UFC 251 Preview: Can Jorge Masvidal step up and shock Kamaru Usman?
We preview the biggest fights on this weekend’s UFC card
After originally being scheduled to take place back in April, UFC 251 finally takes to the Octagon this weekend with a few changes.
The event will now be taking place on UFC Fight Island, which is on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, rather than the Perth Arena in Australia, without any fans in attendance.
We’ve seen a change in the headline bout too, as Kamaru Usman was expected to defend his Welterweight title against Gilbert Burns.
Burns had to withdraw from the event after testing positive for COVID-19, along with his coach, allowing Jorge Masvidal to step in.
Ahead of the weekend’s action, we preview the three main bouts from UFC 251…
After claiming the UFC Welterweight Championship in UFC 235, with a unanimous decision victory over Tyron Woodley, Kamaru Usman successfully defended his title against Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December.
His fifth-round TKO that night earned him the Fight of the Night award, after a series of punches left Covington on his back, leaving Usman looking to finish the bout with hammer fists before it was controversially waved off, leaving Usman with a 16-1 record and winning 15 bouts in a row.
He’ll face Jorge Masvidal, with the 35-year-old stepping up for the title fight in Burns’ absence following three impressive KO victories last year.
Masvidal beat Darren Till with a second round KO in London back in March 2019, before beating Ben Askren in five seconds, the fastest KO in UFC history in UFC 239.
Most recently, Masvidal beat Nate Diaz in UFC 244 with a third round TKO, winning the UFC BMF belt. Masvidal could hold the striking advantage over Usman, but it may not be by much. He’s been working on his striking game, which was made clear in his victory over Covington.
Usman is the 2/5 favourite to defend his title again, with Masvidal at 2/1. If the 35-year-old can hold up in his step up against Usman, you can find 5/4 on the fight to go the distance. An Usman win by TKO, KO or Submission is 29/20.
After their first fight at UFC 245 in Las Vegas in December, Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway head to the Octagon canvas again for their second successive bout.
Volkanovski came out on top last time by unanimous decision, picking up the UFC Featherweight Championship belt and his 18th win in a row.
Holloway lost the belt he’d held since June 2017 that night, beating José Aldo with a third round KO to claim it.
He’ll be looking to reclaim the belt on Fight Island, but will he move away from his usual volume fighter stance which failed against Volkanovski last time?
If Holloway relies on the sheer number of punches he lands, it’s likely he’ll fail in reclaiming his belt as Volkanovski had his game plan sussed in their first bout, meeting him on his first punch and stopping him from landing a series of blows.
It’s the current belt holder Volkanovski who’s the favourite for their rematch at 2/5, with Holloway out at 15/8 to reclaim what he feels should be his.
After going the distance last time, it’s odds-on at 10/23 that it goes the distance again, with Volkanovski even money to win on a decision. It looks like Holloway would need a KO, TKO or Submission to reclaim his belt, and that’s priced at 7/1.
With the UFC Bantamweight title on the line following Henry Cejudo’s retirement, Petr Yan takes on José Aldo on Fight Island.
This is only Aldo’s second Bantamweight fight, and he’ll need to go one better than he did in his first bout after he lost to Marlon Moraes on a split decision.
In contrast, Yan has been up for the UFC Bantamweight Championship fight for a while, criticising the now retired former champion Cejudo for ‘ducking him and avoiding a title fight with him’ throughout the latter stages of his reign.
The Russian comes into this bout off the back of six straight UFC wins, and nine straight MMA wins, with three ACB wins prior to his move to UFC.
He beat Urijah Faber comfortably at UFC 245 in December, with a third round KO via head kick, earning him the Performance of the Night.
As for Aldo, his UFC career appears to be on a downwards spiral. After losing only once in his first 26 MMA bouts, and winning his first seven UFC fights, he’s lost five of his last eight.
Yan is the odds-on favourite at 4/9, with Aldo the underdog at 7/4. The fight is 8/13 to be ended early, with a Yan win via KO, TKO or Submission priced at 11/4. An Aldo win via the same method is 15/4.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.