UFC 251: Usman & Volkanovski retain, Petr Yan wins bantamweight title

John Pollock's coverage of UFC 251 featuring Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway, and Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo.

Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 251 from Abu Dhabi featuring three championship fights on the main card.

Beginning at 10 pm Eastern, Phil Chertok and Eric Marcotte will be streaming at YouTube.com/POSTwrestling as the pay-per-view main card is airing. Immediately after the main card, our UFC 251 POST Show will continue streaming on YouTube with Phil & I running through the card. The podcast will be out early Sunday morning.

You can also interact throughout the night on the POST Wrestling Discord chat, which is free to enter.

MAIN CARD 
*Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) to retain the UFC welterweight title
*Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to retain the UFC featherweight title
*Petr Yan def. Jose Aldo by TKO at 3:24 of Round 5 to win the vacant UFC bantamweight title
*Rose Namajunas def. Jessica Andrade by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
*Amanda Ribas def. Paige VanZant by armbar at 2:21 of Round 1

PRELIMINARY CARD 
*Jiri Prochazka def. Volkan Oezdemir by KO at 0:49 of Round 2
*Muslim Salikhov def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
*Makwan Amirkhani def. Danny Henry by Anaconda choke at 3:15 of Round 1
*Leonardo Santos def. Roman Bogatov by unanimous decision (29-26 all)

EARLY PRELIMS 
*Marcin Tybura def. Maxim Grishin by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
*Raulian Paiva def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Karol Rosa def. Vanessa Melo by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
*Davey Grant def. Martin Day by KO at 2:38 of Round 3

DAVEY GRANT (9-4, 136) VS MARTIN DAY (9-4, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT

WINNER: Davey Grant by KO at 2:38 of Round 3 

KAROL ROSA (12-3, 136) VS VANESSA MELO (10-7, 141*) – CATCHWEIGHT FIGHT 

WINNER: Karol Rosa by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)

RAULIAN PAIVA (19-3, 129*) VS ZHALGAS ZHUMAGULOV (13-3, 126) – CATCHWEIGHT FIGHT

In the first round, it was Paiva with a stronger pace connecting with a right hand and immediate kick to the body followed. Zhumagulov got a late takedown. In the second, Zhumagulov had a better start to the round connecting with the body and varied up the strikes. Zhumagulov threw Paiva to the mat at the end of the round and I had it even heading into Round 3. In the final round, Zhumagulov landed the best shot of the fight connecting with a left. Zhumagulov was hit low twice near the end and was on his knees.

WINNER: Raulian Paiva by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

It was a close fight, so you could argue it going 29-28 either way. Zhumagulov was in a lot of pain from the two low strikes near the end of the fight. Paiva earns his second straight win in the UFC building off a knockout over Mark De La Rosa this past February.

MARCIN TYBURA (18-6, 252) VS MAXIM GRISHIN (30-7-2, 226) – HEAVYWEIGHT

This was a bad fight with the first two rounds an exercise in boredom. Tybura constantly wanted takedowns but didn’t have a strong one until the third round. Tybura won the first two rounds and then it picked up in the last frame. Tybura landed some knees against the cage and got the takedown and moved to Grishin’s back with the body triangle applied and controlled the entire round. I felt Tybura won each round.

WINNER: Marcin Tybura by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)

There was a pick-up in the action in the last round but overall, not a great fight or as Jon Anik put “a methodical fight”. Tybura improves to 6-5 in the UFC and is his second consecutive win.

LEONARDO SANTOS (17-3-1, 156) VS ROMAN BOGATOV (10-0, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Santos, 40, has won eleven straight fights going back to 2010 but missed almost three years of action between 2016-19. Bogatov is making his UFC debut and comes over from M-1 Challenge with an undefeated record.

In the first, Santos overcame an eye poke to take advantage of a missed spin kick and control Bogatov’s back. Bogatov displayed pressure but Santos edged out the round through his control.

In the second, Santos nearly ended the fight with three straight right hands landing that set-up an enormous flurry that included knees to the head, a head kick, and hammer fists on top until he was exhausted from the output and could not finish it. It was still a 10-8 round but Bogatov recovered by the end.

The third round was just nuts. Bogatov ended up hitting Santos low TWICE with the first delaying the round a long time. Then, Bogatov connects with another low strike to the extent that referee Marc Goddard deducted TWO POINTS. Bogatov was urgent and landed a big uppercut and won the round but it didn’t matter as he was down far down on the scores. I thought it was 29-25 for Santos.

WINNER: Leonardo Santos by unanimous decision (29-26 all)

This was littered with fouls and led to the fight going so long on a show that is way behind timing-wise to get all these prelims before the pay-per-view start time.

Santos extends his win streak to twelve fights since March 2010 but left this fight a mess after all the fouls he absorbed in the third round. This was ugly for all the fouls but Santos had a huge output in round two but could not keep the energy and seemed exhausted after letting it all go.

