The UFC held their first card on the famed “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi Saturday evening for UFC 251, which was headlined by three title fights.
Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal capped the evening in the main event for the welterweight title. Masvidal showed life early on landing some stiff kicks to the body and legs of Usman. However, as predicted, Usman would wear out Masvidal with his constant pressure and movement to suffocate Masvidal for the remainder of the fight. Masvidal had no answer as Usman would cruise to another dominant title defense.
Usman moves to 17-1 in his professional career. Masvidal will have to go back to the drawing boards to get back into the welterweight title picture.
In the co-main event, Alexander Volkanovski retained his UFC Featherweight Championship in an even closer contest with Max Holloway in their rematch. Holloway looked like his prime self in the first two rounds and even hurt Volkanovski twice. However, Holloway began to fade in the championship rounds and allowed Volkanovski to finish strong. In the end, Volkanovski took a split decision victory.
Volkanovski remains undefeated through nine fights in the UFC, while Holloway has now dropped three of his last four fights.
The first title fight of the evening saw Petr Yan and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo duke it out for the vacant UFC Bantamweight Championship. In the early rounds, Aldo would work Yan’s body and legs but it was not enough to slow down the rising star as Yan would land brutal head strike after brutal head strike. Aldo would slow down significantly in the championship rounds and in the fifth round, Yan would get Aldo on the ground and land strike after strike in a disgustingly late stoppage.
Yan became the sixth different champion in UFC bantamweight history.
Former strawweight champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas made their returns to the Octagon in a rematch of their title fight from 2019. The fight was a chess match with both women having significant moments. Andrade, as expected, landing the harder shots and busted open Namajunas’ nose and shut her eye. However, just like in the first round of their first fight, Namajunas picked apart Andrade in the second round to take control in the fight. Andrade would land heavy shots in the third round but it was not enough as Namajunas took a split decision victory.
It was Namajunas’ first win since April of 2018 when she defeated Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Andrade has dropped her last two fights.
To kick off the pay-per-view, Amanda Ribas submitted Paige VanZant in the first round with a nasty armbar. Ribas moves to 10-1 in her career and remains undefeated in the UFC through four fights. Meanwhile, VanZant has lost three of her last four fights.
In the featured prelim, light-heavyweight Jiri Prochazka came from Rizin Fighting Federation, where he dominated over the last couple of years. He took on former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. Oezdemir got the better of the exchanges in the first round, but in round two, Prochazka sent Oezdemir into oblivion with the brutal right hook to score the victory. It was Prochazka’s 11th straight win overall and ninth straight by KO or TKO.
On paper, welterweights Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Muslim Salikhov were expected to put on a “Fight of the Night” type of display. While there were some nice shots landed and wild exchanges, the fight was stale at best and lacked the action these two usually provide. Salikhov would walk away with a questionable split decision victory.
Makwan Amirkhani would score the submission of the evening with a slick anaconda choke on Danny Henry in the first round.
The fight between lightweights Leonardo Santos and Roman Bogatov would perfectly encapsulate 2020 as both fighters would deliver illegal low blows to each other. In the second round, Bogatov landed an illegal knee and would receive a two-point deduction. Santos would go on to get the decision win.
The next three prelims would not live up to the curtain jerker as Karol Rosa, Raulian Paiva and Marcin Tybura all picked up unanimous decision wins.
The preliminary card kicked off with Davey Grant landing a stiff two-punch combo to knockout Martin Day in the third round.
The UFC has a short break as they will return on July 15 for a midweek card on “Fight Island”, which is headlined by a featherweight bout between Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige.