• Dean Gutic

UFC 251: Recap and Grade

Official UFC 251 poster

UFC 251 took place last night at Yas Island, also known as Fight Island, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The Pay-Per-View was originally booked to take place at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia on June 6th, which was when UFC 250 occurred, but the event would eventually be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

However, Dana White confirmed that he has secured an island that would be able to hold many events for the near future. The location of the island was revealed to be in Abu Dhabi on Yas Island, which it would later on be given the name Fight Island.

After the UFC 250 Pay-Per-View, Dana white announced that three belt fights would take place on Fight Island on Saturday July 11th. Those fights were later on revealed to be Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo for the UFC Bantamweight championship, Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway 2 for the UFC Featherweight championship, and Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal for the UFC welterweight championship.

UFC 251 will also feature two bouts, one of them being a rematch of two former Women's Strawweight champions between the number 1 ranked Strawweight Jessica Andrade and the number 2 ranked Strawweight Rose Namajunas.

The other will be a flyweight bout between number 14th ranked Strawweight in the Women’s division Amanda Ribas and Paige VanZant.

This card is the most stacked fight card the UFC has seen in a long time and the 6th triple header in UFC history.

You may be curious, how did UFC 251 turn out?

Here's how the pay-per-view turned out:

#14 (Strawweight) Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant

Result: Ribas by Submission (armbar) Round 1

To kick off the UFC 251 main card, we have a flyweight bout between the number 14 ranked Women’s Strawweight Amanda Ribas, who's looking to continue her win streak and Paige VanZant.

The fight started with both fighters landing kicks before Ribas landed a knee and a few strikes. She then took down VanZant and took side control. Ribas would then step over to VanZant’s back and would after get VanZant in an arm bar, although VanZant was trying to not let go of her hands and allow Ribas to get the armbar. However, Ribas would eventually get control of her arm and that was it for VanZant, as Ribas would twist VanZant’s arm and make her tap 2 minutes and 21 seconds into the fight.

It was an impressive performance for Ribas as she extended her winning streak to five.

Now the question lies for Ribas: who will she fight next?

#1 Jessica Andrade vs #2 Rose Namajunas

Result: Namajunas by Split Decision

We now shift our focus to the women’s strawweight division as the top 2 ranked contenders in the division go head to head in a crucial rematch to see who is next in line for a shot at Zhang Weili’s belt. Andrade, who won the first meeting between herself and Namajunas, is looking to get back her belt from UFC women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili, who defeated her by TKO in the first round, while Namajunas looks to get her revenge against Andrade after losing her belt the first meeting.

In the first round, Andrade was swinging and missing till she landed a leg kick and both fighters were very elusive, especially Andrade with beautiful head movement dodging all of Namajunas’ strikes. Namajunas would then connect with the right hand and would land a few more strikes. Andrade would then land a hook and Namajunas would answer back. Both fighters stayed patient waiting for the perfect time to strike. Andrade would then attempt to go for a clinch but Namajunas would land a knee. The round ended with Namajunas going to the body. A very close round, but the slight edge so far to Namajunas.

Onto the second round, it would start with both fighters waiting for who’s gonna strike first while keeping their distance. Andrade would land a body shot and then Namajunas would land a leg kick. Andrade would answer with a right hand, but Namajunas would land a solid jab and then a good one-two combination. Both would then tie up in a clinch and then untangle. Namajunas was doing a great job keeping her distance from Andrade. Andrade would get a solid combination in before the end of the round. Another close round with this one being closer, but despite a strong end of the round for Andrade, I would still give the edge to Namajunas.

In the third and final round, Andrade would come out swinging. Namajunas would land a decent jab and would use her beautiful head movement. Namajunas would then land a nice back hand. Namajunas would keep landing her strikes, but Andrade would answer with an uppercut. Andrade would then take Namajunas down, with Namajunas looking for multiple submissions and then would kick Andrade off to get back to her feet. Namajunas would recover after being stunned by Andrade. Namajunas would land a beautiful one-two combination but Andrade would answer with a nice right hand. Andrade would begin to connect more with her strikes. Namajunas would then take down Andrade but Andrade would get back up to her feet. Andrade would land another crushing uppercut and blood would pour out of Namajunas’s mouth while her right eye would continue to swell. Namajunas missed a jumping front kick to end off the round. A round in which Andrade won.

Overall, it was a very good fight and a very close fight. Both fighters have nothing to be ashamed of after having a fight like that, but Namajunas would end up doing just enough to get her revenge against Andrade. It was a huge split decision win for Namajunas which now sets her up for a shot at the UFC women’s strawweight belt.

When will Namajunas get her title fight against Weili and who will Andrade face next?

#3 Petr Yan vs #6 Jose Aldo

Result: Yan by TKO Round 5

Our first of three belt fights of the night, this one for the vacant UFC Bantamweight championship. The Bantamweight championship became vacant when former UFC bantamweight champion, flyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo announced his retirement at UFC 249 after he was victorious in his bout with Dominick Cruz. A few weeks later, Dana White announced that at UFC 251, a fight for the now vacant UFC bantamweight championship was going to take place and it was going to feature the #3 ranked bantamweight Petr Yan and future UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC and WEC featherweight champion and the number 6th ranked bantamweight Jose Aldo. Aldo would look to add to his resume and regain the belt while Yan looks to bring another belt to Russia and keep his win streak alive.

To kick off the fight, Petr would come out swinging and then would connect with a beautiful right hand. Aldo would connect a beautiful leg kick and then a body shot. The pace would pick up as the fight would go on. Aldo would then land another nice leg kick. However, Yan would land another right hand. Aldo would try to take down Yan, but Yan would end up on top and would land some punches that would hurt Aldo close out the round. A close round, but Yan might’ve had the edge with a front end to the round.

We now head into the second round, where Aldo would attempt a few kicks that Yan would check. Aldo would land an inside leg kick, but Yan kept pressing forward while keeping his composure. Aldo would land another leg kick as he would continue to attack the leg. He would also connect with a jab and land a nice round house kick. The round would come to an end, a round in which I think was Aldo’s and a round in which he recovered well.

On to the third round. Yan would attack the body with a solid side kick and would start to open up in the third round. Aldo would connect with a couple shots to the body. Aldo would then connect with a beautiful combination which appeared to stun Yan, but Yan recovered. Aldo would then land a nice straight left but Yan would land a few nice body shots and then a nice spinning elbow and jab. Yan would then land a few shots to the face and to the body. As he would stun Aldo and land a nice elbow and another nice combination of punches. Both fighters would tie up as the round would come to an end. A round which belonged to Yan, but another close round nonetheless.

We move into the fourth round. Yan would come out swinging and pressing Aldo near the cage, but Aldo would defend the strikes from Yan well. Yan would answer with a beautiful right hand and then land another nice one-two combination, but Aldo would then answer with a body shot. Yan would attempt to take down Aldo, but Aldo, with terrific balance, would keep the fight standing. Yan would then land another body strike as Aldo would start to slow down. Yan would land another decent body shot and a leg kick. Yan would then land another nice combination. Yan would then take Aldo and get on top and land a few strikes. As Aldo got tired, Yan would land more head and body shots on top of Aldo. The round would end with Yan landing strikes from up top on Aldo as blood would start to pour out of his nose. The Brazilian was looking very tired as another round would go to Yan, but this time in dominating fashion.

With the Fifth and final round starting, Yan stormed out the gate with a beautiful one-two which stunned Aldo and knocked him down. Yan would then begin to pour it in from the top with elbows and even more strikes. Yan would continue to land even more strikes from the top. Aldo had no answer for the ground and pound as Yan would keep on punishing a beaten up and tired Aldo until Referee Leon Roberts would step in and stop the fight as Yan would win by TKO.

A beautiful performance by Yan. A close fight for most of the fight but Yan would really end it off in the final round and prove why he is the best bantamweight.

Yan now extends his streak to ten straight wins and brings the UFC bantamweight championship to Russia.

Who will challenge Yan for the belt next and where will Aldo go from here?

Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs #1 Max Holloway

Result: Volkanovski by Split Decision

On we go to the Co-main event of UFC 251 and it is a rematch of the UFC featherweight championship between new featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and former UFC featherweight champion himself and now #1 contender Max Holloway. Volkanovski, who won the championship from his first fight against Holloway, is looking for the same result and success he had his first fight, while Holloway looks to reclaim the featherweight crown and have a better outing than his last one.

The first started off with Volkanovski missing with an overhand right but connecting with a leg kick. Volkanovski would then land a couple of leg kicks, but Holloway would answer. Both fighters would then trade off leg kicks with Volkanovski landing more. Holloway would land a nice right hand. Both fighters would then again trade leg kicks, but Volkanovski would then a solid right hand. Holloway would connect with a kick which stunned Volkanovski to end the round. A close round, but a better start compared to the last fight for Holloway.

We now move into the second round as Holloway, like the last round, continues to press towards Volkanovski. Volkanovski would double up on the leg kicks but Holloway would answer back with a leg kick and would land a nice combination after. Holloway would continue to land more shots, but Volkanovski would answer with a left hook. Holloway would drop Volkanovski again with a beautiful uppercut as the round came to a close and another round for Holloway.

As the third round opened up, both fighters trade leg kicks. Holloway would get Volkanovski towards the cage and would land a nice flying knee. Volkanovski would land a nice left. Volkanovski would attempt a take down but Holloway would get Volkanovski in the clinch and defend the take down well. Holloway off the disengaging of the clinch lands a body. Volkanovski would then answer with another nice left hand and a jab. The round would eventually come to an end, but a better round for Volkanovski. However, I thought Holloway had the slight as he landed a bit more strikes than Volkanovski in the third round.

On to the fourth round, Volkanovski would open the round with a nice leg kick but Holloway kept on coming forward. Volkanovski would then double up on the leg kicks but Holloway would answer back with a leg kick of his own. Holloway would then attempt a flying knee which he missed, but he did land a few solid strikes. Holloway would land an uppercut and connect with a heel kick to the body. Volkanovski would then take down Holloway, but he would get right back up. Volkanovski would then shoot for another take down but Holloway defends it well and lands a couple uppercuts, though Volkanovski would answer right back. The round would come to an end with Holloway landing a nice right hand. Another close round. Although Volkanovski did land more strikes, it certainly felt like a round that might’ve gone Holloway’s way. However Volkanovski had the slight edge in strikes and a better round then the last round so I would have to give it to Volkanovski.

We head into the fifth and final round, a round in which Volkanovski needs to win or get a finish. Holloway would land a nice kick up high and on the legs. Volkanovski would then land a solid strike and both fighters would trade kicks to the head. Holloway would then land a kick to the ribs and both fighters would connect up top. Volkanovski and Holloway would both trade shots. Volkanovski would then take down Holloway, but Holloway would get right back up again. Volkanovski would then connect with two shots to the head. Volkanovski would land a nice leg kick and push forward and try to land everything he’s got. Volkanovski once again tried to take down Holloway but Holloway again defended the take down well. Both fighters would end up in the clinch and Volkanovski would end the round with a take down. A round that I believe Volkanovski won, but would it be enough to earn the victory?

Volkanovski would end up getting the split decision victory over Holloway. A fight that many, including myself, believed that Holloway won. It was a good fight. The fight got closer and closer as it went on, but I believe Holloway had the slight edge and did enough to take back the UFC featherweight champion.

Who will step up and challenge Volkanovski for his belt next and will Holloway get another shot in the near future?

Only time will tell

Kamaru Usman (c) vs #3 Jorge Masvidal

Result: Usman by Unanimous Decision

We have made it to the main event. The fight we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. It is for the UFC welterweight championship between the current champion Kamaru Usman vs the BMF himself and the #3 ranked welterweight, Jorge Masvidal. The original main event was supposed to be Usman vs his teammate and #1 contender Gilbert Burns. Unfortunately, being the fight was nearly a week away, it was revealed on the night before July 4th that Burns had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Original UFC 251 poster

Like every UFC fan, I myself was nervous that the bout was going to be scrapped and that there was no other fight to make. Fortunately, I was wrong as Jorge Masvidal would start to get into negotiations with the UFC which led to both Usman and Masvidal agreeing to fight each other and headline UFC 251. However, for the fight to happen both fighters would have to make weight and Masvidal would have to pass four separate tests for the coronavirus. Fortunately, that did all happen, making the fight official, and Masvidal would finally get the money that he was demanding from the UFC. Finally, Masvidal and the fans got the fight we all deserved and the fight we wanted. A fight in which Masvidal deserved before Burns. Usman is looking to defend his belt for the second time successfully while Jorge Masvidal looks to build on his legacy and become the new UFC welterweight champion.

At the beginning of the fight, Masvidal would open with a leg kick and both fighters sped up the pace of the fight. Usman would catch Masvidal’s leg and take him down. Masvidal would then get back up and Usman would then attack the body and Masvidal would land another leg kick. He would then land a nice knee and a nice strike up top. Usman would then shoot for a take down but Masvidal would defend it well and get right back up and land an elbow in the clinch. Masvidal would then land some solid strikes up top although a small cut would open up across his head due to an accidental headbutt. Usman would land a jab but Masvidal would answer and land more strikes. Round one would come to an end with both fighters in the clinch. I thought that Masvidal won the round, but a very good fight and a very close round.

Round 2 would start with Usman shooting for a take down, but both fighters would end up in a clinch. A round which was mostly in the clinch with Usman landing more and effective shoulder strikes. I thought the round was better for Usman and went to him, but not much happened.

