The UFC finally touched down on Fight Island this Saturday as UFC 251 went down on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The top of the bill featured three title fights, one at welterweight, one at featherweight and a vacant bantamweight title bout. In the main event, Kamaru Usman looked to defend his title for the second time as he took on Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal stepped into the fight on six days notice after Usman’s original opponent tested positive for COVID-19. Usman put on a dominant performance, taking all five rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards.
In the co-main event, Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway faced off for the featherweight title once again. Their first fight took place at UFC 245 as Volkanovski took the belt with a unanimous decision win. Early in the fight, Holloway looked to be doing much better than the last time. However, Volkanovski started to pick up the pace after the third round. His late surge earned him a split decision win to retain his title and move to 2-0 over Holloway.
UFC 251 Standout Performances
The third and final title fight was in the bantamweight division. After not being able to earn another shot at gold in the featherweight division, Jose Aldo moved down to 135-pounds. In his bantamweight debut, he faced off against fellow Brazilian Marlon Moraes at UFC 245. After a very close fight, Moraes was awarded the split decision win. About five months later, Henry Cejudo defended his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz. After the fight, he went on to announce his retirement, forcing the UFC to book a vacant title fight. One half of the bout was clear as it was confirmed Russia’s Petr Yan would get his shot at UFC gold. Soon after, it was announced that it would be Aldo standing across from him.
The first iteration of Fight Island delivered with spectacular finishes and many entertaining fights. Full of action from top to bottom, it is time to determine the five standout performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. Along with every performance will be a look at what could potentially come next for each fighter.
#1 Jiri Prochazka
def. Volkan Oezdemir via Knockout (Punch) at 0:49 of Round Two
Prior to UFC 251, Volkan Oezdemir had put together a two fight win streak. The former title challenger kicked off this streak in August 2019 when he took on Ilir Latifi. He finished Latifi that night, knocking him out in the second round. His next fight came four months later as he faced Aleksandar Rakic at UFC Fight Night 165. Oezdemir won his second straight as he defeated Rakic by split decision. His next fight would be against a UFC newcomer in Rizin light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka.
Prochazka entered his UFC debut on a ten fight win streak with all of those wins coming under the Rizin banner. The last eight of that streak all came by KO/TKO with wins over fighters like Muhammed Lawal, Jake Heun, and Fabio Maldonado. In his most recent outing, faced off against former UFC fighter CB Dolloway. He finished Dolloway in just about two minutes, defeating him by knockout. He looked to pick up a big win over a former title challenger in his UFC debut.
The first round featured non-stop action as each man was throwing with knockout power in every punch. Just about two minutes into round one, the hardest strike so far had landed as Oezdemir buckled Prochazka with a solid right hand. But Prochazka recovered and continued moving forward, landing shots. Oezdemir seemed to have the edge coming out of the first round as he landed more strikes compared to Prochazka at 42-26.
As the second round began both fighters met in the middle of the octagon. Prochazka seemed to be more active early in this round as he landed a hard right hand followed by a hard low kick. He then brought his kick up high, landing a head kick that seemed to stun Oezdemir. With Oezdemir wobbled, Prochazka began finding his opening and landed more good shots as he backed his opponent to the fence. It was there that he landed a perfect one-two that folded Oezdemir, ending the fight.
After many successful years with Rizin, Prochazka finally made his way to the UFC where he put on a perfect performance in his debut. Taking out the seventh ranked light heavyweight and former title challenger in the manner he did should earn him a top ten ranking. When looking at the top of the light heavyweight division, there are not many names that pop out as a possible next opponent. A good amount of the top fighters are booked, with Thiago Santos taking on Glover Teixeira. Anthony Smith will be taking on Aleksandar Rakic, which leaves only a couple possibilities. One of them being Dominick Reyes, but after his close fight with the champion Jon Jones, plus being ranked at number one, that is off the table.
That then leaves Jan Blachowicz and Corey Anderson. Anderson is coming off a knockout loss to Blachowicz so it seems that the best option for Prochazka’s next outing would be Blachowicz. Unless they paired him with someone lower in the rankings, like perhaps Nikita Krylov, it seems that Blachowicz would be the best choice. Blachowicz does hold a case for a title shot, but who knows when Jones will return and whether or not a Jones-Reyes rematch will be made.
