Fight Island is ready, and the hype is real as we head into UFC 251. Yas Island in Abu Dhabi hosts the inaugural fight island event, which is the first of four to take place on fight island over the course of the next two weeks which gives us plenty of action, plenty of violence and plenty of entertainment to look forward to. Kicking off the festivities we have current Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defending his strap against his foe Jorge Masvidal, as well as two other title fights in the form of Volkanovski vs Holloway and Yan vs Aldo. We also see the rematch of Andrade and Namajunas and many other top-class fights littered throughout a truly stacked Pay Per View card. We dive into the action for UFC 251 below.
What a turn of events that has led to this fight. Last week I was excited to see if Gilbert Burns could undo the Nigerian Nightmare but with a positive COVID test we now have the fight that most wanted from the start, not myself but most. I hate to burst the bubble, but I do not see a route to victory for Masvidal other than a flying knee KO out of nowhere (queue the Ben Askren KO) or the hope that Usman engages in a pure boxing fight. I don’t see this as being a close contest like many are predicting as Usman just has the class advantage over Masvidal in almost every aspect of the fight.
Usman has the ability to change his game plan on the run, he is a far better wrestler than Masvidal and while he doesn’t have the technical boxing skill of Masvidal he isn’t at as big of a disadvantage as many make him out to be. I truly believe if this goes the distance, we could be looking at unanimous 50-45 scorecards in Usman’s favour and I expect him to dominate Masvidal from start to finish. Sorry to break it to you Masvidal fans, he just doesn’t have title quality.
In their first encounter Volkanovski truly fought the perfect fight, dismantling Max from the outside with leg kicks and blitzing with counter strikes when Holloway came into range. While Holloway said the leg kicks didn’t hurt, his legs would say otherwise, and they caused him to switch from orthodox to southpaw during the fight as a direct result of them. This switch led to Volko taking over the fight and ultimately caused Holloway to go back to an orthodox stance despite having his leg chopped out from under him. That is a key area of this fight and one that could be the difference again. Holloway is undoubtedly great, and I would not be surprised if he in fact wins this by decision but I see no reason why Volkanovski can’t win again. He has the power advantage over Holloway and a gas tank to match Holloway, largely neutralising his greatest strengths of pressure and volume. I do believe that with Volkanovski’s confidence after the last encounter he could go head hunting late and finish Max. With a decision win still the most likely path to victory, I will take the double chance of KO or decision as a method of victory for Volkanovski.
I have been a fan of Petr Yan since his clinical debut performance, but this is a real test for the Russian against a former champion and legend that is Jose Aldo. Yan has the X factor of power, but he was unable to finish Dodson or Rivera, although he did knock down the latter numerous times. He did finish Faber in his last fight but a washed up, weathered Faber isn’t the ideal marker for a title fight against a fearsome striker in Aldo. Where I worry for Yan is that he struggles to outpoint his opponents, and that point fighting style is where Aldo excels, especially in the later stages of his career. While if I had to pick a winner, I would side with Yan, I don’t believe he should be a $1.40 favourite. Although Aldo is coming off two losses (which begs the question why he is getting a title shot in the first place), those losses have come to Moraes and Volkanovski who both are the elite of the Featherweight and Bantamweight division. I believe Aldo can win this if it goes to the judges and Yan may need to finish him to get the victory and since Aldo has only been finished by Conor McGregor and Max Holloway in his ten-year UFC tenure so that is easier said than done. From a betting standpoint I am leaving this well and truly alone and just look forward to a five-round war.
Dos Santos loves a brawl and that is why this fight won’t go well for him. Salikhov is the more technical striker and should be able to keep this on the feet and outland his opponent with ease. He is also an incredibly adept counterpuncher who back to the regulation size Octagon, should easily avoid dos Santos’ blitz attacks and pick him apart before potentially slipping a punch and landing a counter that floors dos Santos. I am very confident Salikhov takes this.
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