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UFC 251 “Fight Island” delivers the goods

UFC 251

The scene was set for Jorge Masvidal to complete his masterpiece and take his place in the history books of mixed martial arts for having one of the best career arcs in the sports’ history. All he needed to do is unleash one of his signature highlight reel knockouts to do it.

Instead of completing a task that seemed improbable nearly 16-months ago, he stood across the cage from the man who would turn his living dream into a waking nightmare.

Kamaru Usman, known as the “Nigerian Nightmare”, defeated Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision to retain the undisputed welterweight championship on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi in the main event of UFC 251.

The fight card aired live around the world on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View.

Usman (17-1) used a grappling-heavy game plan to control the heavy-hitting Masvidal and neutralize the best weapon that “Gamebred” had in his arsenal: incredible knockout power. The smothering attack from the champion, who continuously clinched the challenger before taking him down to the canvas, was more than enough to defend his title for the second time.

The one time Kimbo Slice-led street fighting protege, Masvidal (35-14) had one of the most memorable runs in UFC history since March 2019 when he returned after nearly a year-long layoff to knockout Darren Till in the second round of their fight.

Then came the most famous flying knee KO in history as he dispatched highly touted Ben Askren in just five seconds to stake his claim as the baddest fighter on the UFC’s roster. He would fight Nate Diaz in Nov. 2019 for the pay-per-view selling promotional tool called the “BMF” belt, and earn a doctor’s stoppage victory over the hardly-ever surprised younger Diaz brother.

It set the stage for his bout with Usman in a place the UFC dubbed “Fight Island.”

Masvidal, who took the fight on six-days notice to replace Gilbert Burns, fell short on his bid to claim a legitimate UFC championship belt, but can easily climb back into the ranks with a return to the win column fueled by his popularity with fans that swelled enormously after his victories over Askren and Diaz.

It’s not the end for “Street Jesus,” but his desire to baptize himself in championship gold will have to wait for another day and time.

The card’s fight of the night was a toss-up between the co-main event rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway for Volkanovski’s featherweight championship and the highly anticipated rematch between former women’s champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade.

The powers to be at UFC decided on Namajunas (10-4) and Andrade (20-8) as they were both awarded performance bonuses based on their bloody brawl which “Thug Rose” won via split decision in their three round contest.

The pair first met in May 2019 with Namajunas’ strawweight championship on the line. In a fight that many believe Rose was winning, Andrade scored a spectacular and shocking KO victory when she picked up the champion and slammed her on her head to claim the title.

Andrade would drop the title three months later to current champion Weili Zhang.

Max Holloway (21-6) looked to be well on his way to recapturing the featherweight championship from Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) before a surge from the champion in the later rounds swayed the judges favor for a split decision victory.

“Blessed” found success early on his feet, using his length and counter-punches to touch the champion at will, knocking him down on more than one occasion.

Volkanovski then made adjustments to his strategy that would pay off the more the fight progressed. Alexander “the Great” took Holloway’s title in Dec. 2019 after the tough Hawaiian champion reigned over the featherweight division for over two years.

Holloway will now presumably take a back seat to the plethora of featherweight fighters chomping at the bit for a chance at the featherweight title. In such a stacked division though, Holloway could be right back in the mix with a

UFC 251 Main Card Quick Results

KAMARU USMAN (50-45 X 2, 49-46) DEF JORGE MASVIDAL BY UNANIMOUS DECISION

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI (48-47 X 2) DEF MAX HOLLOWAY (48-47) BY SPLIT DECISION

PETR YAN DEF JOSE ALDO BY TKO AT 3:24 IN ROUND 5

ROSE NAMAJUNAS (29-28 X 2) DEF JESSICA ANDRADE (29-28) BY SPLIT DECISION

AMANDA RIBAS DEF PAIGE VANZANT BY SUBMISSION DUE TO AN ARM BAR AT 2:21 IN ROUND 1

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