#2 Petr Yan
def. Jose Aldo via TKO (Punches) at 3:24 of Round Five
Making his UFC debut in 2018, Petr Yan has not lost since, putting together a record of 6-0 in the octagon. His debut came against Teruto Ishihara as he defeated him by first round knockout at UFC Fight Night 132. He would then go on to grab wins over fighters like John Dodson and Jimmie Rivera. Before getting a shot at the bantamweight title, he took on MMA legend Urijah Faber. In the third round of their fight, Yan knocked Faber out with a perfectly placed head kick. In his first shot at UFC gold, he would be going up against another legend of the sport, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
After losing his featherweight title for the second time, Aldo put together two TKO wins over Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano. He would then go on to meet Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 237. Volkanovski took care of Aldo as he progressed closer to his title shot, defeating Aldo by unanimous decision. After that loss, Aldo decided to move down to bantamweight where he would take on Marlon Moraes. The two fought a very close fight, but in the end Moraes was awarded the split decision win. It came as a surprise when the UFC announced Aldo’s next fight would be for the vacant title coming off two straight losses.
In the first few rounds, this fight seemed to be very competitive. Both fighters were finding success with their shots as Aldo landed his signature leg kicks early on in the fight. It even got to a point where Yan was forced to switch stances at times in order to avoid more damage to his leg. At the end of round one, Aldo shot for a takedown but Yan defended it well as he ended up on top in Aldo’s guard. He began throwing some shots from the top as he landed a hard shot to Aldo’s midsection that made him wince in pain and curl up. Yan looked for the finish there, but Aldo was able to survive the final seconds of the round before the bell sounded.
Yan landed more shots than the MMA vet in rounds one and three, while Aldo had the most success in round two. It was in the championship rounds that Aldo seemed to slow down a bit and Yan began finding the most success. In round four, Yan landed far more strikes than Aldo at 56-15, including a takedown with just over a minute left. With Aldo on his back again, Yan tried to land as much ground and pound as he could before the end of the round.
Just seconds into round five, Yan landed a perfect one two followed by a left uppercut that dropped Aldo. From that point on, Yan poured on the ground and pound, landing many unanswered shots, leaving Aldo in a pool of blood as the ref stopped the fight nearly three minutes later.
With the UFC belt around his waist now, it is time to look at possible options for Yan’s first title defense. The clear choice seems to be Aljamain Sterling as he has looked very impressive recently. He has won his last five straight, including submission wins over Cody Stamann and Cory Sandhagen. He also holds wins over Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera during that span. That should be the clear choice but there also seems to be a bit of a rivalry brewing between Yan and the former champion, Cody Garbrandt. After Yan’s win, Garbrandt took to Twitter to call out the newly crowned champion.
We have unfinished business!! I’ll break him in 2 rounds Ko him in the 3rd I want to break his will. https://t.co/tX7xl003qS
— Cody Garbrandt (@Cody_Nolove) July 12, 2020
Garbrandt also tweeted out that Yan was “too slow,” to which Yan quickly responded by saying, “And you are too dumb, no chin.” But as these two went back and forth, Sterling was quick to let it be known that anyone other than him can wait in line. And rightly so as he has earned his opportunity, while Garbrandt could pick up one more win to earn his shot. Possibly matching him with Aldo could give him that opportunity, and he seems open to it.
You can wait. https://t.co/JCdKWedvMi
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) July 12, 2020
#3 Davey Grant
def. Martin Day via Knockout (Punch) at 2:38 of Round Three
Martin Day made his UFC debut in 2018 when he faced off against Pingyuan Liu at UFC Fight Night 141. He came up short in that fight, losing by split decision. He would not return to the cage until 2020 when he was paired up with Davey Grant at UFC 251.
Grant had put together a UFC record of 2-3 entering his fight with Day. Among those wins was a unanimous decision win over Marlon Vera. In his last three, he would lose twice by submission to Damian Stasiak and Manny Bermudez. In his most recent outing he picked up a split decision win over Grigorii Popov to rebound from those two losses. He looked to make it two in a row when he faced off against Day at UFC 251.
The first round started close, both guys finding their range and feeling each other out. About halfway in, Day landed a big right hand that dropped Grant, but Grant was able to recover and the two were back on their feet in moments. Towards the end of the round, Grant was able to get Day’s back up against the fence where he locked his hands together and took Day down. Grant would be able to keep Day down for the remaining minute of round one. Both men had their moments in that round but Day’s knockdown could have given him the edge going into round two.
