UFC 251: Odds, Predictions for Yan vs. Aldo and More Undercard Fights

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: Petr Yan prepares for a bantamweight fight against Urijah Faber during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal and Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway are the main attractions on Saturday at UFC 251, but the undercard features plenty of other noteworthy fights.

Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will duke it out for the bantamweight title, while former champion Rose Namajunas is also back in action. 

Henry Cejudo's abrupt retirement from the sport has left the division without a champion. Aldo comes in as the elder statesman with a storied career at featherweight and looking to add to his mantel. Yan will play the role of rising star with a ton of momentum behind him. 

The return of Namajunas against Jessica Andrade is something that could have been a co-main event on a lesser card, but it's the second fight on a loaded main card. 

Here's the complete card along with a preview for some of the most interesting fights on the undercard. 

Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

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  • Kamaru Usman (-320; bet $320 to win $100) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+260; $100 bet wins $260) (welterweight title)
  • Alexander Volkanovski (-220) vs. Max Holloway (+185) (featherweight title)
  • Petr Yan (-240) vs. Jose Aldo (+200) (vacant bantamweight title)
  • Jessica Andrade (+175) vs. Rose Namajunas (-200)
  • Amanda Ribas (-1000) vs. Paige VanZant (+650)

Prelims (ESPN at 8 p.m. ET)

  • Volkan Oezdemir (-160) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+140)
  • Muslim Salikhov (-120) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (+100)
  • Makwan Amirkhani (-190) vs. Danny Henry (+170)
  • Roman Bogatov (+160) vs. Leonardo Santos (-180)

Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. ET)

  • Maxim Grishin (-105) vs. Marcin Tybura (-115)
  • Raulian Paiva (-185) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+165)
  • Vanessa Melo (+185) vs. Karol Rosa (-220)
  • Martin Day (-165) vs. Davey Grant (+145)

Predicted winners in italics. Odds via Caesars Palace

          

Yan vs. Aldo

Petr Yan's ascension through the bantamweight ranks has been impressive. The UFC has managed the rising prospect well in his run with the UFC. Every fight, with the exception of his most recent appearance against Urijah Faber, has been a step up in competition. 

Yan is a perfect example of the well-rounded fighter the sport continues to churn out as it evolves. He is crisp in his boxing with a diverse skill set in the stand up game. He can also wrestle when he was the advantage. 

In the Faber fight, the promotion fed him a fading star, and he capitalized. He scored a knockout with a well-timed head kick off a clinch break that ultimately led to this title opportunity. 

He'll once again get a fading superstar in Aldo. The 33-year-old is a historically great fighter but doesn't look like the man who was once the most feared featherweight in the world. 

However, gone is the man who once brutally kicked Chan Sung Jung's injured shoulder, and in his place is an aging veteran who was awarded this opportunity as more of a lifetime achievement award than anything he has done lately. 

Aldo lost his only bantamweight bout in a split decision to Marlon Moraes. The winner still hasn't fought since, yet it was the former champion who was given the title shot. 

This should be a big moment for Yan as long as he continues his upward trajectory. 

Prediction: Yan via second-round TKO 

       

Namajunas vs. Andrade

For years Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the most dangerous fighter in the women's strawweight division. She got off to a 14-0 start in her career and just looked faster and more technical than everyone else. 

Then Rose Namajunas came along and pulled off a shocker to take the title from Joanna Champion in 2017 via first-round TKO. After years of inconsistency and struggling to meet her massive potential, it seemed like things clicked. 

After Namajunas confirmed her win wasn't a fluke with a decision victory over the previous champion in her first title defense, she was knocked out by Jessica Andrade. In that fight, Namajunas dominated the first round and appeared to be on top of her game. 

All it took was one slam to change everything. While trying to lock in an armbar Andrade picked her up and slammed her to end the fight. Over a year later Namajunas is finally coming back for a shot at redemption. 

The first fight seemed to weigh heavily on Namajunas' mind. Back in November, Namajunas acknowledged that she considered retirement. However, she insists that she is reinvigorated and found her passion again.

If Namajunas is motivated and focused there are few in the division who are more dangerous. She has elite striking and brings power to the table that Andrade struggled to deal with until she got the slam. Outside of a another rare occurrence or Namajunas simply not being into fighting anymore, this is her fight to lose. 

Prediction: Namajunas via third-round TKO

         

Salikhov vs. Dos Santos

For those with things to do on Saturday, the Muslim Salikhov vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is the cutoff for when they need to get in front of a TV. The penultimate prelim should be a contender for Fight of the Night in the welterweight division. 

Salikhov brings a wealth of experience in international Wushu competition. He has successfully transitioned to become an entertaining striker in the MMA landscape. The 36-year-old scored back-to-back knockout wins after a submission loss in his UFC debut. 

The interesting dynamic here could be Salikhov's counterpunching. He's adept at setting up accurate counters that arrive with precision and pairs it well with his movement. 

Dos Santos can be a bit wild in his approach. He's going to wade into the pocket and throw heavy shots. He's established a reputation as a finisher as well albeit a little less technical. He's more likely to draw the finish from volume and pure power. 

The result should be a beautiful brawl for as long as it lasts. Salikhov should have the technical advantage in the standup but is relatively untested on the ground. That could be an arena in which Dos Santos has success if he can get the fight there. 

Instead, the more likely scenario seems to be they keep it standing, and the two exciting strikers go for that Fight of the Night bonus. That should give Salikhov enough time to land a meaningful counter and get the finish. 

Salikhov via third-round TKO

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