MAKWAN AMIRKHANI (15-4, 146) VS DANNY HENRY (12-3, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT

Amirkhani was sizing up Henry and connected with a flying knee going toward the cage. He had a beautiful set-up that resulted in an arm-in guillotine that he transitioned over to an Anaconda choke and out Henry out.

WINNER: Makwan Amirkhani by anaconda choke at 3:15 of Round 1

This finish was sorely needed to pick up the pace of this card and was a great set-up and submission execution by Amirkhani, who improves to 6-2 in the UFC and bounces back from his TKO loss to Shane Burgos last November at UFC 244.

ELIZEU ZALESKI DOS SANTOS (22-6, 171) VS MUSLIM SALIKHOV (16-2, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT

The first round saw a feeling-out process until Salikhov began to get loose with his spin kicks. He hit Zaleski dos Santos with a left hook but then Zaleski dos Santos came back with a right, Salikhov went for the takedown and ate several strikes on the ground. I feel Zaleski dos Santos edged it out through the flurry at the end.

The second round was close and they two stayed on their feet for the duration of the round. Zaleski dos Santos landed with a big right hand that was notable. He also ducked a spinning wheel kick that looked great in its execution by Salikhov but missed its mark. Both corners told their fighter they are up 2-0. I’d lean towards the corner of Zaleski dos Santos.

The third was a tough round to score and neither scored with much. I gave the edge to Salikhov, who continued with his spinning offense but didn’t have much success with it.

WINNER: Muslim Salikhov by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)

I scored the fight 29-28 for Zaleski dos Santos, so I found these scores puzzling, especially the 30-27 card.

Salikhov has won his fourth in a row following wins against Ricky Rainey, Nordine Taleb, and Laureano Staropoli. For Zaleski dos Santos, it’s his third loss in the UFC after winning eight of his last nine entering this fight.

VOLKAN OEZDEMIR (17-4, 205.5) VS JIRI PROCHAZKA (26-3-1, 205) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

The first round saw each landing with a strong volume but it was Oezdemir out landing Prochazka, who appeared to be wobbled briefly. It was an entertaining round that I scored for Oezdemir.

In the second, Prochazka was changing stances and then landed a partial head kick that stunned Oezdemir. Prochazka faked a flying knee and used a jab to set-up the fight-ending right-hand knockout for a massive debut victory.

WINNER: Jiri Prochazka by KO at 0:49 of Round 2

It was a great fake with the flying knee and allowed Prochazka the time necessary to use the jab as the set-up for the right hand that put Oezdemir down and out. This was Prochazka’s eleventh consecutive win after leaving RIZIN as its light heavyweight champion.

AMANDA RIBAS (9-1, 126) VS PAIGE VANZANT (8-4, 126) – FLYWEIGHT

Ribas connected with a left hand and started to throw knees from the clinch before throwing VanZant down. On the ground, it was all Ribas with top control with a scarf hold. In time, she maneuvered to take the arm and locked it deep as she secured the tap with Ribas going belly down.

WINNER: Amanda Ribas by armbar at 2:21 of Round 1

Ribas is a natural strawweight but came up to fight VanZant at flyweight for her most high-profile fight. She was a -900 favorite and the fight played out as Ribas at a much higher skill level. Once she got the hip throw, it was total control from Ribas as she demonstrated patience and locked the arm before going belly down for the tap.

It was the final fight on VanZant’s UFC contract, so this may be her swan song with the promotion unless a deal is reached. VanZant is still a big star and going to Bellator represents a chance for a marquee fight with Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.

Ribas is 4-0 in the UFC and 10-1 in her career.

JESSICA ANDRADE (20-7, 115) VS ROSE NAMAJUNAS (8-4, 116) – STRAWWEIGHT

In the first round, both displayed lots of technique with Andrade moving her head throughout the round to stifle Namajunas. Namajunas kept her away with the jab and later hit a big right hand and a knee strike connected. Andrade started throwing some heavy shots to a mix of success. It was a close round but should Namajunas’ round.

The second round was great as Namajunas is so quick with her strikes and piling up the head strikes throughout the round. Andrade went to the body and was trying to land with the right uppercut. Namajunas won the round on my card through her speed, timing, and accumulation of headshots.

The final round continued this great action with Andrade scoring with an uppercut and blasting Namajunas with another strike before using a hip throw. Namajunas kicked her off to get to her feet, but Andrade kept the pressure on including the final minute where Andrade finished strong. I have it 29-28 for Namajunas.

WINNER: Rose Namajunas by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

This was a great fight and the best on the show, so far.

This would appear to set-up a big fight between Zhang Weili and Namajunas for the 115-pound title.

