UFC 251: The Dawn of Fight Island
Written by Emjay on July 26, 2020
Looking back at the opening event of “Fight Island”, UFC 251 was most certainly a big success despite the last minute change to the main event courtesy of COVID-19. In fact the prospect of the BMF challenging for the Welterweight strap was ultimately more exciting than teammates competing for the belt.
Unlike most cards of this nature – 3 x title fights, 2 x rematches along with the final UFC bout for an Instagram star – this actually delivered almost everything that a true fight fan could possibly want.
The pick of the prelim bouts must certainly be the headliner between former RIZIN light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka and former UFC title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. The former RIZIN champ (26-3-1) was making his UFC debut and came into the fight on a 10-fight win streak having finished 25 of his 26 wins (23 by knockout). As for Oezdemir (17-4), his UFC pedigree was well known with recent wins of Rakic and Latifi and a split decision loss to Reyes. Showboating aside, it was the brutal right hook KO at the start of Round 2 that had everyone gasping at the new player in the 205 division – welcome Mr Prochazka!
With the sun rising over Yas Island, it was also time for the sun to shine of some phenomenal performances on the UFC 251 Main Card.
The opening women’s flyweight bout between Amanda Ribas (9-1) and VanZant (8-4) showed a very emotional VanZant making her last UFC walkout after not fighting for almost 18 months. With that emotion still lingering – in what some have called a “Joe Silva Special” – it was emotions of another kind as VanZant was sent into free agency off a bad matchup that inevitably led to a really bad loss early in Round 1!
Next up was the first of the two rematches on the card – Rose Namajunas (9-4) vs Jessica Andrade (20-7) in a Strawweight bout. Many who watched the first fight between these two former champions would have flashes of deja vu as Thug Rose dominated in the opening 2 rounds with her clinical striking. The 3rdRound seemed to be tailor-made for a dramatic Andrade comeback but to no avail as it was Namajunas who had done enough to earn a split-decision victory and level the rivalry.
In the first of the three title fights – for the vacant Bantamweight strap – it was the former P4P King Jose Aldo (28-6) up against Petr Yan (14-1) who was on a 9-fight win streak having last lost a fight back in March 2016. In a classic slugfest, it is rather unfortunate that the bout will be remembered more for the horrendous refereeing that unfortunately had “Stop The Fight” trending in the US. The merciless last minute of the fight in Round 5 saw Yan rain down countless strikes to a covering and bloodied Aldo adding to the 194 significant strikes landed by Yan to set a new single-fight UFC/WEC Bantamweight record. At the end of it all, we witnessed the crowning of a new Bantamweight Champion while many were left wondering if Aldo should start considering retirement despite showing his ability to still compete at the highest level. #AndNew
The 2ndtitle fight was also the 2ndrematch of the card with Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) looking to defend his strap against the man he beat to win the title back in December 2019. The former champ, Max Holloway (21-5), made no secret of the fact that his training camp coming into this fight consisted mostly of ZOOM training and following his performance in the first few rounds had many googling “next level” ZOOM workout classes. With victory almost assured, Holloway was forced to fend off a strong comeback from Volkanovski in the championship rounds resulting in a controversial split decision win for the champ, who continues his phenomenal run of 19 wins from his last 19 outings. #AndStill
Next up was the Main Event and final title fight of this UFC triple-header at UFC 251 – Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal for the Welterweight Strap. Taking the fight on 6-days notice, Masvidal (35-13) became the fighter with the second most career fights (48) before getting a title shot. With so much being said by both fighters in the build-up to this fight the expectation was that this would be a barn burner. To the contrary, the fight turned out to be a tactical masterclass from Usman who anticipated problems with the Masvidal gas-tank due to the late notice and along with some shoulder strikes and lots of happy feet strikes, ensured that he retained his Ultimate Foot-stomping Championship (UFC) belt with a unanimous decision victory.
For the first event on Fight Island, the UFC can be proud of the card they put on along with the outcomes and with three more events to go, things can only get better.