Dana White’s ambitious plans to stage mixed martial arts on a special ‘Fight Island’ will become a reality on Saturday as UFC 251 takes centre stage in Abu Dhabi.
Yas Island will be the venue for one of the most elaborate projects ever undertaken by the UFC since it was first launched back in 1993.
An exclusive zone of 10 square miles has been established by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism to ensure that the event can be staged safely.
The UFC is eager for Fight Island to be a success and has assembled a card stacked with eye-catching match-ups. Read on as we preview some of the best fights at UFC 251.
Usman faces tough defence against Masvidal
Kamara Usman was originally scheduled to defend the welterweight title against Gilbert Burns, but that fight fell through leaving the UFC searching for a replacement.
That conundrum was resolved when a deal with Masvidal was agreed – setting up the prospect of a contest that has the potential to be the standout fight of the year.
Usman has lost just once during his professional career back in 2013 and has since gone on to build an impressive 16-1 record.
Masvidal (35-13) reeled off three successive wins last year and will fancy his chances of causing an upset, but Usman is fully expected to retain his title after a gruelling bout.
Holloway out for revenge against Volkanovski
The eagerly-awaited co-main event between UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway could also be a blockbuster.
Volkanovski (21-1) seized the title off Holloway in an epic encounter last year and is favourite to hang onto it this time around.
The defeat ended Holloway’s 14-fight win streak in the division and the American will undoubtedly be gunning for revenge on Fight Island.
Volkanovski deserved to win the first fight, but Holloway will have learned plenty from that bout and is fancied to upset the odds in Abu Dhabi.
Ex-champions eyeing crack at Zhang
Former women’s strawweight champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas meet on Saturday in a rematch that should secure a title shot for the winner.
Andrade surprisingly took the belt off Namajunas at UFC 237, but she subsequently lost the title to Weili Zhang three months later.
The 28-year-old was demolished by the Chinese fighter in that contest and it will be interesting to see if she has fully recovered from that defeat.
Namajunas looked to be on an upward curve after successive victories over Joanna Jedrzejczyk and should regain the winning thread this weekend.
UFC 251 Card
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway
Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo
Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas
Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant
Volkan Oezdemir vs Jiri Prochazka
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs Muslim Salikhov
Makwan Amirkhani vs Dan Henry
Leonardo Santos vs Roman Bogatov
Marcin Tybura vs Alexander Romanov
Raulian Paiva vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Karol Rosa vs Vanessa Melo
Martin Day vs Davey Grant
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