UFC 251 Saturday night at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi consisted of three championship bouts. Kamaru Usman retained his Welterweight title to close things out in the main event.
Though, the huge event also consisted of a controversial Alexander Volkanovski victory over Max Holloway for the Featherweight title and Petr Yan taking out Jose Aldo via knockout for the Bantamweight title.
UFC 251 also saw Amanda Ribas make a name for herself, making quick work of Paige VanZant. Meanwhile, Roman Bogatov showed poorly with a dirty performance in the Octagon.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from UFC 251 at Fight Island Saturday night.
Winner: Amanda Ribas, UFC’s new sweetheart
This Brazilian was favored to take out Paige VanZant Saturday night. With that said, no one could have envisioned her submitting PVZ with an armbar at the 2:21 mark in the first round. It really was something to behold.
This represented Ribas’ fifth consecutive victory. It was also her debut in the Flyweight division. The backdrop here was an emotional and equally engaging Ribas following the fight. She knew this represented the biggest stage of her young career, and took advantage of that to impress the masses with her post-fight interview. This could very well act as a stepping stone for her career moving forward.
Loser: Jose Aldo comes up short
It goes without saying that this 33-year-old veteran was a heavy underdog in his Bantamweight title fight against Petr Yan. While Aldo gave it a go for three rounds, he wore down. On the other side, Yan just got stronger as the fight continued.
In the end, this resulted in Aldo losing his third consecutive bout via a knockout. It was really hard to watch this champion on the mat as Yan continued to pummel him to no end. One now has to wonder how much Aldo has left in the tank after making his UFC debut all the way back in 2011.
Winner: We could see Karol Rosa on a bigger stage moving forward
Rosa, 25, entered her early-prelim bout Saturday night on the receiving end of some bad luck. Each of his past four fights, all against Julia Avila, had been canceled. Ranked 18th in the Bantamweight division, the Brazil native finally got her chance to show off against Vanessa Melo. She did just that, remaining undefeated in the UFC.
Melo stood no chance against a much superior opponent, losing by unanimous decision. For Rosa, she remains undefeated in the UFC and could grade up to a preliminary or even a main card event moving forward.
Loser: Roman Bogatov goes dirty after early barrage from Leonardo Santos
The first preliminary bout of the evening featured the undefeated Bogatov going up against Brazilian Leonardo Santos in a Lightweight bout. What started out as a bad night for the Russian culminated in him going completely dirty.
As the fight was nearing its conclusion in Round 3, Bogatov delivered two low blows to Santos’ groin area. As Santos went to get up from one of the low blows, Bogatov hit him with an illegal knee. It’s shocking that the latter was not disqualified right there. Those watching the match were thrown for the loop, as was the individual officiating it in the Octagon. It certainly painted Bogatov in a bad light.
Winner: Jiri Prochazka makes statement in UFC debut
Ranked 24th in his division and a star in his native Czech Republic, this light heavyweight fighter went up against Volkan Oezdemir in the final preliminary match Saturday night. He made one of the biggest statements of the evening at Fight Island.
Sure Oezdemir had lost his fair share of fights, including one to Daniel Cormier. But he had never been completely knocked out in the Octagon. That changed. Prochazka landed a combination of filthy punches, knocking his opponent out cold. It was one of the biggest moments of the night. And in reality, it has Prochazka on an upward trajectory moving forward.
Loser: Max Holloway robbed of a victory
This five-round Featherweight rematch between Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski seemed to be going in the former’s direction throughout the fight. Holloway won two of the first four rounds convincingly, coming close to knocking his opponent out.
Despite a strong end to Round 5 from the champ, it seemed like Holloway had done enough to at least win a split decision. That’s until the judges came back with a split decision for Volkanovski. This pretty much threw the UFC world for a loop. And in the end, it likely ends any possibility of a third fight between these two champs. Holloway is a loser because he deserved to win. It’s that simple.
Winner: UFC and Dana White
The enigmatic White drew some criticism during the spring when he first broached the idea of a Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. That came after multiple events were canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The idea of an entire island being used as a bubble city for the UFC was forward-thinking to say the least.
It happened Saturday evening, and it was absolutely extraordinary. The broadcast went off without a hitch. The matches were exceptional. It was one of the biggest nights in modern UFC history. It also shows us why Mr. White is one of the best league heads in professional sports. Bar none.
Loser: Paige VanZant, suddenly on a downward spiral
Seen as one of the true bright stars in the MMA world a half-decade ago, VanZant earned victories in each of her first three UFC bouts, including a win over Alex Chambers in UFC 191.
Unfortunately, this former “Dancing with the Stars” headliner and model has not had it since. VanZant entered Saturday’s match against Amanda Ribas having lost three of her past five fights. Ribas made quick work of VanZant in UFC 251, submitting her early in Round 1. This could have very well represented the last time PVZ will be on a main card unless she does some work in lesser events moving forward. Her contract expired following this fight, which will also lead to further speculation about her future.
Winner: Rose Namajunas with thrilling split-decision victory
Talk about a huge return to the Octagon for Namajunas after losing by knockout to the very same Jéssica Andrade in UFC 237 back in May of 2019. It’s been a long time coming for the Wisconsin native.
The bout went a full three rounds and resulted in a split-decision victory for Namajunas. Both fighters showed out extremely well, leading to Dana White providing a standing ovation after the fact. But in the end, this win more than likely means Namajunas will ultimately take on current champion Weili Zhang for the Strawweight title in her next fight.
Loser: Jéssica Andrade loses second consecutive fight
Andrade was in need of a win Saturday night after dropping her previous fight against Weili Zhang last August. At the very least, this might have given the Brazilian an opportunity to go up against Zhang for a rematch in the Strawweight division moving forward.
While Andrade was more than up for the task, including some stirring moments in Round 3, she was not able to come out on top. Nothing can be taken away from her performance, but the loss will have wide-ranging ramifications moving forward.
Winner: Petr Yan proves his worth as a champion
Yan entered Saturday’s Bantamweight title bout having won nine consecutive fights. He was undefeated in the UFC since making his debut against Teruto Ishihara back in 2018. This included defeating Urijah Faber in UFC 245 last December.
While Jose Aldo was game for the first few rounds, Yan’s abilities more than took over in Round 4 before he ended up knocking out the legendary Aldo in the final round. It was a dominating performance throughout that final round, leading to speculation that Aljamain Sterling could take on Yan next after the latter’s tremendous performance in his previous fight. The Bantamweight division is loaded. That’s for sure. But Yan seems to stand above the rest.
Winner: Kamaru Usman with dominant overall performance
Usman entered Saturday’s match having won each of his past 11 Welterweight bouts in the UFC. He was a huge favorite over Jorge Masvidal after the latter stepped up to replace Gilbert Burns, who tested positive for COVID-19 less than a week ago.
Everyone expected Usman to retain the Welterweight title. That’s exactly what we saw during UFC 251 with him earning an unanimous decision win. A fight that not many expected ended with the most obvious of results. Now 17-1 in his career, the Nigerian is going to be a force moving forward.