We head into the third round with Masvidal opening it up with the left leg. Another round that would end up in the clinch with Usman landing foot stomps while in the clinch. Masvidal would land a couple shots and connect with a body kick, but Usman would shoot for a takedown as the fighters again went in for a clinch. Referee Marc Goddars would step in and separate the fighters due to a below the belt shot from Usman. The action would resume with Masvidal swinging, but Usman reading it all. Masvidal would then land a decent leg kick. Usman would then shoot and take Masvidal down again and again. Usman would then land a solid strike from the top and would control the last minute of the round on the ground till the sound of the horn as another round in the books and this one in favor of the champion.

On to the fourth round, where both fighters would again tie up in the clinch. Usman would then take Masvidal down and Masvidal thought about a Guillotine, but he would abandon the idea and get back up. Both fighters would end up in the clinch. Masvidal then would escape the clinch and land a couple of strikes. However, Usman would land with a left hook again and again and shoot for a take down. But both fighters would once again end up in the clinch. The fight would come to an end as Usman would take another round as he looks to regain his belt.

On to the final round of the main event, in which Usman would land a shot and Masvidal would answer, but Usman would take Masvidal down yet again. Usman would get the top position and land a few strikes. Masvidal would try to answer from strikes from the bottom but Usman’s wrestling is proving to be too much for Masvidal. Masvidal would stay mobile and try to escape from the ground and show the true heart that a BMF has, however Usman once again used the wrestling to his advantage. Masvidal would eventually make his way back up and land some knees and a few strikes standing up. However the fight would come to a close as another round goes Usman’s way.

Usman would end up getting the Unanimous decision victory which was well deserved in what was a fight that fell well short of expectation to say the least. However, a big win for Usman nonetheless and another successful belt defense as Usman extends his winning streak to 16 and continues his display as a dominant wrestler and a dominant champion.

Who will face Usman next for his UFC welterweight championship and where will Masvidal go from here?

Is Gilbert Burns or Leon Edwards next in Line for a shot at the belt? And when will that title fight happen?

Is Masvidal going to run it back with Diaz?

We shall see.

So now that UFC 251 is all wrapped up, let’s see my reaction to the pay-per-view.

Grade: B-

I was honestly expecting a lot more from the card that was the stack. I even expected this to be better than UFC 249 and I gave that an A-. Unfortunately, those expectations fell well short.

The matches on paper were set to be more entertaining but it didn’t live up to the hype in some ways. The Usman fight I thought would be a lot more entertaining. Yes I expected Usman to win and wrestle and yes he did what he had to do and controlled the fight, but there was a lack of action during most of the fight. A lot of stomping, wrestling and clinching was going on throughout the fight and not so much standup like I wanted and expected.

Granted I expected Usman to wrestle. Call me a “casual”, a “complainer” or whatever you want, but don’t get me wrong, I like wrestling. It fits the sport of MMA well and there have been many champions and champions now that are wrestlers. It goes a long way, it is a gifted technique to have and it’s an art. I can tolerate wrestling in a UFC fight because well that’s what it’s meant for and that’s why it’s there, but it goes to a certain extent. If a fight has a lot of takedowns but no action going on or after the takedown nothing is happening on the ground, then I just can’t tolerate it and it starts to get boring. Wrestling doesn’t annoy me and it doesn’t annoy me that Usman wrestles nor does it annoy me that he used it to his advantage to beat Masvidal. I respect and understand that the fight went the way that Usman wanted it to go and that’s how he won, but it's the way that Usman won that fight that annoys me.

Another thing that annoyed me was the way that this card turned out to be, compared to the expectations, was disappointing and dissatisfying. In addition to the negatives of UFC 251, one to take note of was the controversial judging that led to the outcome of the Volkanovski-Holloway fight.

Seeing the way the first three rounds of the fight went, it made me believe that Holloway won that fight and controlled those rounds. He landed more and was more accurate. Volkanovski took the last two rounds and took him down, but I just thought that he didn’t do enough to win and did nothing after the takedowns. Everytime Volkanovski would get Holloway to the ground, Holloway would get back up to his feet. I don’t understand what the judges saw in that fight that made Volkanovski the winner. Yes this is a slight overreaction and the fight was close, but I still believe Holloway won that fight and should be the new champion. I also wish that there was a tad bit more action from that fight, especially Volkanovski to utilize the ground and pound more after a take down or try to shift gears and get Holloway to remain on the ground.

To close it off, Ribas had a nice quick armbar submission victory, I just don’t like fights that end quickly unless it’s a highlight, but it was okay. I like fights that either go the distance or past a certain round. Fights that are close and go the distance or have an exciting finish in the later rounds.

I was disappointed with how the main event and bits and parts of the card turned out to be. I, like the UFC fans, expected more from the main event and the card itself and got less. What’s sad is that even UFC 250, which wasn’t as stacked, was far better and more entertaining. Better than what I expected. It’s a shame the card turned out this way and I hope UFC 252 turns out better then the way UFC 251 did.

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