Kamaru Usman says being overlooked is "the story of my career," but his goal is to be such a dominant champion that even his most ardent detractors can't deny his greatness. The welterweight champion will take another step towards that endeavor on Saturday when he makes his second title defense against third-ranked Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 251. Their bout headlines the first UFC 251 fight card at UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The main UFC 251 card is set for 10 p.m. ET.
Usman conceded this week that his opponent is the more popular fighter with MMA media and observers, but he emphasized his goal is to prove he's the better fighter. Usman is a -240 favorite at William Hill (risk $240 to win $100) after opening at -300, while Masvidal is a +200 underdog (risk $100 to win $200). In the co-main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is a -210 favorite (risk $210 to win $100) against challenger Max Holloway (+175). Before locking in your UFC 251 picks, make sure to see the UFC predictions from SportsLine MMA analyst Kyle Marley.
The accomplished MMA analyst has been on fire, as he has hit 12 consecutive main event winners. Last week, he told SportsLine members to expect Dustin Poirier (-200) to post a victory over Dan Hooker (+175) in their UFC Fight Night lightweight main event. Marley said Poirier would win at least a 48-47 decision if the fight went to the scorecards. That's exactly what happened, as two judges had that exact score while the third gave Poirier a 48-46 advantage en route to a unanimous decision.
Marley also called a decisive victory two weeks ago for Curtis Blaydes (-400) against Alexander Volkov (+320) in their heavyweight main event. Anyone who has consistently followed Marley's UFC picks is way up.
Now, with UFC 251 approaching, Marley has carefully studied every matchup on the card, identified the best value in the UFC 251 odds and released his picks for every fight. Those UFC 251 picks only are available here.
Usman vs. Masvidal preview
Usman enters this matchup with a 15-fight winning streak after successfully defending his title with a technical-knockout victory over Colby Covington at UFC 245 on Dec. 14. With that win, the 33-year-old Nigerian improved his UFC record to 11-0 and his overall career mark to 16-1.
The win over Covington marked the first time in five fights and second in 10 that Usman did not have to go the distance in order to get his hand raised. A former NCAA Division II national wrestling champion at 174 pounds, he averages 16 minutes, 40 seconds per fight, which ranks second in UFC welterweight history and seventh overall in the promotion's existence.
The third-ranked Masvidal (35-13) reportedly was offered a shot at Usman's belt when the UFC 251 card was being put together but was not pleased with the proposed payout and declined. The 35-year-old, who is a former Absolute Fighting Championships welterweight titleholder, posted a TKO victory over Nate Diaz at UFC 244 last November, four months after finishing Ben Askren with a flying knee five seconds into their fight at UFC 239 for the fastest knockout in UFC history. You can see Marley's full Usman vs. Masvidal picks here.
Top UFC 251 predictions for July 11
We'll share one of Marley's UFC 251 predictions here: He is backing Petr Yan (-240) as he takes on Jose Aldo (+200) in a battle for the UFC Bantamweight Championship that was vacated when Henry Cejudo retired in May. The 27-year-old Russian is riding a nine-fight winning streak into Saturday night and is coming off a third-round knockout of Urijah Faber in December. Yan landed a vicious head kick to earn the victory. He displayed impressive power throughout that fight in dominant striking exchanges.
Yan will push the pace against Aldo and should throw punches with more volume and power. He averages 5.65 significant strikes per minute to Aldo's 3.47. He's also the more effective grappler in the event that Aldo tries to take the fight to the ground. Yan averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Aldo averages 0.64.
"I have been very high on Yan and called him a future champion," Marley told SportsLine. "He will land plenty of hard shots and end up putting Aldo away in the latter half of the fight."
How to make UFC 251 picks
Marley also has strong picks for Usman vs. Masvidal and every other bout on the UFC 251 card. He's also backing one combatant who is "the more powerful guy." You can see those UFC 251 picks only at SportsLine.
Who wins Masvidal vs. Usman at UFC 251? And how exactly does 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 nearly $21,000 and has nailed 12 straight main events, and find out.
UFC 251 odds (via William Hill US)
Kamaru Usman (-240) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+200)
Alexander Volkanovski (-210) vs. Max Holloway (+175)
Petr Yan (-240) vs. Jose Aldo (+200)
Jessica Andrade (+175) vs. Rose Namajunas (-210)
Amanda Ribas (-800) vs. Paige VanZant (+550)
Volkan Oezdemir (-160) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+135)
Elizeu Dos Santos (+115) vs. Muslim Salikhov (-135)
Makwan Amirkhani (-200) vs. Danny Henry (+170)
Leonardo Santos (-180) vs. Roman Bogatov (+155)
Marcin Tybura (-115) vs. Maxim Grishin (-105)
Raulian Paiva (-175) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+150)
Karol Rosa (-260) vs. Vanessa Melo (+210)
Martin Day (-170) vs. Davey Grant (+145)