Namajunas looked tremendous but Andrade clearly won the third round and was able to connect consistently in the last frame. This was Namajunas’ first fight since the title loss to Andrade in May 2019 while Andrade was coming off her 0:42 loss to Weili last August.

This was a terrific fight to go out of your way to watch.

JOSE ALDO (28-6, 135) VS PETR YAN (14-1, 135) FOR THE VACANT BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE

Both were on point as the round began with Yan several big right hands during the round. Aldo knocked him down with a leg kick but didn’t rely on the kicks. At the end of the round, Aldo failed on a takedown and Yan entered his guard and tagged Aldo in the ribs and landed numerous strikes as Aldo covered up but made it to the end of the round.

Aldo didn’t show any ill-effects in the second round going back to the leg kicks and going high with them. Aldo ripped a left hand to the body that looked great and I have it even after two rounds.

The third round was razor-close with Aldo ripping at the body as he did in the last round. Yan came on strong in the end landing several big power shots and an elbow strike that landed clean. This fight is so close, but I have Yan up 29-28 after three.

Yan dominated the fourth round as Aldo began to slow down. Yan increased his output and then hit several big uppercuts. He put Aldo down and finished the round in his guard where he landed several big strikes. Yan is up 39-27 on my card.

Yan dropped Aldo after rocking him with a left hand and then Yan annihilated him with ground and pound. He used a crucifix and landed so many shots on Aldo that it was uncomfortable to watch how long it went. Referee Leon Roberts came Aldo every chance and Aldo would move but wasn’t defending himself. Finally, it was stopped.

WINNER: Petr Yan by TKO at 3:24 of Round 5 to become the UFC bantamweight champion

It was a very close fight through three rounds and then, Aldo slowed down and Yan was too much for him to handle. Yan was tested and it was a great three-round performance from Aldo until he slowed down. Yan has incredible power from a short distance and his top-game pressure was nonstop throughout the fifth round as Aldo had no answers.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI (21-1, 145) VS MAX HOLLOWAY (21-5, 145) FOR THE UFC FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE

Volkanovski came out looking for inside leg kicks and landed with them. However, Holloway absorbed them and then hit a spin kick to the body and a shin to the temple of Volkanovski that landed flush, which was the best strike of the round giving Holloway the round.

Holloway continued his success in the round with a big combination early and a creative knee attack to the body. Volkanovski hit a left hook and started landing kicks but Holloway punctuated the round with a short uppercut that sent Volkanovski down briefly and is up 20-18 on my card.

The third round was the closest so far as Volkanovski was using jabs and shot for a takedown he couldn’t complete. Holloway hit a knee to the body on a break but Volkanovski threw with his left hand and piled up some strikes to take the round, but it was close.

In the fourth, Volkanovski increased his output and got a takedown using double under hooks, although Holloway got right back up. Volkanovski was throwing a lot in the final minute and was up 40-32 in significant strikes for the round. I have it even going into the last round.

Round 5 was a good round for Volkanovski securing two takedowns, including one in the dying seconds that included two strikes to end it. I have it 48-47 for Volkanovski, the third round was debatable round.

WINNER: Alexander Volkanovski by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)

It was such a close fight and while a rematch won’t be in the cards immediately, eventually, they should have another fight.

KAMARU USMAN (16-1, 170) VS JORGE MASVIDAL (35-13, 170) FOR THE UFC WELTERWEIGHT TITLE

Masvidal put out a lot of energy in the opening round and his striking was the key to the round. He was taken down early but worked his way to the feet. Masvidal landed a knee from the clinch and started landing with elbow strikes. Masvidal would put his back to the fence and he did well circling on the outside. Masvidal up 10-9 on my card.

The second round wasn’t too exciting, but it was an easy one for Usman. He placed Masvidal against the fence and relied on shoulder strikes, body shots, and stomping the feet while holding Masvidal, and it was effective. Masvidal broke free at the end and started throwing but didn’t land anything significant. It’s even after two rounds.

The third round started similar to Usman placing Masvidal against the fence with repeated stomps to the feet. Usman hit him low and Masvidal exercised his time to recover. Usman landed two big takedowns later in the round and went to side control. Masvidal recovered guard but ate an elbow in the process. 29-28 for Usman on my card and Masvidal’s energy has been depleted.

Usman was taking advantage of Masvidal’s energy level being down and putting Masvidal back against the fence before taking him down. Masvidal has a burst of offense to get off the cage but Usman landed two left hooks and put him back in the clinch and rode out the round. Masvidal needs a finish to win.

The fifth round started with Masvidal landing a counter and was taken down, eventually getting side control and then clinching against the fence. Masvidal broke free in the closing minute but was not able to do anything as the round expired. 49-46 for Usman on my card and it’s the only possible score I can see.

WINNER: Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)

About John Pollock 1892 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling.He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.