Fight Island is real and it's nearly time for the much-anticipated festivities to get underway. The UFC descends on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for a series of events beginning on Saturday, July 11 for UFC 251. The latest PPV offering was set to be headlined by a trio of title fights, though as the competitors were getting set for departure, UFC 251 lost its welterweight title main event after after challenger Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19.
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman may not be left out completely in the cold, however. One day after Burns was pulled from his title shot, talks began to progress for Jorge Masvidal to step in and face the champ in a matchup that, quite frankly, most fans want to see. Those negotiations came to a close on Sunday, with both fighters agreeing. Now they will await the results of their respective COVID-19 tests in Las Vegas before the fight is made official.
Currently, the new UFC 251 main event will be a rematch of December's thrilling technical battle between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway for the featherweight title. Volkanovski is on as strong a run as any at 145 pounds with 18 straight wins dating back to 2013, including the decision over Holloway to claim the belt. Holloway, meanwhile, will look to get back on the winning track after a 1-2 2019. Before that, he was on a Volkanovski-type run, going undefeated for five years and claiming the title with two wins over Jose Aldo.
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Speaking of Aldo, he will be featured in the third title bout when he takes on Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight title. Aldo, the greatest featherweight in history, moved to bantamweight at UFC 245 and lost a mildly controversial split decision to Marlon Moraes. After the fight, UFC president Dana White said Aldo would fight Henry Cejudo for the championship, but the fight was ultimately derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Cejudo has since retired and vacated the belt, leading Aldo to face top contender Yan. The Russian is on a nine-fight winning streak, including six in the UFC Octagon.
Plus, a pair of important women's fights round out the main card. Top strawweight contenders Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas will finally meet for their rematch after being scheduled to fight at UFC 249 in April. Namajunas was forced to withdraw when two family members died from COVID-19, according to her manager. Kicking off the main card will be a women's flyweight scrap between Paige VanZant and Amanda Ribas. It is reportedly VanZant's final fight on her UFC contract.
Dana White announced the rest of the fight card on June 18, complete with 13 fights to fill out the prelims and early prelims.
Let's take a look at the announced fight card for UFC 251.
UFC 251 fight card
- Alexander Volkanovski (c) -200 vs. Max Holloway +170 -- Featherweight title
- Petr Yan -230 vs. Jose Aldo +190 -- Vacant bantamweight title
- Rose Namajunas -195 vs. Jéssica Andrade +165 -- Women's strawweights
- Amanda Ribas -800 vs. Paige VanZant +550 -- Women's flyweights
- Volkan Oezdemir -160 vs. Jiří Procházka +135 -- Light heavyweights
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos -115 vs. Muslim Salikhov -105 -- Welterweights
- Makwan Amirkhani -195 vs. Dan Henry +165 -- Featherweights
- Leonardo Santos -190 vs. Roman Bogatov +160 -- Lightweights
- Marcin Tybura -115 vs. Alexander Romanov -105 -- Heavyweights
- Raulian Paiva -195 vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov +165 -- Flyweights
- Karol Rosa -210 vs. Vanessa Melo +175 -- Women's bantamweights
- Martin Day -175 vs. Davey Grant +150 -- Bantamweights
UFC 251 info
- Date: July 11
- Location: Yas Island -- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Start time: 10 p.m. ET (Main card)
- How to watch: ESPN+ PPV
UFC 251 countdown
- Burns snaps back at Masvidal and Diaz's criticism
- LOOK: Dana White offers up first look at Fight Island
- Brookhouse: What to know about "Fight Island"
Who will win Usman vs. Burns, and how exactly will each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight on Saturday's UFC 251 card, all from the accomplished expert who's up almost $21,000 and has nailed 12 straight main events.