UFC Fight Island got underway last night with the stacked UFC 251 PPV card, that saw three championship titles on the line.
The early prelims kicked off the show and saw British bantamweight Davey Grant spectacularly KO Martin Day, followed by Karol Rosa finding a dominant decision win over fellow women’s bantamweight fighter Vanessa Melo. Raulian Paiva scored a win against Zhalgas Zhumagulov via decision and to round out the early prelims of 251, Marcin Tybura managed to get a decision win over Maxim Grishin within the heavyweight division.
Leonardo Santos (W) vs Roman Bogatov – Lightweight Bout
The prelims started off with a lightweight battle between Leonardo Santos and Roman Bogatov. The Russian was making his UFC debut and the fight started off pretty slowly, both guys wary of each others gameplan. The fight was stopped for a minute or so after Bogatov poked Santos in the eye. Once the fight was restarted the Russian was putting a lot of pressure on Santos, but in turn, ending up eating a lot of shots. Santos won that round for me 10-9, but it wasn’t a great first round for either fighter.
Santos started the second round lighting up his opponent with a lovely little combo, however, Bogatov fought back and managed to pin the Brazilian up against the cage, hoping to put his wrestling game to use. Out of nowhere, Santos hit him with a right hand, and another, and another and Bogatov was stumbling all over the place.
After more right hands and a ferocious head kick, Bogatov dropped to the floor but was staying active. As Santos had the upper hand, it seemed he had blown his gas tank trying to finish the fight and gave Bogatov dominant position, from there he lay in a lot of ground and pound to end the round. 10-9 Santos but Bogatov may have saved himself at the end.
The final round of the fight started and Bogatov was on the front foot, trying for the takedown, however, the fight was stopped because Bogatov hit Santos low. The fight started again after a 4-minute wait and Bogatov was searching for a takedown, coming extremely close with a single leg attempt. The fight was stopped once again as Santos was struck low.
After the restart, Bogatov went for another takedown and has been failing to dominantly take his opponent down. Bogatov then hit Santos with a disgusting illegal knee strike, which resulted in a 2 point deduction. With a minute to find a knockout, Bogatov tried but failed and Santos won via decision to end a seriously scrappy fight.
Makwan Amirkhani (W) vs Danny Henry – Featherweight Bout
Hoping to restore some normality to a very weird fight card so far were two featherweights in Danny Henry and Makwan Amirkhani. The fight started with Henry being the more active of the two, whilst Amirkhani was taking his time and reading what Henry was throwing. Out of nowhere Amirkhani hit Henry with a beautiful flying knee, turned into a single leg and took his opponent down. From there he attempted the guillotine, but switched to an Anaconda choke and choked Henry to sleep for the win in the first round.
Elizeu Dos Santos vs Muslim Salikhov (W) – Welterweight Bout
Welterweights are the ones who are following the previous fight and both guys will be looking to replicate what Amirkhani did in that last fight, a quick finish. The majority of the first round saw both fighters throwing very technical strikes but not that much volume. That was until the last 25 seconds of the round when Dos Santos cracked Salikhov with a right hand, but Salikhov got the takedown straight after and the round ended with Dos Santos hitting Salikhov with some ground and pound. Dos Santos 10-9 for me.
Round 2 was almost a mirror image of round 1, the start was slow again, with both guys wary of each other’s striking power and technique. Then Dos Santos cracked Salikhov with a wonderful right hand, but Salikhov managed to score the takedown as Dos Santos advanced towards him. The round ended with some serious power strikes from both guys missing. Dos Santos 10-9 again for me, but this is close.
Round 3 was pretty much the same, both guys weren’t willing to fully commit and throw hands. Both guys were counter hitting nicely, most memorably Salikhov hit Dos Santos with a lovely right-hand counter but he never really followed it up. Salikhov went close with a wheel kick to the head to end the fight. Dos Santos took all three rounds for me, 30-27. Well, the judges gave it via split decision to Salikhov, with one judge somehow scoring it 30-27 Salikhov, that’s a very dodgy decision in my opinion.
