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UFC 251

Preview and Predictions

Main Card

Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (-260) VS Jorge “Gambred” Masvidal (+200)

The main event of the evening, not only is the welterweight championship on the line, but now the BMF title is as well.  On just about a weeks notice “Gamebred” took advantage and reconstructed his contract.  Now, he will be fighting for the crown and got the money he was asking for.  Usman, in true champion form, accepted the fight without hesitation.

Street Jesus, is looking for his 3rd baptism in 4 fights.  Even though he is taking the fight on a weeks notice, don’t think Masvidal hasn’t been in shape or training for Usman.  These two have history and were already set to lock horns before.  Dustin Poirier has also been vocal about Gambred being his number one training partner for his possible “Fight of the Year” with Dan “The Hangman” Hooker.  Despite Jorge claiming he’s 22 lbs over weight, I don’t think it’ll be a problem when its time to hit the scales.  Competing at lightweight most of his career, welterweight shouldn’t be rough on a weeks notice.  The game plan for “Gamebred” is simple, keep it on the feet.  Easier said then done, especially with a world class wrestler in Usman.  Masvidal has been on the wrong side of some split decisions in his career, and this is not one he’ll probably want the judges to decide either.

“The Nigerian Nightmare”swept through the welterweight division without much force.  His overpowering wrestling game and his recently polished striking have led him to the title.  Kamaru has enjoyed a slow steady rise in the UFC, despite entering as The Ultimate Fighter champion.  He seems to have picked the right fights, and never rushed a fight that was too over his head.  He will have a big strength and size advantage, which should make his strengths in the grappling game shine even more.  Masvidal might have the best hands Usman has ever faced in the octagon, which he will force Masvidal to play his game and wrestle.  Usman isn’t known be a finisher, and Masvidal hasn’t been stopped in any recent memory or on a big stage.

“Gamebred’s” key to victory would be to stop Usman as early as possible.  If he can land a “three piece and a soda,” on the chin of Usman within the first 2 rounds, he might just be the BMF.  I believe the champ will have other plans.  Usman will use at least a takedown each round to secure the round.  Gamebred will being spending most of his time defending take-downs and fighting off his back, which he may never be in the drivers seat much to deliver his 3 piece.  Usman takes the 5 round decision, in which should be an entertaining match-up with some excitement as long as the fight lasts.

USMAN via DEC

Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (-225) VS Max “Blessed” Holloway (+175)

Just as we all thought the “Blessed Era” had just begun, “The Great” had quietly been taking the featherweight division by storm.  The first fight for the title was a 5 round thriller, knowing we’d surely see it again.  Fast forward 7 months and here we are again.  Max will need to prove to himself and his fans that “Blessed Era” is far from extinction.

 Max Holloway has been the face of the lightweight division since Conor Mcgregor left and defeating Jose Aldo for the belt.  Its been a tough year for the former champ, losing 2 of his last 3 fights.  Granted one of those fights was going up to battle Dustin Poirier for the 155 lb interim title.  Also, his two losses were absolute wars.  Max is still young, but those types of wars will take a toll on his body, as well as his psyche.  The storyline of the first fight was Volkanovski’s leg kicks.  If Max didn’t solve that puzzle, he may be in for another long night.  The smart way to approach this fight is to keep Volkanovski at range, use volume, and stay away from his power and take-downs.  Most importantly, take the fight into deep waters and once again press “The Great’s” cardio to his limit.

Alexander “The Great” is on 3 fight terror against the best fighters in the division.  Knocking off Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, and recently Max Holloway, it’s hard to deny that he belongs here.  Although Holloway stands 5 inches taller than Volkanovski, oddly “The Great” will have a 2.5 inch reach advantage.  Volkanovski already has the blueprint to defeat his opponent, it’s up to Holloway to go to the drawing board.  Using strong leg kicks to chop the lead leg of Holloway, then going upstairs with heavy shots.  It will be no easy task to stand and bang with Holloway for 25 minutes, most humans break.  With that being said, he will need to mix in a few take-downs to close the distance and press Max against the cage to solidify some rounds.

I expect Holloway to come out with more pressure in this fight, as he felt he had done enough to retain his crown the first go. Volkanovski will land the the more damaging shots, while Holloway lands more volume.  Nothing leads me to believe that City Kickboxing wont come up with the better game plan once again, but I will be jumping aboard the Blessed Express on this one.  He will solve the leg kick riddle en route to a 5 round decision win.

HOLLOWAY via DEC

#3 Petr “No Mercy” Yan (-225) VS #6 Jose “Junior” Aldo (+175)

In the third and final title fight of the night, Yan will take on Aldo for the interim bantamweight strap.  This was kind of a strange booking because Aldo is coming off a split decision loss to Marlon Moraes.  So Moraes should get the shot right?  Not so fast said Dana White and much of the UFC community.  This highlights the problems we face with the judges, but let’s not get into that.

