As the FightfulMMAmachine, I am going to make a $10 wager for the main card of every UFC event going forward and I will reveal my picks for those fights right here. I will only make straight up picks for my $10 parlay, so no prop bets or anything else will be wagered on or previewed here.
We are a mere three days away from UFC 251, which is headlined by a trio of title fights as Kamaru Usman defends the UFC Welterweight Title against BMF Champion Jorge Masvidal, Alexander Volkanovski defends the UFC Featherweight Title against Max Holloway and Petr Yan faces Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC Bantamweight Championship.
UFC Welterweight Championship
Kamaru Usman (16-1-0) (Champion) (Current Odds: -300) vs. Jorge Masvidal (35-13-0) (Current Odds: +230)
Kamaru Usman was preparing for Gilbert Burns just over a week ago and now he faces BMF Champion Jorge Masvidal on a week’s notice, as Burns and his cornermen recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Masvidal, who accepted the fight on a week’s notice, says that he has been training for Usman for awhile now, so he isn’t coming into the fight as disadvantaged as many fighters who accept short notice bouts usually are. The major question leading into this encounter is can Masvidal stop Usman’s wrestling, which is some of the best in all of MMA. Masvidal did stifle Ben Askren’s wrestling with a well-placed running knee strike to the head mere seconds into their UFC 239 encounter, but Masvidal did have a lot of issues with Damien Maia’s ground game at UFC 211. Usman will have to contend with the far superior striking game from Masvidal and Usman hasn’t had to contend with a strike first type fighter in awhile, as his last two opponents (Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley) generally favor the ground game over fisticuffs.
Prediction: The odds favor the champion retaining the title, but I have to wonder if those odds are strictly based on Masvidal accepting the fight on a week’s notice. Masvidal is going to come out of the gates swinging in my opinion, while Usman will look to ground him as short as possible. I am going with Masvidal to pull the upset, finishing Usman with strikes either in the fourth or fifth round.
UFC Featherweight Championship
Alexander Volkanovski (21-1-0) (Current Odds: -220) vs. Max Holloway (21-5-0) (Current Odds: +176)
Until the main event was restructured, it was this fight that I was looking forward to the most on the whole UFC 251 card. Volkanovski, who shocked the world by unseating one of the greatest featherweights of all time at UFC 245, is looking to do it one more time against Holloway at UFC 251. Volkanovski won the first encounter with a solid mix of striking and takedown attempts, which stifled the usually solid striking game produced by Holloway. Holloway has claimed that this training camp for UFC 251 was hugely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which is something that Volkanovski isn’t buying, but if Holloway is on the level with this claim, it could spell doom for Holloway. Holloway, who was also dealing with a serious health issue that forced him to pull out of a few fights in the last year-plus, hasn’t seemed like the same fighter who demolished Brian Ortega at UFC 231. The real question in this fight is can Volkanovski pull off the same strategy against Holloway and can Holloway find a way to defend against it while also being offensively sound or will Volkanovski have to have a completely new game plan for Holloway to figure out?
Prediction: Both fighters are in different spots since their first meeting, with Volkanovski taking on the role as defending champion, while Holloway takes on the role as a challenger. Holloway’s striking game, when it is on point, is easily one of the best in the featherweight division, while Volkanovski’s isn’t anything to laugh at either. I am going with Holloway to regain the title here, out striking Volkanovski on route to a unanimous decision win.
UFC Bantamweight Championship
Petr Yan (14-1-0) (Current Odds: -240) vs. Jose Aldo (28-6-0) (Current Odds: +192)
Perhaps the worst booked fight of the UFC 251 card takes place in the bantamweight division as Petr Yan faces former UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC Bantamweight Championship. Aldo, who is winless thus far when competing at bantamweight, faces a fighter who has gone 6-0-0 when competing in the UFC Bantamweight Division. Aldo is also a former UFC Featherweight Champion and has far more championship fight experience when compared to Yan. Aldo, in my opinion, didn’t look like the Aldo of old when he debuted at bantamweight against Marlon Moraes at UFC 245, while Yan has finished three of six in his UFC stint. The real question is can Aldo, who has won three of his last eight in the UFC, return to classic form, because if he can, it will be a bad time in the Octagon for Yan. Yan has been a killer since coming to the UFC, becoming the first fighter to knockout Urijah Faber in his professional MMA career.
Prediction: I am a huge Jose Aldo fan and always will be, but time eventually catches up to everybody and Aldo is no exception. Yan, who is younger and deserves to be fighting for the title, will become the new champion with a unanimous decision win over Aldo.
Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) (Current Odds: +160) vs. Rose Namajunas (8-4-0) (Current Odds: -198)
The second of the two rematches on the UFC 251 takes place in the women’s strawweight division as former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade faces former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas. This duo met for the first time in the main event of UFC 237, which Andrade won via a viscous knockout slam on Namajunas. Andrade has gone on to lose the women’s strawweight title to Weili Zhang, while Namajunas has stayed out of the Octagon since their first encounter. I don’t see much of a strategy change for any fighter in the rematch, as Andrade will probably be the ruthless striker while Namajunas will look to pick her apart with strikes before getting the fight to the ground. Rematches can be tricky for both competitors, no matter who won the first encounter, because its usually the one who makes the better changes that will win the rematch, but neither fighter has showed a propensity for change after suffering other defeats.
Prediction: Jessica Andrade has a striking style and power that could prove to be a problem for any women in any weight class in the UFC, while Namajunas has a solid striking game with an even better ground game. Namajunas will look strong early in the fight, but Andrade’s powerful striking game will wear on her, as Andrade scores a second round TKO to win the rematch.
Amanda Ribas (9-1-0) (Current Odds: -950) vs. Paige VanZant (8-4-0) (Current Odds: +600)
For the first time in about eighteen months, Paige VanZant will step back into the Octagon and face a stiff test in Amanda Ribas. Ribas, while obviously being the lesser known fighter of the two, has already scored big wins in the UFC over Mackenzie Dern, Emily Whitmire and Randa Markos. VanZant, who has been hampered by arm injuries in the last few years, also has some quality wins over Felice Herrig, Bec Rawlings and Alex Chambers. There are two big questions lingering in this fight, with those being the status of VanZant’s arm and the looming free agency looming over her head as PVZ enters the Octagon on Saturday Night. Ribas has no serious injuries or free agency questions lingering as she enters the Octagon, meaning her focus should be all on the fight when the two collide in the Octagon on Saturday Night.
Prediction: Paige VanZant is entering the Octagon, potentially for the final time, with something big to prove to both herself and her doubters, while Ribas is laser focused on picking up the most notable win of her UFC tenure. I am predicting a massive upset in this one as PVZ guts through several big moments from Ribas to score a split decision win.
If all five of my predictions come true on Saturday Night, a $10 parlay bet on Jorge Masvidal, Max Holloway, Petr Yan, Jessica Andrade and Paige VanZant will bring you a winning amount of approximately $2,338.35 according to Fan Duel.
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