UFC 251 is in the books and there is certainly a lot to unpack.
With three championship fights, a number one contender’s bout, and tons of incredible fights all night, UFC 251 was a fantastic event.
Let’s take a look at what happened at UFC 251 and see what’s next for the fighters involved.
The two most noteworthy fights from the prelims were in fact the first and last fights. Davey Grant and started the night with an incredible knockout of Martin Day to set the tone for the night. Coming from the British MMA scene, Grant is now 2-0 in the UFC and could be looking to make a name for himself in the newly reset Bantamweight division. The Men’s Bantamweight division, which will be discussed more thoroughly later, is at an incredible point currently and new stars will be welcomed now more than ever.
Jumping now to the Light Heavyweight bout between the former Light Heavyweight Championship contender Volkan Oezdemir and UFC newcomer Jiri Prochazka, this was a pivotal fight for both men. Oezdemir had gone two and one in his last three fights since competing for the Light Heavyweight Championship, only losing to the last man to compete for the said belt, Dominick Reyes. Jiri Prochazka is a highly-touted prospect, so highly touted that he was given a main event spot on the prelims with no prior UFC fights. Prochazka made good on his debut in the promotion by scoring a second-round TKO win over Oezdemir. Oezdemir went into this bout ranked number seven in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division and has since dropped to number nine. As Oezdemir approaches his 31st birthday, there is still plenty of time for the Swiss fighter to reach the top of the division once again. As for Prochazka, in a division that has not been shy of headlines recently, mostly due to Jon Jones, Prochazka has made his presence known, jumping all the way to eight in the Light Heavyweight rankings. The UFC appears to be poised to make Prochazka a star and push him to the moon. With a few more wins over some ranked opponents, Prochazka could find himself in a title fight sooner rather than later.
Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant
Moving now to the main card, the night began with a dominating win for Amanda Ribas over fan favorite Paige VanZant. With VanZant potentially leaving the UFC soon, the UFC is looking for new potential stars at every point. This holds true especially for the Women’s divisions as these divisions have such dominant champions that the challengers enter these title fights with almost no hype, regardless of star power.
If the UFC was able to create a new star before they enter the title fight, there could be more fan anticipation heading into them as well. Another underlying narrative here is that various women are moving up from Strawweight to Flyweight to challenge big names in those divisions, and they are winning.
We saw just a month before this event Cynthia Calvillo move up to defeat Jessica Eye and stake her claim as the next challenger for the Women’s Flyweight Championship. Now Amanda Ribas has made the move up and been incredibly successful. We still have yet to see if Ribas will stay at Flyweight or if this was a one-off, but regardless, this new movement of women jumping from Strawweight to Flyweight is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas
Up next was the rematch between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas. Rose was defeated in her last bout with Andrade via a brutal slam which resulted in Rose landing on her head and being knocked out cold. This fight was very different, however. Rose kept the distance and was able to gain victory on the judge’s scorecards. As for what’s next for these two is totally dependent on how the UFC will handle Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Weili Zhang.
Rose is the likely number one contender and will not compete again until it will be for the title, but whether or not that will be Zhang’s next fight is still to be seen. The first bout between Zhang and Joanna is still the leading candidate for fight of the year and proved to be a star-making performance for both. The UFC may want to run that back before pitting Rose against Zhang. However, it will be one of either Rose or Joanna to compete against Zhang next.
As for Andrade, she is still ranked number two in the Strawweight rankings and only needs one more win to get right back in the title picture. There are plenty of names at the top of the division she could challenge to provide enough evidence that she should challenge for an again championship soon.
Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo
Moving now into the first title fight of the night, we saw Petr Yan be crowned the new Men’s Bantamweight Champion after defeating Jose Aldo via TKO in the fifth round. This was a predominantly one-sided fight with Yan taking it to Aldo for the majority of the bout. As mentioned earlier, this division has seen a bit of reset ever since the former Champion Henry Cejudo vacated the championship upon his retirement. And while Cejudo loves to stay in the news via his “king of cringe” persona on Twitter, the division is moving forward without him.
Yan has now defeated the former king of the Featherweight division and it appears as though his next challenger has already been defined as well. Aljamain Sterling has called out the new champion and Petr Yan has done the same to Sterling. It seems as though it will be a done deal that this will be the next fight assuming Cejudo does remain retired. There are hungry contenders everywhere, however.
This division, aside from Sterling, doesn’t have a “next-in-line” contender. This is the reason for there being so many fights in the Men’s Bantamweight division on UFC cards recently. New stars are emerging and older stars are keeping their names fresh in our minds. There will be plenty more contenders to emerge in the coming months and plenty of hungry challengers coming after the newly crowned champion, Petr Yan.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway
The co-main event saw the rematch of Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway. The first fight saw Alexander heavily utilize leg kicks to slow down Max and this fight was much of the same. Alexander even said before the fight in regards to the leg kicks, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Volkanovski also utilized takedowns during the rematch to slow down Max who heavily relies on pace to defeat his opponents. The first fight saw Alexander edge out a close decision and the rematch had that same “close fight” feel. The majority of MMA Twitter and many fellow fights expressed that they believed Max won his belt back. However, Alexander was able to squeak out a controversial split decision win.
While this isn’t the decisive win that the fans would have wanted to put a stamp on this feud, he has defeated Max twice now and must move on. Some potential contenders for Volkanovski on the horizon are also similar to the opponent’s Max could be facing. With no defined number one contender, Volkanovski will most likely sit and wait for a new contender to emerge. Max inversely will be eager to intercept these rising stars, defeat them, and earn his shot at the Featherweight Championship again.
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
Closing out the card was the main event of Kamaru Usman versus Jorge Masvidal. This fight played out exactly as Kamaru would have wanted it to. Utilizing his wrestling and his strength advantage to keep the fight in the clinch and keeping Jorge close. Jorge would’ve liked to engage a bit more on the feet but Kamaru’s incredible ability to close the distance was too much for Masvidal to overcome. Usman was able to win a dominant decision to retain his Welterweight Championship.
As for what is next, the two have already discussed a rematch booked far enough in advance that Masvidal has a full camp to prepare for Usman. However, the UFC seems anxious to book Usman against the man he was originally slated to face at this event, Gilbert Burns. That is the more likely scenario. Masvidal will most likely take some time off to rest and recover and then look to face an opponent such as Colby Covington or rival Leon Edwards.
While the fight against former teammate Covington may be the more glamorous fight for Masvidal, a fight against Edwards would be more likely. Edwards has not lost since he was defeated by Champion Kamaru Usman all the way back in 2015. Edwards and Masvidal have some bad blood that could be settled inside the octagon with the winner receiving another shot at Kamaru Usman.
All in all, this was a very entertaining card that the fans enjoyed.
There were incredible fights from start to finish with new contenders being named, a new champion being crowned, and two champions showing their drive to retain their belts.
What was your opinion of UFC 251?
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