UFC 251 was supposed to be in Las Vegas, Nevada for International Fight Week. Instead, a global pandemic had the UFC go to Abu Dhabi to feature three title fights that crowned a new champion for a division that needed one and had two others retain their titles.
There was a lot to take away from UFC 251, and having it happen from Fight Island gave us a preview of what to expect for July. Here are some takeaways from the event.
Chess not checkers
A lot has been made of negotiations for a lot of the higher-profile fighters on the UFC roster. Jorge Masvidal was one of the more vocal fighters about his position in the UFC and when the original UFC 251 main event was in jeopardy, Masvidal’s patience seems to have paid off as whatever deal was reached was enough to make the BMF title holder happy to step in against Kamaru Usman.
Welcome to Fight Island
Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island hosted UFC 251 and seemed to be just what MMA needed to host this July pay per view for the UFC. For those unaware, the UFC July pay per view is usually a marquee event held in Las Vegas for international fight week. With the pandemic forcing so many changes, the UFC change made to get some of their overseas fighters going seems to have delivered. So much so that after weigh-ins UFC president Dana White said that not only would they be back, but he is looking to get a house there.
Former light heavyweight Rizin Champion Jiri Prochazka introduced himself to fans of the UFC with a devastating second-round knockout of Volkan Oezdemir. His methods of getting the finish were unorthodox and risky, but he inserted himself into the top ten of the UFC light heavyweight division with this win.
Thug Rose! Thug Rose! Thug Rose!
Rose Namajunas was able to correct her loss to Jessica Andrade in their rematch at UFC 251. While Namajunas was able to implement a safer version of her gameplan from their first fight, Andrade made some adjustments of her own that won her a round. Still, the volume from Namajunas was enough to get the win and have fans pondering on how a match with the current champion, Weili Zhang would go.
Moving forward during the pandemic is something the UFC has gotten down to a science and at UFC 251, they did so with the bantamweight division. Henry Cejudo’s retirement left the title up for grabs and Petr Yan certainly grabbed it. Winning that title was no easy task against Jose Aldo. While Aldo may be nearing the end of his career, he did not make Yan’s win easy, going into the championship rounds. There were moments fans saw the Aldo of old, but Yan still walked away as the new champion. While retired, Cejudo still left some cringe for the new champ.
Alexander The Great
Alexander Volkanovski picked up his second decision win against Max Holloway. The split decision was not the definitive finish he wanted to cement his place as the new featherweight champion but the same forward-moving pressure seemed to work in his favor. To Holloway’s credit, he seemed to look better than the last fight but Volkanovski seems to have done enough to close the book on Holloway, for now.
And on the seventh day…
“Street Jesus” Jorge Masvidal entered the main event for UFC 251 as a last-minute replacement for Gilbert Burns. While a win would have made for a great story, the other story that came from this is that on six days’ notice, Masvidal went all five rounds, virtually unprepared and lost a decision. Would a full camp have made a difference? Maybe a rematch is in order to find out.
There’s obviously more to take away from this event with the low blows during the prelims, some very nice submission wins and all the possible match ups to make in the future. The UFC will hold a few more events from Abu Dhabi before heading back to Las Vegas, which is currently one of the states with spikes in coronavirus numbers but hopefully, things can keep moving forward when they return August.
What did you take away from the event?