One of the best overall fight cards the promotion has ever put on is almost set to start. UFC 251, live from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, starts on Saturday night in the U.S. (Sunday morning local) with three title fights on the marquee. In the main event, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman puts his title on the line against fan-favorite Jorge Masvidal. The native of Miami got the call on just six days' notice after top contender Gilbert Burns was forced to withdraw following the results of his COVID-19 test.
Usman and Masvidal have had beef over the last seven months as they negotiated back and forth to get a deal done, getting into an altercation at Super Bowl radio row. But Masvidal and UFC couldn't come to terms until this week when the promotion called him over the holiday weekend.
The two brash 170-pounders have been the talk of the week -- especially Masvidal and his need to cut 20 pounds to make championship weight -- but there's so much more to get excited about on Saturday night. Most notably, a featherweight title rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway in the co-main event. Volkanovski took the title off of Holloway in a split decision at UFC 245 in December using an incredible gameplan, but he'll have to do it once more against one of the toughest guys at 145 pounds of all time in Holloway.
Plus, Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will clash for the vacant bantamweight title. Former two-division champ Henry Cejudo dropped the 135-pound strap when he announced his retirement from the sport in May at just 33 years old. Yan enters the fight on a nine-fight winning streak with six of them coming in UFC. Aldo, meanwhile, has lost two straight including his bantamweight debut against Marlon Moraes in December. However, Dana White gave Aldo the nod after he believed that Aldo did enough to deserve the win.
Get your expert picks for UFC 251 from our podcast -- State of Combat with Brian Campbell -- where we look at everything on the main card and get some in-depth analysis with Brandon Wise below.
Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride. Let's take a closer look at the rest of the card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC 251 fight card
- Kamaru Usman (c) -240 vs. Jorge Masvidal +200 -- Welterweight title
- Alex Volkanovski (c) -210 vs. Max Holloway +175 -- Featherweight title
- Petr Yan -240 vs. Jose Aldo +200 -- Vacant bantamweight title
- Rose Namajunas -210 vs. Jéssica Andrade +175 -- Women's strawweights
- Amanda Ribas -800 vs. Paige VanZant +550 -- Women's flyweights
- Volkan Oezdemir -175 vs. Jiří Procházka +150 -- Light heavyweights
- Muslim Salikhov -135 vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos +115 -- Welterweights
- Makwan Amirkhani -200 vs. Dan Henry +170 -- Featherweights
- Leonardo Santos -180 vs. Roman Bogatov +155 -- Lightweights
- Marcin Tybura -115 vs. Maxim Grishin -105 -- Heavyweights
- Raulian Paiva -175 vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov +150 -- Flyweights
- Karol Rosa -260 vs. Vanessa Melo +210 -- Women's bantamweights
- Martin Day -170 vs. Davey Grant +145 -- Bantamweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Jack Crosby (editor) and Michael Mormile (producer).
UFC 251 picks
|Usman (c) vs. Masvidal||Masvidal||Usman||Masvidal||Usman||Usman|
|Volkanovski (c) vs. Holloway||Holloway||Volkanovski||Holloway||Holloway||Holloway|
|Yan vs. Aldo||Yan||Yan||Aldo||Aldo||Yan|
|Namajunas vs. Andrade||Namajunas||Andrade||Namajunas||Namajunas||Namajunas|
|Ribas vs. VanZant||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas|
Campbell on why Masvidal will win: Let's get this out of the way: Stylistically, this fight is a nightmare for Masvidal given Usman's incredible wrestling game and ability to ragdoll opponents for five rounds. Masvidal, a slight betting underdog, will also have to shed, in his own words, 20 pounds during fight week to make championship weight on just six days' notice. But Masvidal is a fighter who has long thrived in the midst of chaos, which Saturday's fight offers in droves. And Usman, fresh off a five-round standup war with Colby Covington, has filled many a reporter's notebook in recent months by complaining that critics don't see him as a well-rounded fighter. This has all the makings to be disastrous for Usman should he choose to trade with this type of opponent. Masvidal has proven to be a knockout threat at any moment of the fight due to his explosive striking and will be a live dog to do the same against an opponent who was given no time to prepare for him.
Brookhouse on why Usman will win: Masvidal is at the peak of his fighting career, but the circumstances here are less than ideal. He was not in camp and was not planning to fight when he took the bout on six days' notice. There may be no one on the UFC roster as ready for a fight at any moment than Masvidal, so it isn't a complete disaster. But Usman is a handful with a full camp. Usman also has the ability to be a relentless grinder, and knowing the situation, I fully expect him to wear Masvidal down in the early rounds, forcing him to wrestle and work every second before taking the fight over late and probably scoring a stoppage. Masvidal is the better story, but this doesn't feel like math that adds up in his favor.
Campbell on why Holloway will win: Let's give Volkanovski props for disarming Holloway throughout the first three rounds of their title bout in December when he claimed a close decision. Volkanovski controlled distance against the longer Holloway and stifled him with leg kicks. But let's not forget just how close his margin of victory was and how much Holloway rallied over the final two rounds. If you give a fighter still in his prime like the 28-year-old Holloway a second chance to do what he does best, which is dictate the terms of the fight and get off first and last with combinations, it's hard to imagine anyone beating him consecutively the same way. Considering that trading with Holloway on equal terms would be a bad strategic play for Volkanovski, the room for improvement based on their performances in their first fight leans heavily toward Holloway. Look for him to remind us of his greatness following 25 minutes of high-paced assault.
Brookhouse on why Volkanovski will win: The City Kickboxing style of fighting requires a lot of work to adjust to. Volkanovski does a wonderful job of using feints and leg kicks to throw off an opponent's rhythm. If Holloway is serious that he did not have any sort of camp or sparring and just trained via Zoom sessions, that could be a massive problem. That situation would leave Holloway to his fighting instincts rather than a fully prepared gameplan, which is a bad situation to be in. Of course, Holloway's fighting instincts are absolute top-level, but I don't see him being able to adjust to the things Volkanovski did so well in their first fight. This should be a good one, but Volkanovski should be able to pile up enough rounds to take the decision.
Campbell on why Yan will win: Aldo's evolution with age has seen him go away from taking the lead with hard leg kicks and settle into more of a heavy counter-punching role as a 33-year-old veteran. It's not that Aldo doesn't yield the kind of power that could see him walk away with the bantamweight title. It's just that Yan appears to be too fast, too young and too hungry to succumb to it. The main drawback in Aldo's evolution is that he doesn't throw enough strikes to win close rounds and depends too highly on the prospect of causing damage with a big strike. That has led him to be outworked in recent losses to Alexander Volkanovski and Marlon Moraes. Not only does Aldo not deserve this title shot being fresh off of two defeats, he has an opponent who is too good to make the kind of mistake that would open the door for a feel-good victory.
Brookhouse on why Andrade will win: It's hard to get away from the fact that Namajunas' focus often seems off. After Andrade slammed her to win the strawweight championship, Namajunas seemed to be done with the sport. She then announced her intention to return, but tragically lost multiple family members to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental game feels like a bigger issue with Namajuans than with other fighters and there's plenty of reason to think that it will be an issue for her as she faces a woman who almost retired her. Maybe that is overthinking what is, ultimately, a fight, but I'll roll with Andrade to prove that the first time around was more than a fluke slam victory.
Who will win Usman vs. Masvidal, 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.