Volkan Oezdemir vs Jiri Prochazka (W) – Light Heavyweight Bout
The featured prelim bout saw light heavyweights do battle as Jiri Prochazka finally makes his UFC debut against one of the most consistent fighter Volkan Oezdemir. Jiri maybe one of the weirdest fighters I’ve watched, he was toying and playing with Volkan. Volkan, however, shouldn’t be taken lightly and he reminded Jiri a couple of times by hurting the debutant. 130+ strikes were thrown, for me, Volkan took it 10-9.
It seemed the antics in the first round by Jiri were just some mind games and he came flying out of the gate, hitting and wobbling Volkan with a head kick. Jiri then followed it up with an unbelievable combo, resulting in what I can only describe as a right hand that took Volkan’s soul and sent him to the shadow realm. Jiri wins his first UFC fight, in style, welcome to the big leagues!
Amanda Ribas (W) vs Paige VanZant – Women’s Flyweight Bout
The main card was kicked off by the women and a fight that will probably be Paige VanZant’s last in the UFC. Ribas started hot, got the clinch, and scored a beautiful takedown into a dominant position on the ground. Ribas was constantly looking for a position to finish the fight and she eventually got it when VanZant gave up her arm and Ribas locked in an armbar for the quick win in round 1.
Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas (W) – Women’s Strawweight Bout
The women continued the affairs on the main card with the rematch between the top two contenders in the women’s strawweight division. Round 1 started with Andrade using a lot of head movement to try and get inside but Rose was landing some really nice jabs to stuff the attempts. Rose was so technical with her strikes, it was wonderful to watch and she clipped Andrade a few times in the 1st round, Andrade also caught Rose with some nice shots. 10-9 Rose for me.
Round 2 started with Rose finding even more success with that jab of hers, she attempted a few flying knee attempts but missed. Halfway through the round, both women threw down and found great success with power strikes, Andrade with her right hand and Rose with a lovely 1-2 combo. Andrade ended the round nicely, piecing together a nice combo. 20-18 Rose for me, but that could have gone either way.
Round 3 was brilliant from start to finish. Rose started the round nicely but Andrade came out with a series of strikes, looking for the finish. Rose started stuffing Andrade’s attempts but then ate a huge left hand and Andrade hip tossed her to the floor. Rose showed some incredible ground game by kicking her opponent off her. Rose then answered with a takedown of her own and pieced Andrade up with some combos but Andrade answered back and ended the round well to win round 3 making it 29-28 Rose on my scorecard. Rose was given the nod by the judges via split decision and you’d imagine she will go and fight to get her title back!
Petr Yan (W) vs Jose Aldo – Bantamweight Title Bout
The first of three title bouts on the main card with this one for a vacant title, with either Jose Aldo and Petr Yan being crowned the bantamweight champion. The first round was a cracker, both guys threw a small volume of strikes but they hit hard. Yan caught Aldo early on with a beautiful right hand, Aldo followed up with a calf kick that took Yan clean off his feet. Yan cracked him with a right again as Aldo got a takedown, however, giving Yan dominant position. From there Yan almost finished the fight as he hurt Aldo bad with a body strike. 10-9 Yan through 1.
Round 2 was all Jose Aldo and how he’s gone back to old classic Aldo from his time as featherweight champion. Leg kicks have been nothing short of lethal from Aldo and round 2 was full of them. Yan seemed to find some success with little flurries here and there, but for the most part Aldo controlled round 2. 19-19 for me through 2.
Round 3 started slowly, with both guys being wary of each other after the first two rounds. Aldo at the two-minute mark put a nice flurry together however with two minutes left in the round Yan came alive and pieced together multiple combos and even seemed to wobble or stun Aldo. For me, that goes to Yan but it was close, 29-28 Yan.
Round 4 started off nicely for Yan as he pressured Aldo more and gained more control in the fight, Aldo was retreating more when Yan was advancing, which hints that Aldo is tiring. Yan connects some really nice combos, especially one with a right hand against the fence, he grabbed Aldo’s leg and tripped him for the takedown and finished the round with some quality ground and pound. 39-37 for Yan.
