UFC 251 kicks off the long-awaited slate of events from Fight Island (which is just Yas Island, Abu Dhabi). The card is headlined by three title fights and Cageside Press has its picks set.

Staff Writers
Ribas vs. VanZant
Andrade vs. Namajunas
Yan vs. Aldo
Volkanovski vs. Holloway
Usman vs. Masvidal
Ryan Fortune (62-23)
Keith Shillan (60-25)
Joe McDonagh (53-32)
Jay Anderson (51-34)
Ryan Jarrell (17-11)
Eddie Law (31-22)
Josh Evanoff (49-36)
Dylan Bowker (40-31)
Gabriel Gonzalez (47-38)
Justin Gibbons (27-22)
Dan Doherty (44-36)

Jorge Masvidal saved the day on less than a week’s notice. After Gilbert Burns pulled out of UFC 251 after testing positive for COVID-19, Masvidal stepped up and received his first title shot in the UFC against impressive champion Kamaru Usman. This will be Usman’s second defense of his welterweight title. Usman was favored by all but two writers.

The co-main event is a highly-anticipated rematch for the featherweight title after Alexander Volkanovski stopped Max Holloway’s dominant reign. Volkanovski has yet to lose since joining the UFC in 2016. That win over Holloway stopped the former champion’s legendary 14-fight win streak in the feaherweight division. Volkanovski was picked by seven of 11 writers.

Following Henry Cejudo’s sudden retirement, the bantamweight belt was vacated. The belt will leave on someone’s shoulders tonight as Petr Yan takes on the legendary Jose Aldo. Yan has wasted no time, going 6-0 in the Octagon since signing with the promotion in 2018. Aldo has lost four of his last six including a controversial decision loss to Marlon Moraes in his bantamweight debut. Yan was picked by seven of 11 writers.

Another rematch takes place on the main card as Rose Namajunas looks to settle the score against Jessica Andrade in a battle of former strawweight champions. Namajunas was decisively winning their first fight before a brutal slam knockout for Andrade. All but three writers picked Namajunas.

Opening up the main card is the return of Paige VanZant as she takes on talented Brazilian Amanda Ribas. Ribas is 3-0 in the UFC with impressive wins over Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos. It’s been a year and a half since VanZant last fought due to an arm injury, but she is coming off a win over Rachael Ostovich. Ribas was unanimously picked.