Grant began finding much more success in the second round as he controlled the octagon and landed many good shots. In that second round, he landed 34 total strikes to Day’s 26. Grant was also able to take Day down once again about three minutes into the round. This time on the ground, Grant looked for multiple submission openings as he searched for a guillotine and came close to locking up an armbar. With just about twenty seconds left, the two were back on their feet. As the round came to a close, Day landed a hard body kick that knocked Grant off his feet.
Round three started and both fighters came out with a sense of urgency looking for a finish. Each man was landing hard shots, but just over halfway into the round, Grant landed the hardest shot of the fight. As Day moved forward, Grant connected with a combination ending with a left hook that sent Day crumbling to the mat.
With bantamweight being a very deep division, there are many possiblities for Grant’s next outing. One could be a fight against Mario Bautista, while another potential match up could be against Kyung-Ho Kang. Each of these fighters are coming off a previous win to add to their multi-fight win streak. Bautista’s last outing came at UFC 247 when he took on Miles Johns. He won the fight that night, defeating Johns by TKO in the second round. Prior to that he snatched a unanimous decision win against Jin Soo Son at UFC on ESPN 4.
As for Kang, he has won his last three outings with the first of them coming against Teruto Ishihara. He finished Ishihara that night, submitting him by rear naked choke in the first round. His next outing came at UFC 241 when he took on Brandon Davis. Kang picked up his second straight victory that night, defeating Davis by split decision. In his most recent outing, he faced off against Liu Pingyuan at UFC Fight Night 165. His third straight victory came that night as he won the fight by split decision. Either of these fighters could make a worthy next opponent for Grant, yet it is ultimately up to the matchmakers.
#4 Makwan Amirkhani
def. Danny Henry via Submission (Guillotine) at 3:15 of Round One
In 2018, Makwan Amirkhani kicked off a short two fight win streak. It began at UFC Fight Night 130 when he faced off against Jason Knight. He defeated Knight that night by split decision, earning him a fight with Chris Fishgold in his next outing. He took on Fishgold at UFC Fight Night 153 and defeated him in the second round by submission. In his most recent outing, he faced Shane Burgos at UFC 244. His losing streak was snapped that night as Burgos defeated Amirkhani in the third round, finishing him by TKO. Amirkhani looked to rebound from the loss and get back on track as he faced Danny Henry.
Henry made his UFC debut in 2017 and put together two straight wins in his first two outings. His debut came against Daniel Teymur as he defeated him by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 113. He would then go on to face Hakeem Dawodu at UFC Fight Night 127. He picked up his second straight win that night as he defeated Dawodu by submission in just 40 seconds. His next appearance came at UFC Fight Night 147 when his win streak was snapped by Dan Ige as he lost by first round submission. He too looked to bounce back with a win at UFC 251 as he faced Amirkhani.
The fight started off pretty slow as both men circled the cage. About halfway into the first round, Amirkhani threw a flying knee and then immediately changed levels to look for a takedown. After a few seconds he was able to get Henry down to the mat where he began searching for a submission. He was quickly able to wrap up a guillotine and moments later he had choked Henry unconscious.
An interesting match up for Amirkhani’s next outing could be Canada‘s Hakeem Dawodu. Since Dawodu lost to Henry, he has put together four straight wins. He started with a couple of decision wins over Austin Arnett and Kyle Bochniak. He would then take on Yoshinori Hori at UFC 240, finishing him in the third round by TKO. In his most recent outing, Dawodu faced off against Julio Arce at UFC 244. He picked up his fourth straight victory that night as he defeated Arce by split decision.
#5 Amanda Ribas
def. Paige VanZant via Submission (Armbar) at 2:21 of Round One
Making her UFC debut last summer, Amanda Ribas quickly put together a record of 3-0 inside the octagon. She began with a submission win over Emily Whitmire at UFC on ESPN 3. In her next outing, she faced off against the undefeated Mackenzie Dern and defeated her by unanimous decision. Her last outing came in March when she faced off against Randa Markos at UFC Fight Night 170. She went on to win that fight, defeating Markos by unanimous decision. Heading into UFC 251, Ribas moved up to 125 pounds for a one off fight against Paige VanZant.
