Final Preventing Championship (UFC) is gearing up for its heavily-anticipated debut of “Battle Island,” as UFC 251 will kick off what is about to be a jam-packed 14 days for the promotion on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Set to go down TONIGHT (Sat., July 11, 2020) on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV), the occasion will characteristic a Welterweight title combat as division champion, Kamaru Usman, defends his belt in opposition to Jorge Masvidal. Additionally, Alexander Volkanovski will defend his Featherweight belt in opposition to Max Holloway, whereas Petr Yan and Jose Aldo battle for the vacant Bantamweight strap.

What’s Scorching:

“Battle Island” has lastly descended upon us after months of teasing — and to be sincere, some doubted that it was even actual. Positive, everybody’s hopes and fantasized expectations won’t be a actuality, however that’s the genius of UFC’s advertising machine. Why, you ask? The promotion not too long ago had an occasion in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi simply 9 months in the past, which noticed Khabib Nurmagomedov take out Dustin Poirier at UFC 242. And, except for the title combat itself, the place was the thrill, the hype, the insufferable anxiousness to see Yas Island? It was non-existent.

Once more, credit score to UFC — not John Oliver — for realizing simply the best way to market “Battle Island.” Think about Dana White saying this to pump up the slate of fights this month:

Guys, we’re going to stage 4 occasions within the month of July in Abu Dhabi to permit a few of our worldwide stars to compete till this COVID-19 mess clears up.

That doesn’t sound too thrilling, does it? However should you put a bit of twist on it, slap it with the “Battle Island” tag and you’ve got your self a completely completely different vibe.

I’m a day or two away from securing a non-public island. I’ve a non-public island that I’ve secured. I received’t be capable of get the entire worldwide fighters into the U.S., so I’ve a non-public island that I’m going to start out flying them into to do them there. Now we have all of our personal planes and all the pieces which can be going to fly into the island and get the fighters.

Significantly better, isn’t it?

Similar to that your mind began going bananas and took you to fantasy land the place fighters make their method down the seashore to the Octagon, the pathway lit up by tiki torches, as countless palm timber within the background sway forwards and backwards, which is enhanced by the sounds of the crashing waves within the background.

Kind of like this.

However hey, I ain’t mad at it, the promotion has invested plenty of manpower, money and time to make the occasion a actuality within the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which has altered regular, on a regular basis life for your complete planet. One factor it hasn’t accomplished, nevertheless, is cease UFC from placing on large fights.

Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal was the combat we have been anticipating to get all lengthy. However after monetary disagreements axed the bout, COVID-19 in some way managed to convey it again to life, satirically. With Gilbert Burns sadly contracting the virus, he was compelled out, permitting “Gamebred” to step in, getting his cash within the course of. Jorge had himself a stellar yr in 2019, which has allowed him some leeway to make calls for. If he can dethrone Usman, Masvidal can just about write his personal ticket transferring ahead.

However Usman is a confirmed champion who hasn’t tasted defeat in seven years, winner of 15 straights fights, undefeated contained in the Octagon (11-0), along with his final three wins coming in opposition to former champions. And never as soon as has he seemed like he was in any kind of hazard, even when combating at 30-percent. He’s that good. Not solely can “The Nigerian Nightmare” strike with the most effective of them, however his wrestling is what actually offers folks issues, very like I anticipate it to do to Masvidal. If it stays standing — and I’ve a sense it’s going to — it’s anyone’s sport, as Jorge’s “three piece and soda” is at all times on level and might flatten foes within the blink of an eye fixed.

What’s Not:


Unique Card Vs Precise Card:

The large change, clearly, was Masvidal getting the decision up on six days discover to face Usman after Gilbert Burns was compelled out of the combat due to a optimistic COVID-19 check consequence. However lengthy earlier than that change-up, Frankie Edgar and Pedro Munhoz have been set to face off on the undercard of this occasion, however have been ultimately moved to a Battle Evening occasion later within the week, additionally on “Battle Island.” That bout, although, went up in smoke after Munhoz additionally examined optimistic for coronavirus.


Apart from Burns coming down with COVID-19, there weren’t any accidents reported previous to the cardboard. Nonetheless, Alexander Romanov was additionally compelled out of his combat in opposition to Marcin Tybura after he examined optimistic for COVID-19. He was changed by Maxim Grishin.

