant just won’t be able to keep up with her. Whether the win comes from a knockout, submission or a decision is yet to be determined but I’ll be picking Ribas to win this one. 

#1 Jessica Andrade vs #2 Rose Namajunas – Women’s Strawweight Bout 

The final fight before the title fights start is another womens bout, this time a rematch between the two top ranked women at strawweight, Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas. Andrade won the previous bout with a brutal slam knockout and she’ll be looking to implement that type of gameplan again against Rose. Andrade is all about brute force and physicality, she’ll ragdoll her opponents around the mat and tire them out before they can get a foothold in the bout. 

Rose Namajunas will go down as one of the best strawweights in UFC history, she beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title and then beat her again for her first title defense, she’d be still champion today if it wasn’t for that unfortunate slam KO in the previous fight against Andrade. Rose teased retirement after that fight and it’s interesting to see her comeback to fight Andrade again instead of retiring. 

Rose Namajunas is quite easily my favourite womens fighter in the history of the UFC, I love watching her fight, she’s so technical and she blew everyone away with those wins against Joanna. I’m picking her to win this fight but Andrade proved last time that when she gets her hands on you, the fight can be over in an instant. 

#3 Petr Yan vs #6 Jose Aldo – Bantamweight Title Bout 

The first title bout of the card is for the vacant bantamweight title, that was left behind by Henry Cejudo due to retirement, and either Petr Yan or Jose Aldo will be named the new bantamweight champion.  

Petr Yan has been nothing short of special in his UFC career, with 6 wins and not a single loss to his name. Yan is one of the best stand up fighters in the UFC right now, he’s so violent yet so technical with his strikes. Wins against guys like John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera and Urijah Faber put him into the position he finds himself right now and many people believe it’s only a short time before we see championship gold around his waist. 

Jose Aldo is one of the most famous MMA fighters in the past decade, he controlled the featherweight division as champion for years upon years until that infamous 13 second KO loss to Conor McGregor. Aldo then realised that featherweight was a much younger mans game and he’s made the cut to bantamweight where he started impressively against one of the best in Marlon Moraes. Moraes got the nod on the scorecards but many believed Aldo won the bout, hence why he is fighting for the title here. 

This is set to be a fantastic fight between one of the best veterans in the game and one of the best young stars in the company right now. Both guys have the skill and technique to win this one but I just can’t stop marvelling at the stardom of Petr Yan, so I’m going to go with him to win. 

(C) Alexander Volkanovski vs #1 Max Holloway – Featherweight Title Bout 

Another rematch on the card, however, this time it’s a rematch for the featherweight title between current champion Alexander Volkanovski and previous champion Max Holloway. Volkanovski has been on a meteroric rise since joining the UFC, winning all 8 bouts he’s been in against the likes of Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and his opponent here Max Holloway. He may not be the flashiest of fighters but his cardio and stamina is up there with the best, he never slows down and keeps up such a high pace during his fights, he’s a true star in the featherweight division. 

Max Holloway has had a right rollercoaster of a UFC career from constant moves to lightweight that never worked out, to controlling the featherweight division ever since Conor McGregor left for the lightweight division, he’s become a real star in the company and a fan favourite. Max is incredibly technical with his striking and has some serious power on his shots early in fights. It’s going to be seriously interesting to see if he can get his gold back. 

This fight may well be the fight of the night, both guys love to stand on their feet and never stop throwing shots at their opponents. Volkanovski has the obvious upper hand in this bout given he won last time out but Max is a serious star and it’s so difficult to say there’s a difference between these fighters. I’d pick a winner, but the only obvious winner with this bout are the fans. 

(C) Kamaru Usman vs #3 and BMF Champion Jorge Masvidal – Welterweight Title Bout 

We’ve finally reached the main event ladies and gentlemen, and by god do we have a fight on our hands with this one. Originally this bout was set to be between Usman and Gilbert Burns, however Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and therefore had to pull out of the fight. Thankfully Masvidal was on hand to take the fight on 6 days notice. 

Usman has been one of the best things to come from the welterweight division in recent years, his wrestling game is one of the best we’ve seen in a while and the power he possesses is scary. His cardio is fantastic and he proved in his last fight against Colby Covington that he can strike a little bit. His title winning performance against former champion Tyron Woodley was nothing short of special, one of the best performances we have seen in quite some time. It’s going to take something special to take the belt from Usman. 

Jorge Masvidal, where do I even start? Masvidal has been an utter workhorse for the UFC, starting out with his career at lightweight, he never truly achieved what he was meant to at that weight and after some time off, he reinvented himself at welterweight and it’s one of the best decisions that’s ever been made. He was shot into stardom after astonishing KO’s against Darren Till and the unforgettable knee KO against Ben Askren. I was there, in person, to witness the KO of Darren Till and it was just simply scary. Jorge Masvidal is a star, there’s no denying that, however, he hasn’t fought a guy like Usman in quite some time, maybe even ever. 

This fight will be brilliant, simple as that. These two have been beefing with eachother for quite some time now and we finally get to see them go at eachother for possibly 25 minutes. You’d imagine Usman has the upper hand given Jorge is coming in on 6 days notice, but people seem to be missing that Usman had been preparing for a wrestling match against Burns, not against a striker such as Masvidal. My head is telling me Usman, but my heart keeps telling me Masvidal, and whilst you can never rule out ‘Street Jesus’, my money will be on Usman retaining the title. 

Mandatory Credit: Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports

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