The UFC debuted at its Fight Island with a stacked card featuring three title fights to end Saturday night's action. And while only one new champion was crowned at UFC 251, the bouts lived up to the hype and delivered some thrilling entertainment.
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski successfully defended their respective titles, while Petr Yan defeated veteran fighter Jose Aldo to win the vacant bantamweight title. However, Fight of the Night honors went to Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas, the top two contenders in the women's strawweight division. Namajunas outlasted Andrade in a highly anticipated rematch.
The event featured a ton of fighting, with the pay-per-view setting the UFC record for most fight time at a single event at 3 hours, 7 minutes and 27 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Info (h/t ESPN's Ariel Helwani).
Here are the complete results from UFC 251, followed by some of the top highlights from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
UFC 251 Complete Results
Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision (50-45 x2, 49-46).
Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway via split decision (48-47 x2, 47-48).
Petr Yan def. Jose Aldo via TKO at 3:24 of Round 5.
Rose Namajunas def. Jessica Andrade via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29).
Amanda Ribas def. Paige VanZant by submission at 2:21 of Round 1.
Jiri Prochazka def. Volkan Oezdemir via KO at 0:49 of Round 2.
Muslim Salikhov def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28).
Makwan Amirkhani def. Danny Henry via submission at 3:15 of Round 1.
Leonardo Santos def. Roman Bogatov via unanimous decision (29-26 x3).
Marcin Tybura def. Maxim Grishin via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 30-26).
Raulian Paiva def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
Karol Rosa def. Vanessa Melo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26 x2).
Davey Grant def. Martin Day via KO at 2:38 of Round 3.
Highlights for Biggest Winners
Usman Dominates Masvidal to Retain in Main Event
It may not have been the most exciting fight, but Usman did what he needed to do to retain his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal, who took the matchup on six days' notice after Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19.
For much of the fight, Usman had Masvidal in the clinch against the fence as he struck him with body shots and foot stomps that allowed him to maintain the advantage. ESPN's Fightcenter shows just how dominant the performance was: Usman landed 263 total strikes, had 16:38 time of control and five takedowns. Masvidal landed 88 strikes and had no control time or takedowns.
Leading up to the fight, there had been some bad blood between Usman and Masvidal, but they appeared to move past that as the two shook hands following the bout. The broadcast also caught Masvidal telling Usman that he plans on bouncing back with a win before a rematch down the line.
Usman won the welterweight title by defeating Tyron Woodley at UFC 235, and he's since defended it against Colby Covington (UFC 245) and Masvidal. He improved to 17-1 in his professional career as he has yet to lose since competing on The Ultimate Fighter in 2015.
Volkanovski Retains in Competitive Fight Against Holloway
Volkanovski successfully defended the featherweight title for the first time Saturday. Max Holloway gave him a competitive fight in a rematch from UFC 245, when Volkanovski defeated Holloway to become a UFC champion for the first time.
Holloway came out strong in his pursuit of winning back his title. In the closing seconds of the first round, he knocked down Volkanovski with a kick to the head, putting the pressure on the champ early. He then sent Volkanovski to his knees again with an uppercut as the second round came to a close, and everything was going Holloway's way early.
But Volkanovski displayed his resiliency and battled back over the final three rounds. He made adjustments after Holloway had the early advantage, kept attacking his legs (he finished with 67 leg strikes) and scored a trio of takedowns in the later rounds.
Although some may have thought Holloway did enough early to secure the victory, two of the three judges believed Volkanovski did enough to retain.
Volkanovski improved to 22-1 in his career, and he's never lost in UFC. With back-to-back victories over Holloway, he will now look to continue his reign as champion against some of the other top competitors in the featherweight division.
Yan Impresses to Become UFC Champion for 1st Time
With Henry Cejudo announcing his retirement after defending the bantamweight title at UFC 249, the UFC turned to Petr Yan and Jose Aldo to battle for the vacant championship. Yan, in his first UFC title fight, and Aldo, a three-time featherweight champion, delivered one of the fights of the night.
Near the end of the first round, Aldo was in visible pain after Yan connected with a strike to Aldo's ribs. But the 33-year-old battled back in the second and third rounds, continuing to attack Yan's body with strikes.
Yan took back control in the fourth round, though, and by the fifth, Aldo couldn't overcome all of Yan's connected significant strikes. Yan had the veteran face down near the fence and kept delivering strikes with his right hand to the back of Aldo's head and neck, which led to a TKO victory at the 3:24 mark of the round. UFC President Dana White later said "it should have been stopped sooner," according to ESPN's Marc Raimondi.
It was the second straight fight that Yan ended in the final round, as he defeated Urijah Faber with a third-round knockout via head kick at UFC 245. Now he begins his reign as bantamweight champion.
Namajunas in Line for Title Shot After Incredible Rematch vs. Andrade
At UFC 237, Jessica Andrade defeated Rose Namajunas with a second-round knockout to win the strawweight title. This time, Andrade and Namajunas entered their rematch as the Nos. 1 and 2 challengers, respectively, for the championship, now held by Zhang Weili. It was clear the stakes would be high for this one.
Not only did Andrade and Namajunas go the distance, but they also earned Fight of the Night honors for their entertaining three-round bout. Just how close was this fight? Per ESPN's Fightcenter, Namajunas landed 82 total strikes to Andrade's 79. But while Andrade mixed where her strikes were focused, Namajunas mostly connected to Andrade's head, landing 63 strikes there.
Both fighters went back and forth throughout the bout. And even though Namajunas ended up the winner, Andrade kept attacking late, landing the sole takedown of the fight in the third round and causing Namajunas' face to get bloodied.
A split decision was fitting considering the competitiveness of the fight, and a third bout between the two women would be fun to see. But for now, Namajunas could be on her way to facing Zhang for the strawweight title.