New Blood:

The aforementioned Grishin bought the decision as much as make his UFC debut in opposition to long-time veteran, Marcin Tybura, after Romanov was compelled off the cardboard. Grishin spent the final two years combating underneath the Skilled Fighters League (PFL) banner, and has received seven-straight fights should you exclude the 2 attracts sandwiched between.

Winner of 10 straight, Jiri Prochazka will look to maintain his streak entering into his UFC debut in opposition to former Mild Heavyweight title challenger, Volkan Oezdemir. Prochazka is as robust and sturdy as they arrive, and has wins in opposition to notable veterans comparable to C.B. Dolloway, Fabio Maldonado, Muhammed Lawal, and has received 20 of hist final 22 fights.

Roman Bogatav will look to remain undefeated (10-0) as he brings his skills to the Octagon to face Leonardo Santos in Light-weight motion. Bogatav is a wrestling machine who can put on out an opponent, knock him out or faucet him out. Briefly, the person is aware of the best way to end, and extra vital, he is aware of the best way to win fights in numerous methods.

Zhalgas Zhumagulov will look to maintain his momentum of 4 straight wins going when he heads into the Octagon for the primary time to face Raulian Paiva. Zhalgas is not any stranger to UFC-level competitors, proudly owning wins over Tyson Nam and Ali Bagautinov. Paiva, in the meantime, is seeking to keep away from struggling his third loss in his first 4 UFC fights.

How The ‘Prelims’ Look:

The undercard will characteristic a Mild Heavyweight showdown as Volkan Oezdemir welcomes Jiri Prochazka to the Octagon. It appears so way back that “No Time” competed for the division strap in opposition to Daniel Cormier, and was truly thought-about a risk to Jon Jones. However three straight losses took the air out of his hype balloon, which has slowly began to pump itself again up with two straight wins. Getting a 3rd in opposition to Prochazka — winner of 10 straight, 9 through knockout — won’t be straightforward, although.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos will search for his second straight win in hopes of constructing his momentum again up after having his seven-fight win streak snapped by Li Jingliang final yr. In his method is Muslim Salikhov, winner of three straight. Makwan Amirkhani will look to keep away from the primary dropping streak of his profession when he faces Danny Henry, who not too long ago had his five-fight win streak snapped by rising Featherweight star, Dan Ige.

Plus, Leonardo Santos will look to lastly emerge from the shadows in hopes of getting some respect placed on his title by getting his eighth straight UFC win. The person has received 11 straight fights (with one draw), has a knockout win over Kevin Lee and hasn’t misplaced in a decade. And nonetheless most individuals (Dana White included) doubtless couldn’t choose him out of a lineup. This man deserves his shine and a few PR love. As an alternative, he will get placed on the undercard of a PPV occasion in opposition to an undefeated (10-0) Russian bulldozer making his UFC debut, Roman Bogatov.

Who Wants A Win Badly:

Nobody is actually “struggling” coming into the occasion, however Paige VanZant wants a win badly right here if she needs to get her cash. I’ve completely no difficulty with any fighter asking for more money, however it’s important to present me one thing first. Present me you’ll be able to win the large fights, possibly win a title and show you generally is a drive to be reckoned with. I’m not discounting VanZant and her abilities, however this sport is “what have you ever accomplished for me currently.” And whereas accidents have plagued “12 Gauge,” the final couple of years haven’t actually proven me — or UFC — an entire lot to show a pay increase is so as. As a result of whereas you’ll have some kind of crossover attraction, the physique of labor in MMA nonetheless has to imply one thing if you would like the large paydays the game itself has to supply.

I like Paige, she has expertise and was effectively on her strategy to changing into one of many faces of UFC a couple of years in the past. However to try this and get pay will increase, you continue to must win, no matter how a lot “it” issue you may have. And VanZant hasn’t been doing an entire lot of that on a constant foundation. She is simply 2-Three within the final 5 years and doesn’t actually have that staple win on her resume to remind everybody of what she will do. If she will defeat rising star Amanda Ribas (preview), it’s going to go a great distance in serving to her land a greater take care of UFC — or another person — transferring ahead.

Curiosity Stage: 10 of 10

Although we’ve had a couple of sneak peaks right here and there, we get to see with our personal eyes what “Battle Island” is all about. Once more, whereas it doubtless received’t meet everybody’s expectations, we’d nonetheless be in retailer for one thing completely different. And sure, I’m dissatisfied the fights aren’t going to be exterior and proper on the seashore as initially marketed.

Bodog FTW!

