UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal Odds, Schedule, Predictions and Fight Hype

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 16:  UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman interacts with the media during the UFC 246 Ultimate Media Day at UFC APEX on January 16, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Chris Unger/Getty Images

The UFC heads to its new facilities at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with a stacked pay-per-view card that features Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal in a welterweight title fight. 

The fun doesn't end there, though. Three titles will be on the line as Alexander Volkanovski looks to make it two in a row over Max Holloway in defense of his featherweight strap, and Petr Yan will fight Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt. 

Elsewhere on the card, Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade will engage in an important women's strawweight bout. A win for the American puts her back in the driver's seat for a title shot while her opponent is trying to recover from a loss to current champion Weili Zhang. 

Here's what the card looks like and the latest hype from the fighters involved in the title tilts on Saturday night. 

               

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

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  • Kamaru Usman (-300; bet $300 to win $100) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+250; $100 bet wins $250) (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 (-125) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (+105)
  • 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 (+200) vs. Karol Rosa (-240)
  • Martin Day (-165) vs. Davey Grant (+145)

Odds via Caesars Palace

              

Usman Wants Masvidal's BMF Belt on the Line

While Masvidal hasn't won an official UFC title, he is the owner of the very unofficial "BMF" belt he won in his last fight against Nate Diaz. But Usman also wants his shot at the title of BMF. 

UFC President Dana White told TMZ (h/t MMA Junkie) that the novelty belt is not on the line but Usman desperately wants it to be: 

"It is not on the line. Usman wants it to be on the line so bad, he will not stop texting me saying, 'I don't understand why this belt isn't on the line. This guy's running around saying he's the 'BMF' champ. I want to squash it all. He's not going to win my title, and I'm going take his 'BMF' belt.' Believe me, Usman has not stopped terrorizing me about this. That was like a one-and-done, the 'BMF' title."

The BMF belt was always more a promotional tool than a bona fide championship. Creating a professional wrestling-like belt allowed the UFC to market a "championship fight" to anchor UFC 244. 

Even if the belt gets revived at some point, Usman isn't the type of fighter the UFC would allow to challenge for it. His wrestling-heavy game doesn't fit in the spirit of a Diaz or Masvidal.

However, it should be noted that while Masvidal gets credit for stepping in on six days' notice, Usman also deserves credit for agreeing to switch opponents on short notice after Gilbert Burns was forced to withdraw following a positive coronavirus test.

Masvidal is a much different opponent than Burns. His aggression and power are unique attributes that Usman will have to deal with, and he's won his last three fights by knockout including a five-second finish of Ben Askren. 

Usman might not be able to win the BMF belt, but he stands a great chance of defending his own. For all the power Masvidal possesses, his ability to handle wrestlers has always been an Achilles' heel. Few in the game are better at pressure wrestling like the champion and that will be the difference in this fight. 

Prediction: Usman via decision

              

Volkanovski Hopes Holloway Had a Full Camp

Volkanovski has grown tired of Holloway in the buildup to their title rematch at UFC 251. He told reporters he feels like the former champion has acted like a "bit of a sore loser" in the aftermath of his unanimous-decision win seven months ago. 

According to the new champion, Holloway has been off-base in some of his comments about the fight including his suggestion that Volkanovski's leg kicks "weren't working." The Australian utilized leg kicks early and often which led to one of the slowest starts in Holloway's career as he couldn't establish a rhythm. 

Holloway recently spoke to Ariel Helwani of ESPN on the difficulties of training amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said most of his training for the fight occurred over Zoom due to stay-at-home orders in his native Hawaii which limited his training options. 

Volkanovski isn't interested in hearing any excuses, though. He wants his second win over the former champion to be decisive:

"I hope he had a full camp because I did beat him on his best day and I believe I'll do that this camp too. If he is under-prepared, I truly do believe I'll be putting a beating on him. That's just the truth. I'm not being disrespectful, but if you come into this fight under-prepared, you're going to make that night very hard for you."

The champion won their first fight on the strength of a strong, fast start. He was able to get out to an early lead behind the aforementioned leg kicks, and even when Holloway rallied to make the fight competitive in the championship rounds he held his own. 

The early dynamic in this fight will be fascinating. If they pick up where they left off, it has the potential to be an all-out war. If we see Volkanovski set the tone early, it could end up being a more comprehensive replay of the first fight. 

Ultimately, it could be a bit of both. Holloway is one of the sport's true warriors and is going to look to go out on his shield, but Volkanovski might just be better at this point in his career. 

Prediction: Volkanovski via decision

            

Yan Looking to Win in 'Most Impressive Way Possible'

Yan isn't looking to just win his first UFC title at the weekend, he also wants to leave an impression with how he does it. 

The Russian has the opportunity to join the illustrious club of fighters who have won a UFC championship before losing their first fight in the promotion. UFC currently has two champions who have done that in Khabib Nurmagomedov in the lightweight division and Israel Adesanya at middleweight. 

Other names who have accomplished the feat include Cain Velasquez and Cody Garbrandt. 

If Yan is to do it, he will have to beat a legend in Jose Aldo but that doesn't seem to be affecting his confidence.

"I'm excited and grateful about this opportunity and I will make the most of it, but I'm not satisfied with just fighting for the title," he said, per E. Spencer Kyte of UFC.com. "I want to be the champion, and I want to win the title in the most impressive way possible."

If Yan can continue his current trajectory, he's on a path to do just that. Aldo has yet to win a fight at bantamweight, and his only appearance in the lower weight division was a split-decision loss to Marlon Moraes. Yan has passed every test in the division so far in impressive fashion.

Yan has the kind of all-around game where it is hard to find a weakness. He has slick boxing with legitimate power and can rely on his grappling if needed. At this point in Aldo's career in a foreign weight class, it's asking a lot for the veteran to put an end to the 27-year-old's ascension.

Prediction: Yan via second-round TKO

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