Entering the last fight on her contract, VanZant had been out of competition with injuries, fighting only twice since January 2018. In those two fights, she put together a record of 1-1, dropping a unanimous decision to Jessica-Rose Clark. After nursing injuries stemming from that fight, she returned about a year later to face Rachael Ostovich. She went on to win that fight, submitting Ostovich with an armbar in the second round. VanZant dealt with more injuries following that fight, resulting in surgery. She would not return until her scheduled match up with Ribas at UFC 251.
The fight began as both women met in the middle with a touch of gloves. But then Ribas started putting on the pressure as she walked VanZant back to the cage. Just under a minute in, both women threw combinations that ended with them locked up on the fence where Ribas landed a couple of good knees to the body. Ribas was then quickly able to wrap a leg around VanZant and get her down to the mat. Moments later, as VanZant tried to scramble and get out from under Ribas, Ribas stepped over and took her back. Once there she was quickly able to lock up the armbar and the tap would come seconds later.
While this fight was contested in the women’s flyweight division, Ribas made it clear afterwards she intends to move back down to strawweight. With five straight wins under her belt and an undefeated UFC record, she currently sits at number fourteen in the strawweight division. She could have possibly earned herself a top ten opponent the next time she steps in the cage. One interesting potential match up could be a fight with Yan Xiaonan. Xiaonan has won her last five straight, including wins over Angela Hill and Kailin Curran. In her most recent outing, she picked up the biggest win of her UFC career as she took on a former title challenger. She met with Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC Fight Night 168, defeating the former title challenger by unanimous decision. Matching her up with Ribas could allow either woman to climb further into the top ten with a win.
Rose Namajunas def. Jessica Andrade via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Back in May of 2019, Rose Namajunas traveled to enemy territory to put her title on the line against Jessica Andrade. In the second round of their championship fight, Andrade slammed Namajunas down on her head, knocking her out. Andrade captured the title from Namajunas that night and would go on to defend it against Weili Zhang. She lost the title to Zhang in under a minute, meanwhile Namajunas had not stepped back into the octagon. After Andrade lost her title, it was announced that a rematch between these two would go down on the island.
Both women put on a great performance in this fight as it was much closer than their first meeting. Towards the end of the fight, Namajunas’ face was busted up but she kept pushing forward, landing shots. After a hard fought three rounds, the first scorecard read had it going to Namajunas. Then the next one had it for Andrade. Namajunas was announced the winner by split decision once the final scorecard was announced. The fight would earn Namajunas and Andrade fight of the night honors as they were well deserving of it.
Looking at what could be next for Namajunas, a title fight between her and Zhang would surely be entertaining. There is aslo Tatiana Suarez waiting in line for her title shot. One option could be a number one contender fight between Namajunas and Suarez. If not, the Namajunas has earned another shot at the title.
After UFC 251, the UFC will make a quick turnaround as their next event on Fight Island takes place on Wednesday. In the main event of UFC on ESPN 13, Calvin Kattar will face off against Dan Ige as both men look to climb the featherweight rankings. Kattar enters the fight with a record of 3-2 in his last five fights dating back to 2018. Among those wins include KO/TKO wins over Chris Fishgold and Ricardo Lamas. His losses both came by decision as he dropped fights to Renato Moicano and Zabit Magomedsharipov. In his most recent outing, he faced off against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249. In the second round, Kattar finished Stephens by TKO as he landed a beautiful elbow, followed by ground and pound.
As for Ige, he enters the fight on a six fight win streak. After losing by unanimous decision to Julio Arce in his UFC debut back in 2018, he has not lost since. In his last three fights, he has grabbed decision wins over some very notable names. At UFC Fight Night 154 he defeated Kevin Aguilar by unanimous decision. He followed that up with a split decision win over top-15 ranked featherweight Mirsad Bektic at UFC 247. After his win against Bektic, he would be matched up against longtime lightweight Edson Barboza. Ige picked up the biggest win of his career, winning a split decision after a close fight.
Along with Kattar and Ige, Tim Elliott takes on Ryan Benoit in the co-main event. Plus, Abdul Razak Alhassan makes his return to the octagon after nearly two years away. Be sure to check back here during the latter half of the week for UFC on ESPN 13’s standout performers.
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