Kamaru Usman and Alexander Volkanovski will defend their titles at the top of a stacked UFC 251 card at its “Fight Island” complex in Abu Dhabi this Saturday.
Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will face off for the vacant Bantamweight title as well, part of a deep, 13-fight card for the UFC’s first event outside of the United States since March 14.
Masvidal Steps in to Fight Usman
UFC president Dana White devised Fight Island as a way to host events for international fighters who can’t easily travel to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strict coronavirus protocols have ruled out a couple of fighters, including Gilbert Burns, who expected to fight for Usman’s title at UFC 251 before he and his coach tested positive for the virus.
Jorge Masvidal (35-13) stepped in as a late replacement to keep the main event alive. The 35-year-old holder of the “BMF Belt” comes in as the No. 3 ranked welterweight contender, and has little respect for a champion who he has described as “just an idiot.”
UFC 251 Odds (Main Card)
- Kamaru Usman (-260) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+200)
- Alexander Volkanovski (-225) vs. Max Holloway (+175)
- Petr Yan (-230) vs. Jose Aldo (+180)
- Jessica Andrade (+165) vs. Rose Namajunas (-210)
- Amanda Ribas (-850) vs. Paige VanZant (+525)
Odds via PointsBet
“He doesn’t know how to promote himself in the space without having to dim somebody else’s light,” Masvidal told BT Sports. “Just having to be negative all the f—ing time, towards everybody, and I’m not for it.”
Usman (16-1) rejects the idea that he’s become inauthentic. In fact, he thinks Masvidal is projecting his own issues onto his opponents.
“The real story is, he has turned into everything that he had said that he wasn’t,” Usman told ESPN. “A real gangster don’t need to talk about what they’re going to do or what they’re capable of doing or wear pink robes on a two-seater plane in a private jet or whatever. A real gangster don’t need to talk about that.”
Inside the Octagon, Usman remains one of the strongest wrestlers in the UFC. He also proved that he can strike for five rounds against a top opponent in his last title defense against Colby Covington. Masvidal will still find his best chances on his feet, however, with his likely path to victory coming via knockout. PointsBet sees Usman as a -260 favorite over Masvidal (+200) in the main event.
Holloway Gets Immediate Rematch vs. Volkanovski
The UFC 251 co-main event features Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) defending his featherweight championship against Max Holloway (21-5), in an immediate rematch of their December 2019 clash. Volkanovski won a unanimous decision back then to take the title from Holloway, who remains the No. 1 contender in the division.
While Volkanovski was dominant in that bout, Holloway says the new champion isn’t acting like he belongs in the role.
“At the end of the day, I feel like he’s attacking me. He called me out to fight,” Holloway told reporters. “That’s something a challenger does, doesn’t it? I don’t know. This guy’s been saying stuff. He’s the one that’s been saying he’s got a chip on his shoulder about something. He’s ready to prove something.”
Volkanovski (-225) enters as the favorite over Holloway (+175) to retain his title.
UFC 251 also includes a third title fight, with Petr Yan (-230) taking on Jose Aldo (+180) for the bantamweight crown. Henry Cejudo vacated the bantamweight championship when he retired after his win over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 in May.