By: Dominic Choroski
The debut of “Fight Island” could not have asked for a better introduction. A stacked card with huge names, check. Great fights, check. Controversial decisions by judges and a ref, check. Other than the 3:00 am EST finish, UFC 251 had something for everyone. Here we will look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the weekend at Yas Island.
Makwan Amirkhani: One of the fighters who could be setting themselves up for a title fight is Mr. Finland. Needing to bounce back after suffering the first knockout loss of his career, he did just that. Amirkhani became just the third fight in UFC history to gain two wins by anaconda chokehold on Saturday. He also won some respect points by helping his opponent, Danny Henry, gain consciousness after the fight. A submission technician, he is electric to watch, and now with a 16-4 record, 6-2 in the UFC, Amirkhani looks to throw his hat in the ring for the Featherweight title saying post-fight, “I’m aiming for the belt.”
Rose Namajunas: The fight of the night came from the Women’s Strawweight division. The rematch between Namajunas and Jéssica Andrade was not a title fight but certainly felt like it. High octane from beginning to end, “Thug Rose” owned the first two rounds but then was scrambling in the third when Andrade started landing bombs. Winning by split-decision Rose avenges her loss to Andrade and gained praise from Dana White. Could Rose be a contender to take on current champion Weili Zhang, we will see?
Jorge Masvidal: The only fighter to lose their bout but still be considered one of my big winners is Street Jesus himself. Here is why taking a fight against the best in the champ and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on just six days notice takes a lot of guts and gains you respect with other fighters and fans. Masvidal, who previously had some friction with the UFC, signed a new deal and proved that his name moves the needle. This fight sets up a possible rematch with Usman because the consensus seems to be that if Masvidal had a full training camp to prepare the fight would look very different. Either way, Jorge is one of the UFC’s darlings and is an easy sell, so expect to see more of Street Jesus in the future.
Volkan Oezdemir: The seventh-ranked light heavyweight in the UFC will not have that ranking anymore. Oezdemir lost by KO to Jiri Prochazka, who was making his UFC debut. What makes things worse is the fashion in which the fight went. Showboating and toying with Oezdemir was the plan from the jump, which feels like salt in the wound when you remember there were no fans in attendance. Any shot Oezdemir had at working his way into the title conversation is wiped away and could end up being the stepping stone to launch Prochazka into fame.
José Aldo: Aldo is one of the greatest fighters of all time. However, it is starting to feel like a case of not knowing when to call it quits. Aldo took on Petr Yan for the vacant Bantamweight Champion Belt, and while the fight was exciting and Aldo had a great performance, watching him get TKO’d in the fifth round, which should have been stopped earlier, was rough. No one wants to watch one of the G.O.A.Ts ruin their legacy, and that’s what’s happening here. Saturday’s loss makes three in a row for Aldo. He has also lost five of his last seven bouts.
Max Holloway: The controversial finish of the night came from the Featherweight title bout between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski. Holloway was robbed of the title that he earned and should have won. Dana White came out after the event and spoke against the judges saying, “You can’t leave it to these guys. We’ve got some bad judging.” Due to controversy around the outcome of the fight, we will undoubtedly see Holloway vs. Volkanovski II, but until then Holloway has to live with being robbed of a championship belt.