UFC 251: Matches to Make
Written by Dillon Louw (@TheMMA_Arsenal) — July 30th 2020
The majorly anticipated UFC 251 card played out a few weeks ago, and it didn’t fail to impress. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defended the throne against Jorge Masvidal in dominant fashion. The long-awaited featherweight rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway saw Volkanovski win a widely disputed (albeit correct) decision. And finally, the Siberian gangster, Petr Yan finished Brazilian legend Jose Aldo in impressive fashion.
Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at some potential matchups for the winners and losers of this card.
Paige van Zant
I won’t be spending much time dwelling on this one, as Paige van Zant will most likely never compete in the UFC again after getting blown out of the water by Amanda Ribas. I believe we’ll see Paige fight in Bellator in the future, if she doesn’t pursue Instagram as a career.
Jessica Andrade fell short against Rose Namajunas in their rematch, but not without turning it into a proverbial dog fight. The former champion Andrade showed that although she has been beaten by two of the best fighters in the strawweight division, she still has a lot to offer.
This loss saw the Brazilian slide to #2 in the strawweight rankings. An intriguing potential matchup could see her squaring off with one of the most promising fighters in the division, Tatiana Suarez. This would make for a compelling matchup, as two of the division’s most gifted athletes go toe-to-toe. Tatiana, a phenomenal wrestler with a high-level jiu-jitsu game will pose many problems for Andrade. A win for either fighter could lead to a number one contender match.
The ‘King of Rio’ might have missed out on his opportunity to become a two-division world champion, but in the process he proved many doubters wrong, and showed that he still can compete at the highest level.
Now riding a 2 fight losing streak in the bantamweight division, Aldo should face fellow legend and WEC/UFC champion Dominick Cruz. This would make for a nostalgic yet relevant matchup, as both men make a final push at UFC gold. With two future hall of famers, I believe we (the fans) will get the most out of this bout if it is scheduled for 5 rounds.
The man we thought to be the face of the featherweight division for many years to come, has failed for the second time against Alexander Volkanovski. ‘Blessed’ adjusted his game plan well for the rematch, but it still didn’t prove to be enough.
Now 21–6, the #1 ranked featherweight will be aiming to reach the title by all means possible. With most of the upper echelon of this division already booked to fight each other, a matchup with Calvin Kattar makes the most sense. This will be a tremendous step-up in competition for Kattar, and he will be looking to stake his claim at the featherweight title.
Featuring two of the better boxers in the division, this will be a must see fight, guaranteeing fireworks and excellent exchanges. If Max can incorporate kicks to compliment his pressure boxing the way he did in the Volkanovski rematch, I see him giving Kattar a very hard time.
‘Gamebred’ failed to produce the goods against Kamaru Usman albeit on short notice, and I don’t believe there is much of a narrative for an immediate rematch. Now the #4 ranked welterweight, the Florida native will have to work for another shot at undisputed gold.
Before his fight with Usman, Masvidal said he would like the rematch with Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. Even though Masvidal wanted it to be a title defence, this still could prove to be a compelling matchup as both fighters are approaching the back end of their careers, and both still aim to become UFC champion.
Masvidal, losing his first match, believes he could do a lot better against Thompson than he showed back in 2017. This matchup will undoubtedly get the fans excited as two of the best strikers in the division go up against each other yet again. The winner could very well be rewarded with a number one contender match.
One of the brightest stars in a very stacked strawweight division showed us that there is a frightening gulf in class, comfortably disposing of Paige van Zant in the first round via submission. Ribas, now 4–0 in the UFC, will be looking for a step up in competition as she attempts to break into the top-10 of the division.
A matchup against the winner of the upcoming fight between Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill seems appropriate. Either opponent will be a good challenge for Ribas as she looks to extend her win streak to 6.
“Thug” Rose Namajunas came out on top following a back-and-forth war with the woman who dethroned her at UFC 237. Namajunas, having gotten her revenge in a fight of the night performance, will be looking to regain her title.
Therefore, a matchup with Strawweight champion Zhang Weili should be next. Weili, coming off a fight-of-the-year candidate in her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzeczjyk, will be looking for a second defense of her title against Namajunas. This will make for a compelling fight as power puncher Zhang Weili will be looking to shut Rose Namajunas’ lights out. A power puncher vs a technical striker always makes for a fun fight.
“No Mercy”, Petr Yan turned in an exceptional performance against MMA legend Jose Aldo, winning the fight by TKO in the 5th round. Yan proved his doubters wrong (myself included) by showing that he not only has the talent to be a world champion, but he also has the intangible qualities required: Toughness, grit and heart.
Next for Petr Yan has to be none one other than Aljamain Sterling. “Aljo” has proven that he is the rightful number-one contender, riding a 5 fight win streak, with 4 of the 5 opponents currently in the division’s top-10.
No other contender has a better case to make for a title shot than Aljo, and by taking this fight, Yan will be cementing his legacy as champion by fighting the rightful number-one contender.
Volkanovski, albeit controversially, proved that he is here to stay. He beat Max Holloway by split-decision in their rematch, and can put that chapter behind him for now. While there is controversy regarding the scoring of this fight, Scraptitude co-founder, Timothy E. Lewis said it best, Holloway won the fight, but lost the decision.
Volkanovski aims to clean out his division the old-fashioned way, by beating all the rightful contenders. For a clear-cut contender to arise, the UFC has two fights tentatively scheduled in the coming months, one being Yair Rodriguez vs Zabit Magomedsharipov and the other Brian Ortega vs “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
Both winners should be next in line, although I believe a number-one contender fight should have played out between Zabit and The Korean Zombie. The way the UFC has booked it will allow for 2 contenders to challenge Volkanovski. The one with the most impressive showing will probably get the shot first.
Kamaru Usman comfortably defended his title against Jorge Masvidal, making use of dominant clinchwork. Although not the most entertaining, Usman has proved to be one of, if not the most dominant champion currently in the UFC.
Next for The Nigerian Nightmare should be the fight that was booked before Masvidal stepped in, against Gilbert Burns. Burns, being a former teammate of Usman, will present a host of challenges. Now that Burns has tested negative for COVID-19, the UFC will wait for Usman’s medical suspension to pass, and then book this scrap.