The Ultimate Fighting Championship will christen its new ‘Fight Island’ facility in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates with UFC 251 on the morning of Sunday 12 July – and no less than three championships will be up for grabs.
The main event is a hastily arranged match for the welterweight championship between title-holder Kamaru Usman (16-1-0) and challenger Jorge Masvidal (35-13-0). The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ proved his class with a successful defense of the belt against Colby Covington in December last year.
He was originally meant to fight Gilbert Burns at this event, but the Brazilian tested positive for Covid-19. It was feared that Usman’s defense would be scrapped entirely and one of the other title fights would be bumped up to the main event, but the UFC managed to negotiate a last-minute deal with Masvidal.
‘Gamebred’ comes into the clash on the back of three straight wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz and this weekend’s bout is a grudge match months in the making. Usman and Masvidal have been embroiled in a heated feud, while on Saturday afternoon, Usman tweeted, "Might be time for the pig to squeal."
The first title on offer at UFC 251 will be the vacant bantamweight championship, with Petr Yan (14-1-0) taking on Jose Aldo (28-6-0). Yan is on a nine-fight winning streak and most recently knocked out Urijah Faber in December 2019, while the veteran Aldo is a former featherweight champion looking to turn around his career trajectory after losing four of his last six matches over the space of three years.
The Russian, known as ‘No Mercy’, says he expects a tough battle against Aldo: “He doesn’t make many mistakes. He will be ready to go the full distance. But I believe I have the ability and tools to defeat him. I have no doubt it will be an exciting contest. It is because our styles match up very well.”
Another championship up for grabs is the featherweight belt, as title holder Alexander Volkanovski (21-1-0) takes on Max Holloway (21-5-0) in a repeat of their battle from December 2019 when the former won via unanimous decision to reach the top of the division for the first time.
Volkanovski feels he has been overlooked as the new featherweight champion and has promised to put Holloway down inside the five rounds this time around. “People quickly forget how I did it, there were biased opinions and commentary, everything. So I'm a little bit annoyed, I feel disrespected. I've got something to prove this time, I'll put him away inside the five [rounds] this time. I guarantee you that. I'm sending a message." The main card of UFC 251 also features a women’s strawweight bout between Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) and Rose Namajunas (9-4-0), as well as Amanda Ribas (9-1-0) and Paige VanZant (8-4-0) in the women’s flyweight division.
UFC 251 – MAIN CARD - Main event: Welterweight championship: Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal - Co-main: Featherweight championship: Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway - Vacant bantamweight championship: Petr Yan v Jose Aldo - Women’s strawweight: Jessica Andrade v Rose Namajunas - Women’s flyweight: Amanda Ribas v Paige VanZant