Round 5 was the round for Yan, he came out of the blocks throwing everything he had at a tired Aldo. Yan hit him with combos early and sent him to the floor where he berated Aldo for a solid 2 minutes with brutal ground and pound, punches and elbows, battering Aldo left, right and center. Aldo was cut badly and bleeding quite a lot and the ref finally called the fight, which should be his last as an MMA ref, and Petr Yan is the UFC’s bantamweight champion at just 27 years of age!
Alexander Volkanovski (W) vs Max Holloway – Featherweight Title Bout
Following on from that unbelievably good bantamweight title bout is the 2nd title bout of the night as Alexander Volkanovski defends his belt against the person he beat for the belt, Max Holloway. The first round started slowly, with both guys utilizing leg kicks in the first few minutes but then the former champ Holloway found some success with a right hand and then dropped Volkanovski late in the round with a beautiful head kick. 10-9 Max, thanks to that knockdown late on.
Round 2 started with both guys going back to the leg kicks, a game the champion is winning by some margin. However, Volkanovski can’t get on the inside and in the pocket as Max has an answer every time, catching him with a nice right hand, then a knee to the body and then scored his second knockdown of the fight late on with a lovely uppercut as the champion advanced forward. 20-18 for the challenger.
Round 3 started with Volkanovski being more active in terms of coming forward and engaging with the challenger. He was finding a lot more success with his left hand, whether it was via jabs or hooks. Volkanovski shot for the takedown but failed, locking Max against the cage wall. Holloway disengaged well with a knee to the body and a right hand. A few more lefts worked for the champion to finish the round, extremely close round to call, for me the champion edged it so it’s 29-28 heading into round 4.
Round 4 saw both guys staying on the outside as they knew their opponents could end the fight in an instant. Volkanovski was trying to stay active as he was advancing in and managed to score a nice takedown from underhooks but Max got back to his feet instantly. Volkanovski shot for another takedown but Max stuffed it and right at the end caught the champion with a beautiful right hand to end it. 39-37 for Holloway for me, Volkanovski needs a finish.
Round 5 started the same as the one before it and both guys were staying on the outside and trying to keep safe rather than just throwing down. Max landed some nice strikes as Volkanovski came in but the champion got a takedown via a trip, however, Max got straight back up. Volkanovski shot for another takedown and it was stuffed. Volkanovski ended the round with another takedown and for me, he won that round making it 48-47 Holloway. The judges gave it to Volkanovski via split decision and it proves once again, that the champion has the edge on the cards, another questionable decision from the judges.
Kamaru Usman (W) vs Jorge Masvidal – Welterweight Title Bout
Main event time and to complete the hattrick of title fights on this fantastic card so far. Masvidal took this fight on 6 days’ notice. Round 1 was fantastic, Masvidal came flying out of the blocks with legs kicks but Usman caught his leg and took him down. Both guys were active on the ground until Masvidal fought his way back to the feet. Usman shot for another takedown but Masvidal stuffed it. Late on Masvidal caught Usman with a nice left hand. 10-9 Masvidal for me.
Round 2 could be summed up in one sentence realistically, Usman grabbed a hold of Masvidal from the start and locked him against the cage wall, from there he was stamping on the feet of Masvidal and ripping punches to the body. Jorge managed to get some separation near the end and clip Usman with some strikes but round 2 goes to Usman. 19-19.
Round 3 started the same way as the 2nd round, Usman locked him in at the cage wall and went for a takedown. Halfway through Usman caught Masvidal a little low and the ref stopped the contest, after a break Jorge found some success with a leg kick and a left hand but then Usman scored 2 takedowns to finish the round in dominant position. 29-28 Usman for me.
Round 4 was the exact same as the third and second, I really don’t know how to describe this any further. Usman just keeps locking Masvidal onto the cage wall, Masvidal is stuffing every takedown attempt Usman shoots for but he doesn’t do anything in the clinch so Usman’s winning these rounds comfortably. 39-37 Usman, Jorge needs a finish.
Round 5 was the exact same, Usman scored a takedown, locked Masvidal up against the cage wall and just stopped him from doing anything. Masvidal tried with 25 seconds left but didn’t get the finish. 49-46 Usman for me and the judges agree as Usman retains his belt in boring fashion via decision.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via USA TODAY Sports