UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2020

SANTIAGO, CHILE - MAY 18:  UFC Men's welterweight fighter Jorge Masvidal of the United States interacts with fans during a Q&A session before the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at Movistar Arena on May 18, 2018 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The UFC is pulling out all the stops with its relocation to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for the month of July. The first order of business is a pay-per-view card with a title triple-header featuring Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal in the main event.

Because of a series of unfortunate events, the promotion is putting on the welterweight title fight everyone wanted to see on short notice. Gilbert Burns was originally slated to be Usman's second title defense, but a positive COVID-19 test put him on the sideline and gave Masvidal the opening to step in on six days' notice.

The co-main event features a featherweight title rematch as Alexander Volkanovski will switch roles and defend his belt against Max Holloway in the sequel to the former's unanimous decision win at UFC 245.

The lead-in to that bout will be a fight between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the now-vacated bantamweight strap. Henry Cejudo's retirement has left the class without a champion, and the UFC has tabbed the two as the top contenders.

Here's what the whole card looks like along with some quick predictions and what to watch for on each fight on the main card.

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UFC 251

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

  • 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 (-150) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+130)
  • 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 vs. Masvidal

What to Watch For: Masvidal's Movement

The key to this fight is going to be space. Jorge Masvidal is going to need to create it. Throughout his careeer, he has struggled with high-quality wrestlers, and that's exactly what he's facing in the current champion.

It starts with Masvidal's cage awareness. As much as possible, he needs to fight in the middle of the cage and stay away from the fence. If Usman is able to back him to the fence, it can only lead to a clinch or an outright takedown.

If Masvidal can cut angles to keep the fight in the open, he'll have a better opportunity to defend takedowns and turn this fight into the stand-up brawl he needs in order to win. Not many have been able to do that to Usman, and none have done it well enough to beat him.

Prediction: Usman via decision.


Volkanovski vs. Holloway

What to Watch For: Who Leads the Dance

Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway can be carbon copies of one another at times. Both want to drown their opponent in volume and generally keep the fight standing.

In the first fight, Volkanovski dominated the early rounds by throwing leg kicks that threw Holloway out of rhythm and off his game.

When Holloway adjusted to that in the later rounds, the fight became much closer. He didn't definitively prove he can win rounds, but he did make the fight more competitive. He's going to need to do that early on if he wants to avenge his loss.

Prediction: Volkanovski via decision.


Yan vs. Aldo

What to Watch For: Aldo's Counterpunching

At this point in their careers, Petr Yan is going to carry a lot of advantages. For one, Aldo has not won a fight in this weight class. Yan is the quicker, more athletic fighter and comes in with a lot of confidence with no losses in the UFC.

A prime Aldo is one of the greatest lighter weight fighters of all-time. That version of Aldo is gone, though. What's left is a crafty counterpuncher. And that's the most obvious path of victory for the future Hall of Famer.

Yan sports a perfect record in the UFC, but he's shown that counterpunchers can have some success against him. Jimmie Rivera was able to land more significant strikes than Yan in a unanimous decision loss because he was able to counter him consistently.

That will be important to keep an eye on as Yan will need to proceed with caution against Aldo. Still, it's hard to go against all the physical advantages the younger fighter has in this case.

Prediction: Yan via second-round TKO.


Andrade vs. Namajunas

What to Watch For: Namajunas' Risk Management

When Rose Namajunas is dialed in, there are few women more talented in the strawweight division. The problem is, that hasn't always been the case for her, and things can go sideways quickly when she isn't.

Case-in-point, her first fight against Jessica Andrade was going perfectly until she let go of her kimura grip and was promptly slammed to the ground and knocked out. Andrade is a strong fighter with solid wrestling. Getting in that position was a lack of focus from Thug Rose.

With time off and hopefully a renewed sense of focus that kind of lapse shouldn't happen again. Namajunas is the quicker more agile fighter and should be able to apply a stick-and-move game plan that would allow her to win this fight easily.

If she doesn't maintain her focus and keep herself out of bad positions, we could see a repeat of their first fight. For now, there's no reason to doubt that she is ready to return to action and fight to her potential.

Prediction: Namajunas via third-round TKO.


Ribas vs. VanZant

What to Watch For: Ribas' Aggression

As the odds would indicate, this isn't expected to be a competitive fight. Amanda Ribas has all the hallmarks of a future champion and Paige VanZant could be on her way out as this is the last fight in her contract.

However, PVZ has two things going for her: She isn't a bad striker and is tough. So when this fight is off the ground, she stands a chance of hanging in there long enough to land something substantial. Where she doesn't have a shot is if the fight goes to the ground.

PVZ may have won her last fight by submission, but Ribas is the better grappler overall and has a submission game of her own (three of her nine wins are by submission). Ribas holds the advantage just about anywhere this fight goes.

If she can take the fight from the early moments, she will live up to the hype and put her away early.

Prediction: Ribas via first-round submission.