So far as the occasion itself, it’s fairly stacked, which might result in some memorable showdowns and the crowning of recent champions … or former ones getting their belts again. Max Holloway will look to just do that when he takes on Alexander Volkanovski, the person who dethroned him in Dec. 2019. And as a lot expertise as “Blessed” has, I simply don’t see it taking place. Volkanovski dominated their first encounter and barring a knockout or submission for Max, I anticipate the identical Saturday evening. Ought to that be the case, I wouldn’t be too shocked if Holloway decides to make a everlasting soar as much as Light-weight.

Aldo will look so as to add to his already-impressive combined martial arts (MMA) legacy by amassing his second title in a unique division, as he as soon as once more makes the drop all the way down to 135 kilos in search of Bantamweight gold. And sure, he deserves to be there regardless of back-to-back defeats. However the 34-fight veteran may have a troublesome time making an attempt to get by way of the immovable drive from Russia, Petr Yan. “No Mercy” has been a person on a mission since first stepping foot contained in the Octagon, successful six straight fights in his first two years with the promotion. And should you aren’t excited for this combat, you need to be, because it could possibly be a arise conflict for the ages. Each males desire to stand-and-bang, and each have confirmed to have dynamite of their arms. One is searching for his previous glory days, whereas the opposite desperately needs to style UFC gold for the primary time, so we must be in a for a deal with.

Additionally, two former girls’s Strawweight champions, Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, will look to make their case for one more shot on the strap once they have interaction in a rematch a yr within the making. Within the first encounter, Namajunas was having her method with “Bate Estaca” within the putting division. However what seemed like a protracted evening for Andrade shortly shifted when she managed to catch Rose in a precarious place throughout a submission try. Consequently, Andrade managed to slam Namajunas laborious on the canvas, knocking her out chilly, successful the title within the course of (see it). Now, Jessica will get the prospect to show her win wasn’t a fluke, whereas Namajunas hopes to show she is the higher combatant of the 2. The prize — should you dare name it that — will doubtless be a combat in opposition to division champion, and all-around monster, Weili Zhang.

VanZant made the daring choice to not signal a contract extension forward of UFC 251, which is able to see her face Amanda Ribas within the final combat of her deal. Paige has repeatedly gone on document to remind everybody that her pay with UFC is a joke, and that she will earn more money dancing with stars, selling on Instagram, or simply getting a regular, on a regular basis job. And he or she’s stated all that with out by no means actually trashing the promotion.

So her plan is to get a win to both get some leverage with UFC, or entice one other promotion to pay her the large bucks she needs. And whereas a loss often ruins all of that, VanZant doesn’t consider that’s the case along with her. That’s as a result of she is counting on her “title” to take her to the subsequent degree.

Ribas, in the meantime, has been on a tear, successful 9 of her first 10 skilled fights, together with all three of her UFC bouts. She even derailed the Mackenzie Dern hype practice, defeating her through unanimous choice in Oct, 2019. The 26 year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist has confirmed that she is not any pushover and might dangle with the most effective of them. Getting a win over VanZant — which I wouldn’t precisely name a “large cash” combat — will assist increase her inventory and rankings place, and get her nearer to a title combat sooner, fairly than later.

Benefit from the fights!

Full Battle Card:

UFC 251 PPV Foremost Occasion On ESPN+:

170 lbs.: UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal — (DETAILS)

UFC 251 PPV Foremost Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):

145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
135 lbs.: Jose Aldo vs. Petr Yan for vacant Bantamweight title
115 lbs.: Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
125 lbs.: Amanda Ribas vs. Paige VanZant

UFC 251 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN (eight p.m. ET):

205 lbs.: Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka
170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Danny Henry
155 lbs.: Leonardo Santos vs. Roman Bogatov

UFC 251 Early ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):

265 lbs.: Marcin Tybura vs. Maxim Grishin
125 lbs.: Raulian Paiva vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
135 lbs.: Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo
135 lbs.: Martin Day vs. Davey Grant

***Battle card, bout order and the quantity of matches topic to drastic change due to the varied world quarantine restrictions.***

Keep in mind that will ship LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow protection of your complete UFC 251 combat card this weekend RIGHT HERE, beginning with the ESPN+“Prelims” which can be scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET, then the ESPN portion at eight p.m. earlier than the PPV foremost card begin time on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.

To take a look at the newest and best UFC 251: “Usman vs. Masvidal” information and notes remember to hit up our complete occasion archive proper right here.