MMA Ratings Podcast

July 9, 2020

UFC 251: Even In the Face of COVID-19, This "Fight Island" Event Is One of the Most Stacked Cards Ever

By Adam Martin

Despite the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the global economy, the UFC train keeps on chugging. The UFC was the first major sports organization to return during the pandemic, holding events as early as May and into June in Jacksonville, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. It was amazing what the UFC was doing while major sports leagues were shut down around the world, but these cards were just an appetizer for the main feast of UFC 251, which takes place this Saturday on what the promotion has dubbed "Fight Island."

When UFC President Dana White first mentioned the concept of Fight Island, most fans and media were skeptical. After all, it sounded like something made up, something out of a movie or the Mortal Kombat video game. But Fight Island is now, pardon the pun, as real as it gets. Over the last two months, the UFC has built the infrastructure for UFC Fight Island on Yaz Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and the promotion will finally be able to reveal to the world what it's been working on starting this weekend.

We still have to wait until Saturday to see exactly how it all works out, but from what we've seen so far, what the UFC has done is amazing. The facilities, from what we've seen, look incredible. The testing standards for COVID-19 seem to be better than some of the top sports leagues like the MLB, as well. Sure, it's tough to see great fights fall off the card due to positive coronavirus tests, but the fact these tests have caught people positive with COVID-19 before they fight is only a good thing when it comes to safety. From all accounts, the UFC is set up to put on an incredible month of fights.

There are four cards set to take place this July on Fight Island, and all four of them are chock full of intriguing fights, many featuring international fighters. But the crown jewel of the four scheduled fight cards the promotion has set up for this month is UFC 251 this Saturday night. On paper, this has to be one of the most complete cards the promotion has ever put together. The word "stacked" gets thrown around too often when it comes to MMA cards, but UFC 251 certainly qualifies as being stacked. From top to bottom, it's one of the best cards of 2020 with the potential for more.

In the main event, UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman was originally booked to fight Gilbert Burns, but after Burns tested positive for COVID-19, he was pulled from the event and miraculously replaced by Jorge Masvidal. All the best to Burns, who hopefully will recover from his infection soon, but the Masvidal fight is the one the fans wanted in the first place. In the last few days since it was announced that Masvidal would be taking on Usman, the hype for this card exploded. This is a massive mega-fight and the UFC may be able to pull in a million buyers for the pay-per-view now. It feels like one of the biggest fights the UFC has had in a long time, though no fans will be present.

In the co-main event, it's a rematch between UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway. We don't see immediate rematches too often in the UFC, but if anyone deserves it, it's Holloway. Although Volkanovski was able to get by Holloway with surprising ease back at UFC 245 in December, we can't forget what Holloway has done throughout his career. He's arguably the best featherweight the division has ever seen, though Volkanovski could overtake him with a win. This is an intriguing rematch between the two best featherweights in the world, and depending on the outcome on the fight, it will either set up Volkanovski as a big star, or it will set up a trilogy fight if Holloway is able to pull off the upset despite the odds being stacked against him this time.

Also on the main card, the vacant UFC bantamweight title is up for grabs, as Petr Yan takes on Jose Aldo. Although Aldo getting the title shot over the other top contenders at 135 lbs like Aljamain Sterling is certainly questionable, this fight against Yan is still very intriguing, as it pits two of the most lethal strikers in the bantamweight division against one another. Because of the other two title fights on the card, this one is being overlooked, even though it could easily be "Fight of the Night." Regardless of the outcome, it should be an incredible battle that sees a new bantamweight champion crowned.

But what truly makes UFC 251 a special event is the stacked undercard. There are so many incredible fights on the undercard that are being overlooked because of the megafight in the main event and the other two title fights. For instance, Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas headlined UFC 237 just 14 months ago, and now they are just an undercard fight for their rematch. With the winner potentially getting a title shot against champion UFC Women's Strawweight Champion Weili Zhang, this is a massive fight. This is certainly another fight with bonus-money potential.

Elsewhere on the card, we have rising Brazilian standout Amanda Ribas taking on Paige VanZant, who is in the final fight of her UFC deal. Both women have star potential in the sport, so the fact they are opening up the PPV makes this a huge opportunity for both of them if they look impressive. As well, the undercard features a light heavyweight bout between top contender Volkan Oezdemir and former RIZIN FF champion Jiri Prochazka. This fight is really flying under the radar, but it could very well be one of the best fights on the card, as two knockout artists will be going against one another.

Overall, UFC 251 and the other three cards set for Fight Island should be incredible. What the UFC has done in the face of COVID-19 has been nothing short of remarkable. Of course, the threat of the coronavirus means that any of these fights can fall off at any point. But based on the information we have right now and the fights that are scheduled to take place, this is going to be an amazing month of fights for those of us who love the sport. There's no better time to be a fan of MMA than right now.

UFC 251
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal (UFC Welterweight Championship)

UFC 251
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway (UFC Featherweight Championship)

UFC 251
Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo (UFC Bantamweight Championship)

UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal (formerly UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns) was due to take place June 6, 2020 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled/relocated to July 11, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 251 Pre-Fight Analysis

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