UFC 251, the first event at Fight Island, will take place this Saturday in Abu Dhabi with a highly anticipated card featuring three title fights. DraftKings is offering multiple ways for users to get in on the action, including a free-to-play pool on DraftKings Sportsbook Pools. To participate in the free pool, choose winners for each main card fight and compete for $1,000 in prizes! Head here to participate: Free $1K Pool: UFC 251
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Below, Matt Nelson and Charlie Mayer share their thoughts on the 10 questions in the UFC 251 free pool and break down the action, which includes four main card matchups.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
In the UFC 251 main event, current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will take on dangerous veteran Jorge Masvidal in a fight that is sure to produce some exciting moments. Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman, who currently holds a 16-1 record, will look to use his wrestling to exploit Masvidal’s weaknesses and wear him down over the course of the fight. Usman was impressive in recent wins over Colby Colvington and Tyron Woodley and is currently lined as the betting favorite. Masvidal took this championship fight on six days notice but appears to be very confident going into this matchup. Usman threatens the takedown frequently and averages 3.44 Takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC. He has handled all of his UFC opponents in dominant fashion and has an 11-0 UFC record. Masvidal has high-level boxing ability as well as the higher striking defense percentage, which will help him to evade punches while the fight is standing. Masvidal has not suffered a defeat since 2017 and rides a three-fight winning streak going into Saturday’s action. Although Masvidal had early success against well-regarded wrestler Ben Askren, we still have not seen if he’ll be able to handle a smothering wrestler like Usman. I believe that Usman’s pressure will be too much for Masvidal and that he’ll ultimately win this one. However, if Masvidal can connect with punches early on, an upset could be in the making.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal- Winning Method
Masvidal has finished his last three fights by KO/TKO, taking out solid fighters in Nate Diaz, Ben Askren and Darren Till. Masvidal has 16 KO/TKO finishes in his professional career, so it would not be surprising at all to see this fight end early with a dazzling highlight reel finish. A submission finish is unlikely here as both fighters only have limited submission victories on their respective resumes. Meanwhile, eight out of Usman’s past 10 fights have been decision victories. If Usman is able to avoid precise and well-timed punches from Masvidal, I see this trend continuing on Saturday and Usman pulling out a decision victory.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal - Total Rounds
All five of Usman’s previous fights have gone to the final round as he likes to slowly break down his opponents throughout the fight. I think Usman will be able to effectively use his wrestling skills to tire Masvidal and he will be able to dictate the pace of this fight. If Usman wins, I see this fight going over 4.5 rounds. However, if you favor Masvidal in this matchup, expect the under to hit early in either the first or second round.
Alex Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
Former champion Max Holloway will look to avenge his loss to Alex Volkanovski in December and reclaim the featherweight title on Saturday night. Volkanovski had the higher output in their first encounter, outlanding Holloway with 157 strikes to 137 while using his footwork to avoid many of Holloway’s attacks. Holloway is currently lined at underdog odds, which will please many who are looking for a value play on this card. Volanovski has put together a near flawless campaign thus far with a 21-1 record including standout wins over Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes and Holloway. He lands at a high volume and averages 6.15 significant strikes landed per minute. As an underdog in the first matchup, Volkanvoski also used effective leg kicks to slow Holloway and allow him to take the fight by unanimous decision. Will he add another win this time as the favorite? I think Holloway will make adjustments in this rematch, reclaiming the belt and demonstrating his championship prowess.
Alex Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway - Winning Method
Holloway will look to correct his mistakes from the first encounter, and that means he will need to advance early in the fight and pressure his opponent. He is known for starting off slow, but has the ability to end the fight early and has nine previous KO/TKO finishes in the UFC octagon. Holloway is at his best when he is able to overwhelm his opponents in the later rounds and pours on the pressure as he did in his KO victories over Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis. Since there were zero submission attempts in the first fight, a tap out seems to be a very unlikely outcome in this matchup. Volkanovski had plenty of success on the feet and will be comfortable taking this fight to the judges’ scorecards as he did when he won last December. Since this is a championship fight between two of the best of the division, it is likely that we see another tightly-contested chess match that goes the distance.
Alex Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway - Total Rounds
Holloway hasn’t been finished since 2012 and Volkanovski hasn’t been finished since his only loss in 2013. Therefore, this fight seems poised to go the distance, as it did the first time around. Considering the durability of both fighters, I think the fight goes over 4.5 rounds.
Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo
The fight for the vacant bantamweight title features savvy veteran and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo versus rising star and solid technician Petr Yan. Both fighters love to move forward and pressure their opponents, which should lead to some exhilarating striking exchanges. Yan has shown himself to be a precise and powerful puncher who is dangerous in the clinch and from range. He does a great job keeping his opponents guessing and surprising them with kicks, elbows, knees and punches from a variety of angles and positions. Meanwhile, Aldo will need to throw leg kicks to neutralize Yan’s movement and give himself a chance to land some of his own power punches. While Aldo has shown he still has plenty left in the tank with recent wins against Renato Moicano and Jeremy Stephens, he’ll have his hands full with Yan. With Yan’s ability to do damage in multiple positions, I think his offense will be too much for Aldo. Look for Yan to dominate this fight while standing and finish Aldo in the later rounds.
Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo - Winning Method
Yan is not an elite grappler so don’t expect him to win this one by submission. Aldo is also not much of a submission artist and has finished most of his fights by KO/TKO. While he still displays raw power, as demonstrated by knockouts in his past two fights, he’ll need to be more cautious in this fight to avoid getting KO’d himself. I think that this fight ends by KO/TKO in the fourth or fifth round with Yan recording the big finish.
Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
This card also features an exciting bout between former women’s strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade. These two previously met in May 2019 and while Namajunas was ahead in the fight, Andrade quickly turned the tables and won via a second-round KO slam. Namajunas is the better striker in this matchup, but she’ll need to be patient and cautious in order to avoid a finish from the bigger and stronger Andrade. Look for Namajunas to utilize her length and elite striking to control the fight while standing. This game plan should serve her well, considering Andrade has struggled against fighters who strike from range. Andrade will need to outmuscle Namajunas again and use her superior wrestling to control the fight and take it to the ground. However, with Namajunas being the better technician, I expect her to easily outstrike Andrade and cruise to victory in this one.
Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas - Winning Method
While Andrade was quite the submission artist earlier in her MMA career, she hasn’t finished a fight by submission since 2016. Therefore, a submission finish by Andrade is unlikely even though she’ll look to use her strong wrestling skills to her advantage. And while she does display some striking power, it’s not accurate enough to defeat Namajunas via KO/TKO. If Andrade does pull out the victory, I expect it to be by decision rather than by finish. Namajunas, on the other hand, is the superior striker who is definitely capable of scoring a KO or TKO in this fight. And while she does have a few submission finishes to her name, I don’t expect her to spend much time on the ground, as that would play right into Andrade’s strengths. Look for a smart, patient, and opportunistic Namajunas to land some clean strikes en route to a unanimous decision victory.
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