By GEORGE WILLIS
Conor McGregor is talking retirement again, but the Ultimate Fighting Championship is confident their mixed martial arts power house can survive without the popular Irishman. UFC 251 Saturday in Abu Dhabi is an example of that. It’s a card loaded with star appeal and should attract a terrific pay-per-view following with the main event headed by the welterweight championship bout featuring belt-holder Kamaru Usman (16-1) against late-replacement Jorge Masvidal (35-13).
Former long-time featherweight champ Max Holloway (21-5) challenges Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) in a rematch for the belt he lost in their December 2019 fight won by the Aussie, while Brazilian veteran Jose Aldo (28-6) takes on Petri Yan (14-1) of Russia for the vacant bantamweight title. Former women’s strawweight champ Rose Namajunas (9-4) battles Jessica Andrade (20-7) in a rematch where Rose lost her title and Amanda Ribas (9-1) duels Paige VanZant (8-4).
UFC president Dana White told reporters in Abu Dhabi UFC 251 on Fight Island is “trending higher than a Conor McGregor fight,” adding, it’s “as big a fight as I’ve ever seen in my entire career.”
UFC COO Lawrence Epstein told http://www.TheNYExtra.com why the potential loss of the Notorious one won’t be devastating. “Throughout the history of the UFC people have said ‘What are you going to do when Chuck Liddell retires? What are you going to do when GSP (Georges St-Pierre) retires? What are you going to do when Ronda Rousey retires? Now they’re saying what are you going to do when Conor McGregor retires? That’s what we do,” Epstein said. “We create stars. We build interest in athletes that continue to fill the shoes of those legends. That’s what we do every day and UFC 251 is an example of that.
Main Card Prediction time:
The way I see it:
Usman by late submission. Give Masvidal credit for taking the fight on less than a week’s notice, replacing Gilbert Burns who tested positive for COVID-19. But the BMF Champ had little time to prepare, underwent a drastic weight cut and will be without his coach Mike Brown, who also tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s too many obstacles for “Gamebred” to overcome against the “Nigerian Nightmare,” who plans to apply loads of pressure and make a statement.
Paige VanZant by split decision over Amanda Ribas
Rose Namajunas by decision over Jessica Andrade
Petri Yan by dec over Jose Aldo
Max Holloway by split decision over Alexander Volkanovski
Alex Conrad @alexhconrad – Boulder, Colorado
Usman by unanimous decision: This fight is the culmination of Jorge Masvidal’s long-winding journey in MMA, but unfortunately for the ‘BMF’ it doesn’t end with a second belt draped over his shoulders. Usman may not have the most aesthetically pleasing fighting style, but it’s undeniably effective and he’ll look to nullify the threat of Masvidal early on.
Ribas by decision over VanZant
Namajunas by TKO over Andrade
Aldo by split decision over Yan
Holloway by split decision over Volkanovski