UFC 251 Results: Key Takeaways from Usman vs. Masvidal Card

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2020

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: (L-R) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria and Jorge Masvidal talk after the conclusion of their UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

UFC's first event at Fight Island is in the books after Kamaru Usman successfully defended his welterweight championship against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

It was the first of four shows UFC scheduled on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

Elsewhere on the card, Alexander Volkanovski won a split decision over Max Holloway, and Petr Yan hammered Jose Aldo in the fifth round to earn a TKO victory. Rose Namajunas beat Jessica Andrade by split decision, and Amanda Ribas submitted Paige VanZant in the first round.

Here are some takeaways from the headline bouts.

              

Jorge Masvidal Needed More Time

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: (L-R) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria takes down Jorge Masvidal in their UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United A
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

When Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19, Masvidal was the natural replacement. He's the No. 3-ranked contender in the welterweight division, and Colby Covington, the No. 2 challenger, already had a shot at Usman and lost by fifth-round TKO in December at UFC 245.

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Masvidal was facing an uphill battle from the moment he accepted the fight, though.

Six days separated his addition to UFC 251 to the actual show, and his preparation time was limited further because he had to quarantine in Las Vegas prior to flying out to Abu Dhabi and then quarantine upon arriving.

Because of that, Usman's win didn't come as a big surprise. According to UFC.com, he had a 263-88 edge in total strikes and a 94-66 advantage in signature strikes. The reigning champion also notched five takedowns, with Masvidal failing to register a single one.

The late change to the main event gave Usman a strong incentive to adopt a conservative approach. Losing would've been bad enough. Losing to a guy who had less than a week to get ready would've compounded matters.

Masvidal doesn't necessarily deserve to get another crack at Usman right away, but Saturday's result—given all of the factors involved—shouldn't hurt his standing in the welterweight title picture.

         

Petr Yan Leaves Imprint on Bantamweight Division

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: Petr Yan of Russia celebrates after his TKO victory over Jose Aldo in their UFC bantamweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhab
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Perhaps the lasting image from UFC 251 came as Yan landed shot after shot on Aldo while referee Leon Roberts watched on. Roberts waited an interminably long time before stepping in to stop the fight.

Given both his age (33) and lack of experience in the division, Aldo fought well and proved why he deserved to get a championship shot despite losing his bantamweight debut to Marlon Moraes in December.

As the bout wore on, though, the tap between Yan and Aldo grew. By the fifth round, Aldo had nothing left in the tank and paid the price.

According to ESPN's Marc Raimondi, Yan's 62 significant strikes in the fifth round eclipsed the number of significant strikes opponents landed against Aldo in his last nine fights.

Yan is now riding a seven-fight winning streak in UFC, which extends to 10 fights when including his time in Absolute Championship Berkut. Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole called his UFC 251 victory a "crowning performance."

           

Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade Destined for Rubber Match

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: (L-R) Rose Namajunas punches Jessica Andrade of Brazil in their strawweight fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Phot
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Andrade knocked out Namajunas at UFC 237 in May 2019 by slamming her head into the mat. 

While she didn't look like a winner by the time the third round ended, Namajunas gained a measure of revenge on Saturday.

MMA Junkie's Matt Erickson observed that Namajunas is now likely primed for a date with strawweight champion Weili Zhang, which would make sense. Andrade was the No. 1 challenger to Zhang before UFC 251, so Namajunas would sensibly climb into pole position.

Unlike Andrade, the 28-year-old hasn't had the opportunity to face Zhang. Zhang claimed the strawweight championship with a first-round TKO of Andrade in August 2019.

Coming out of UFC 251, Namajunas and Andrade clearly have unfinished business, though. The gap between the two on Saturday was negligible. Their strike totals were almost equal (82 for Namajunas, 79 for Andrade), while Andrade secured the fight's only takedown.

This is a pairing that warrants at least one more fight.

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