Petr Yan was a highly touted prospect and has absolutely lived up to that assumption.  He is now 6-0 in the UFC, dismantling the likes of John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera, and Urijah Faber.  His strengths are his striking and pressure, also a rock solid chin.  No opponent in the UFC has been able to withstand the pressure that Yan brings, gladly taking a punch to give one back.  The only part of his game that hasn’t been exposed, yet even tested, is his grappling.  Let’s not ponder that thought too much because Aldo hasn’t shown much of an offensive wrestling game.

This is just Jose Aldo’s second fight a bantamweight, but I got to say he looked great against the divisions number one ranked fighter.  Aldo has some of the best leg kicks in the sport, but it seems he has forgotten about them.  He should come out with vicious low leg kicks to slow Yan’s constant pressure.  He will also look to counter as “No Mercy” shall be the first to go in most occasions.  Aldo should have a speed advantage, but will be lacking in the power department.  The recipe for success is to slow Yan’s pace and get in and out of the pocket quick.

This should be a fun fight while it lasts.  Petr will press the action, while Aldo will return with some heavy counters.  Aldo has shown to fade as the fight unfolds and I expect Yan to have no mercy and take full advantage.  The first round should be close, but its just a matter of time til Aldo starts to wear and Petr “No Mercy” Yan will win via TKO in the second round.  

YAN via TKO in round 2

#1 Jessica Andrade (+165) VS #2 “Thug” Rose Namajunas (-205)

These two women will be fighting for the #1 contender spot and most likely a shot at the champion.  Both women have felt the strawweight gold and are determined to wear it once again.  About a year has passed since these two first met for the title and since then, Andrade had lost her title to Weili Zhang, while “Thug” Rose had been inactive and contemplating retirement.

“Thug” Rose has been a staple of the women strawweight division since the weight class was introduced on Season 20 of the TUF.  She lost in the season finale to the first bantamweight crowned champion under the UFC banner.  Since that defeat, she had became without a doubt the top strawweight in the world  after besting the former strawweight queen not once, but twice.  The game plan should stay the same for Namajunas.  If she just fights the same fight(as last) and doesn’t get slammed on her head, she will prove she is the best in the word.  Her striking is leaps and bounds past Andrade and that will be on full display.

Andrade had taken a more traditional path to the UFC and the title.  After falling short of becoming the champion to the hands of Jedrzejczyk, Andrade went back to the drawing board.  She rallied off 3 wins that lead her directly to the title once again, but this time a different outcome.  Everything seemed to be going wrong for Andrade until she finally got her hands on Rose.  Namajunas countered Andrade’s takedown with a kimura of her own, which she held too long, and woke up without the belt.

I expect this fight to be eerily similar to these women first decider of the best 115 lb female in the world.  Andrade has one path to victory, and that’s shutting out Namajunas lights.  Landing those looping hooks or another big slam can do the trick.  Andrade needs to make it a dirty “phone booth”type fight.  Rose should easily pick Andrade apart to a victory before the championship rounds will transpire.

NAMAJUNAS via submission in round 3

#14 Amanda Ribas (-900) VS Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant (+550)

To kick off the main card in the women flyweight division we have rising prospect Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant.  Ribas sits as the biggest favorite on the card by a landslide.  This could possibly be due to the fact that VanZant has been vocal about being being paid more.  This is typically how Dana treats those fighters, with a horrible match up.  Ribas, being ranked at strawweight, isn’t even sure why the UFC offered her the fight against VanZant at flyweight.

Paige VanZant has only had 3 fights in the past 4 years.  She has had her arm broken on numerous occasions, which led to extensive layoffs.  She is still only 26 and seems like shes been around the block already.   She has some good kicks to mix in with her wrestling, but she may need to get creative to secure top position.  “12 Gauge” needs to create as many scrambles as she can because this is where she is at her best.  In 2017 she had decided to leave Team Alpha Male, as well as move up to the flyweight division.  We haven’t seen much of how that has been going for her, but this fight will be a good indicator.

Trained by her father Marcelo Ribas, Amanda has plenty of momentum on her side.  After exposing Mackenzie Dern, Ribas was on the map.  Even though she is going up a weight class, Ribas should still have the strength and speed advantage.  She will throw hard straight punches with occasional spinning heel kicks to the body.  She will be better than VanZant everywhere the fight shall go, as long as she doesn’t lose a scramble and end up on bottom.  

Fighting VanZant is great exposure for any fighter.  With an impressive win here Ribas can make herself a household name.  The betting line is a bit ridiculous, but Ribas should win all 3 rounds handily.

RIBAS via DEC