UFC 251: Previewing Usman-Burns and Other Matches on the Card

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

UFC 251: Previewing Usman-Burns and Other Matches on the Card

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    At last, Fight Island is here.

    UFC 251 is sure to be one of the biggest and most memorable pay-per-view events of all-time. The massively important card on July 11 features UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman taking on fast-rising contender Gilbert Burns in the main event as well as two other UFC title fights.

    What a way for the top MMA promotional company in the world to kick off its Fight Island location in Abu Dhabi.

    UFC 251 is the first of four fight cards scheduled to happen at Fight Island during the month of July.

    UFC Fight Night on July 15 is headlined by the featherweight dust-up between Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige.

    UFC Fight Night on July 18 features an important flyweight title rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez.

    UFC Fight Night on July 25 is topped by a middleweight showdown between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till.

    And all that amazing action starts with UFC 251 on July 11. Here's your preview for that important card.

UFC 251: Usman-Burns Fight Card and Info

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    UFC 251 Fight Card and Info
    UFC 251 Fight Card and InfoJeff Bottari/Getty Images

    UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 11, at UFC Fight Island on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

    The main card ESPN+ pay-per-view is scheduled to begin at 10:00 pm ET.

    The prelims are set to begin on ESPN at 8:00 pm ET.

    The early prelims are set for ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass at 6:00 pm ET.

    The card listed below is subject to change.

    UFC 251 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
    Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns
    Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2
    Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo
    Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas 2
    Amanda Ribas vs. Paige VanZant

    UFC 251 Prelims (ESPN)
    Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka
    Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov
    Makwan Amirkhani vs. Dan Henry
    Leonardo Santos vs. Roman Bogatov

    UFC 251 Early Prelims (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass)
    Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov
    Raulian Paiva vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
    Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo
    Martin Day vs. Davey Grant

The Main Event: Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns

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    Kamaru Usman takes on Gilbert Burns in the main event.
    Kamaru Usman takes on Gilbert Burns in the main event.Chris Unger/Getty Images

    Usman, 33, is set to defend his UFC welterweight championship against Burns, 33, a fast-rising 170-pound contender from Brazil who might be in the middle of a Fighter of the Year run assuming he can score the upset win over the current champ on Fight Island.

    That won't be easy. The Nigeria-born American decimated Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in March 2019 to grab his title belt and finished the year strong by nabbing his first title defense against former interim champion Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December.

    Usman (16-1) is a strong wrestler and sharp striker. Those two huge assets combine nicely to make him the premier welterweight force in the company right now.

    But Burns (19-3) is having a stellar run. He started his 2020 campaign by scoring a first-round stoppage-win over submission expert Demian Maia in March and went on to dominate former welterweight champ Woodley over five rounds two months later.

    On top of that, Burns scored his big wins at just the right time. He's only getting the title shot right now because Jorge Masvidal wanted more money to face Usman than UFC was willing to pay.

    But make no mistake about the Brazilian's validity as a top contender. He's the real deal at welterweight, and he could be on his way to grabbing UFC gold at UFC 251.

    So Usman-Burns is a stellar matchup between two seemingly unstoppable fighters.

    Something has to give.

The Co-Main Event: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2

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    Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway is a true co-main event.
    Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway is a true co-main event.Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    What's amazing about UFC 251's co-main event is that it's a rare fight that actually deserves that designation in full. That's because the hotly anticipated rematch between UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway absolutely could headline a UFC PPV card all by itself.

    It's that good a fight.

    In fact, before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to professional sports activities as we know it, that's exactly what was supposed to go down when UFC 251 was originally targeted to happen on June 6 in front of a live audience in Perth, Australia.

    Last year, Volkanovski, 31, from Australia, stunningly handed Holloway, 28, from Hawaii, his first loss in the featherweight division since 2013 and ended the American's 14-fight win streak at 145 pounds.

    At UFC 245, Volkanovski (21-1) constantly kept Holloway (21-5) guessing in the fight, and by the end of the five rounds, the title had been thoroughly seized.

    At UFC 251 the two fighters will meet again in an important fight that will help determine the future of the division. Some observers felt watching the original showdown that it was just Volkanovski's time. Others believe Holloway had an off night.

    On Fight Island, we'll see which viewpoint holds up.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas

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    Another solid rematch in Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas.
    Another solid rematch in Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    Former strawweight champions Jessica Andrade, 28, from Brazil and Rose Namajunas, 28, who trains in Denver, are scheduled to meet in an important rematch that could help determine who gets next crack at China's first-ever UFC champ Weili Zhang.

    The Andrade (20-7) vs. Namajunas (8-4) rematch was originally scheduled for UFC 249, but it had to be canceled after Namajunas suffered two deaths in her family because of COVID-19.

    Andrade had shockingly defeated Namajunas for the UFC women's strawweight championship back in May 2019 at UFC 237. Her surprising second-round slam knockout shocked the world.

    That win netted her UFC gold, but Andrade subsequently lost her title belt to Zhang three months later.

    Like the original fight, most insiders probably expect Namajunas to win. That's also what UFC matchmakers are hoping since Zhang already thrashed Andrade and hasn't yet faced Namajunas.

    But Andrade already smashed Namajunas once, so it's anyone's guess as to what happens in the rematch.

Best of the Rest

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    The entire card offers compelling action from top to bottom.
    The entire card offers compelling action from top to bottom.Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo

    Even after the sudden retirement of UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, the 135-pound division is packed full of top talent. Yan, 27, from Russia, is absolutely one of the top contenders in the division, so it makes sense he gets to fight for the vacant title.

    Aldo, 33, from Brazil, appears only to be getting this shot over the long list of other contenders because of his legendary name and what he's accomplished over the years in other divisions. Regardless, Yan (14-1) vs. Aldo (28-6) should be a fun fight. More importantly, there will be a new UFC bantamweight champ to laud when it's over.


    Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka

    Oezdemir, 30, from Switzerland, is on a two-fight win streak after losing three straight to some of the most fearsome 205-pound competition around. Oezdemir (17-4) suffered losses to Daniel Cormier by stoppage, Anthony Smith by submission and Dominick Reyes via split-decision.

    Now he takes on hard-hitting Prochazka, 27, from the Czech Republic, in that fighter's long-awaited UFC debut. Prochazka (26-3-1) enters the contest having won 10 straight fights, so facing Oezdemir is a huge measuring stick.


    Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov

    Longtime UFC heavyweight Tybura, 34, from Poland, is set to welcome undefeated Romanov, 29, Republic of Moldova, to the company in an intriguing fight scheduled for the Early Prelims portion of the card.