Fight fans have been waiting for this for a long time. Since the big UFC 251 event at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi was announced, fans have been salivating over three championship fights. One could even argue that the main event has gotten even more interesting.
Gilbert Burns was forced to withdraw from UFC 251 and his welterweight title fight against Kamaru Usman because of a positive coronavirus test. Many fight fans now get the matchup that they truly wanted between Usman and challenger Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal has a lot of work to do in order to get ready for the main event, but Usman also has a lot of work to do in order to prepare for a completely different opponent.
Per the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, Usman is a -265 favorite against Masvidal. The +215 price coming back on Masvidal has looked very attractive to lots of bettors, as the veteran of 48 career MMA fights brings a three-fight winning streak to the Octagon.
This will be a challenging fight for both combatants. Usman’s grappling is considered to be elite and he is a very fast, very athletic fighter. Masvidal has 16 career knockout wins and picks his spots very wisely. This fight could start a little slow with a feeling-out process between the two warriors, but fireworks are sure to fly.
This is the first UFC title opportunity for the 35-year-old Masvidal, who is taking the fight on very, very short notice. Bettors seem undeterred about the quickened pace Masvidal must have in order to get ready. They may also be forgetting just how complete and technically sound of a fighter Usman is.
Those that live in Colorado and have yet to sign up at DraftKings Sportsbook will have the opportunity to bet either side of the main event at +500 thanks to a special UFC 251 promotion.
Alexander Volkanovski used a lot of leg kicks to come away with a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway at UFC 245. This will be the rematch. Holloway, who is the taller and rangier fighter, will have to make some adjustments. He did well attacking the head and body of Volkanovski, but his mobility was lessened by the repeated leg kicks. Volkanovski had a plan and executed it perfectly. It seemed like Holloway had no plan.
What is most interesting here is that Volkanovski was a clear underdog in the first meeting. The first fight was hardly a bloodbath or a one-sided affair, but Volkanovski is now a clear favorite at -230. Doesn’t this feel a little bit like an overreaction?
Jose Aldo had a lot of defenses of his featherweight title and also had a couple of different opportunities to win it. With Henry Cejudo’s abrupt retirement, the bantamweight title now sits vacant and Aldo has decided to take a shot at 135 pounds. He lost to Marlon Moraes in his first fight at that weight, but fought well in the process.
He finds himself an underdog of +200 here against Russia’s Petr Yan. Yan is -250 to wear the strap in his biggest UFC fight to date. Aldo has fought a who’s who of opponents in his UFC career. Yan has not, but he just hasn’t been given the opportunities to this point. Aldo at 135 may not really qualify as a who’s who and he is a lot older in fight years than his actual age of 33 based on how often he answered the call as a champion.
Championship fights aren’t the only ones on the card. In fact, the match between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas has as much intrigue as a championship fight. After all, Andrade beat Namajunas last year for the title when she rudely dropped the champ on the back of her head and neck during a tie-up. Namajunas is -200 to get revenge here in her first fight since that ill-fated evening.
It might be a bit surprising to see Andrade at +162 having won the first meeting, but Namajunas controlled the first round and got off to a decent start in the second round before showing clear signs of fatigue and then landing the wrong way on the suplex from Andrade.
Arguably the most intriguing individual fighter on the card this week is Jiri Prochazka. He’ll make his UFC debut against Volkan Oezdemir in the light heavyweight division. Prochazka just beat former UFC fixture CB Dolloway to win the Rizin FF light heavyweight title. Oezdemir, once thought to be the hottest of the light heavyweight prospects, will have his work cut out for him against a guy with 22 career knockout wins.
Paige VanZant is the biggest underdog on the card against Amanda Ribas. VanZant certainly sells fights because she is easy on the eyes, but her fight résumé has been pretty lacking of late and she is looking to leave UFC after this fight.
An underrated fight on the undercard is Muslim Salikhov vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. These two guys love to stand and throw. Salikhov has never been knocked out, but has tapped out twice. Zaleski does not have many submission wins, so this looks like a striker’s paradise.
A lot of the undercard fights feature fighters off of long layoffs and UFC newcomers. This will only be the second UFC fight for Martin Day when he takes on Davey Grant, who last fought in November after 16 months away from the cage. Day is a sizable favorite.
Karol Rosa is also in her second UFC fight as she battles Vanessa Melo, who will be in a UFC Octagon for just the third time. Rosa is a big favorite.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov is making his UFC debut as the Fight Nights Global champion in the flyweight division. He’ll take on Raulian Paiva as a decent-sized underdog.
Maxim Grishin is in a toss-up heavyweight fight against Marcin Tybura in the only card with the heaviest weight class in UFC. Both fighters are -112, even though Tybura has been around for a while. Grishin has 40 fights under his belt, but zero in the UFC.
Roman Bogatov is putting an unblemished 10-0 record on the line as an underdog to Leonardo Santos, who hasn’t fought since June 2019.
Makwan Amirkhani last fought in November and opponent Danny Henry last fought in March 2019.
In other words, stick to the main card and the last two fights of the undercard. The others could be very high-variance. Be sure you look at the entire card, though, because there is a great Profit Boost offer from DraftKings Sportsbook for UFC 251 to consider.