After weeks of speculation, the UFC’s Fight Island has been revealed a trio of title fights has been announced for UFC 251 will take place at the Fight Island.

UFC President Dana White made the announcement last week via Twitter. According to White, Fight Island is Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and the UFC will be initially holding four events there beginning with UFC 251 on July 11, 2020.

Three title fights will headline UFC 251 including a welterweight title bout between champion Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns.

Usman was supposed to defend his belt against either Jorge Masvidal or Leon Edwards. The negotiations with Masvidal already began but it stalled and now Masvidal is in a row with the UFC over his contract. On the other hand, White reached out to Edwards but the lockdown in London has prevented Edwards from traveling and training. When it was offered to him, Rocky reportedly turned down the short notice bout.

Meanwhile, Burns is coming off a big upset over former Tyron Woodley and it appears that the Brazilian is in the right place at the right time. With Masvidal and Edwards unable to take the fight, Burns was next in line and he immediately grabbed the chance of a lifetime.

“Fighting" Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman is the current UFC welterweight champion. The Nigerian Nightmare won the belt after defeating Woodley at UFC 235. Since then, he’s made one successful title defense at UFC 245 when he manhandled former interim UFC welterweight champion, Colby Covington, at UFC 245.

Usman is a TUF alumnus. He won The Ultimate Fighter 21 tournament in 2015, submitting Hayder Hassan at the TUF 21 Finale on July 12, 2015. The former NCAA Division II wrestling champion is unbeaten in 10 octagon appearances and he has won 15 bouts overall. Usman has not lost a bout since he submitted by Jose Caceres in his second MMA fight at CFA 11 in 2013.

The Nigerian Nightmare is six feet tall with a reach of 76 inches and is a switch-hitter. Usman lands an average of 4.6 significant strikes per minute at a 52% accuracy. He has a striking defense of 60% and absorbs only 2.16 significant strikes per minute. On the ground, he is a relentless takedown machine, averaging 3.44 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 50% takedown accuracy and a 100% takedown defense.

Usman is 16-1 with seven knockouts and one win via submission. He is 10-0 with two knockouts under the UFC and his last six fights were wins over Sergio Moraes, Emil Weber Meek, Demian Maia, Rafael Dos Anjos, Woodley, and Covington. Usman has picked up two post-fight bonuses in his last three bouts.

Usman has been the betting favorite in 10 out of his 11 UFC bouts so being the opening favorite here is nothing new to the Nigerian Nightmare. The only time that Usman has been an underdog in the UFC was when he challenged Woodley for the belt. He won that fight with a bell to bell domination of Woodley.

What are the Moneyline Odds?





Odds were taken from Bovada as of 06/17/2020

“Fighting" Gilbert Burns

Gilbert Burns is the new #1 ranked welterweight contender in the UFC. The 33-year old from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil moved up in ranking after an impressive one-sided beatdown of former champion Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 9 just last May 30, 2020. In that bout, Burns outclassed Woodley for five rounds and picked up a wide unanimous decision victory over Woodley.

Burns is one of the best grapplers in the UFC today. He is a multiple-time grappling world champion and was a 2011 World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion. He first appeared as the grappling coach for Vitor Belfort’s team during the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and later joined the UFC in 2014.

Durinho stands 5-10 tall and has a reach of 71 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He lands an average of 3.15 significant strikes per minute with a 46% accuracy. Burns absorbs 2.74 significant strikes per minute and has a 56% striking defense. On the ground, he averages 2.21 takedowns per 15 minutes and is 37% accurate with his takedowns with a 50% takedown defense.

He owns a record of 19-3 with six knockouts and eight submission victories. He started his UFC career with a 6-3 octagon record but has won six consecutive bouts. His last three assignments have produced impressive victories over Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia, and Woodley. With those wins, he’s climbed up the rankings and is now set to challenge Usman at UFC 251.

Since moving up to welterweight, Burns has been the underdog in two of four 170-pound fights. He won all four bouts including last May’s triumph over Woodley where he closed as a +150 underdog. Being the dog here isn’t new territory for the Brazilian and he is used to beating the odds.

“Fighting" How Will This Fight Unfold?

Both these men fought and beat Woodley and they did so in back to back fights. Usman dethroned Woodley while Burns dealt the Chosen One his second straight octagon defeat last month. Both also defeated Woodley by wide and identical scores: 50-44, 50-44, and 50-45 against T-Wood. Usman and Burns also took down Woodley to the ground twice during their bouts.

It’s no surprise why Usman is favored here because not only did he dethrone Woodley, he also stopped the Covington hype train and he has the UFC belt that every welterweight wants. Usman has also fought better competition in the UFC. Burns has not fought the same level of opposition as Usman but he’s been on a torrid run as of late. His second-best win was against a washed-up Demian Maia, but if he performs as he did against Woodley, he is a live underdog in this fight.

Please Note

Usman has evolved in his tenure with the UFC. He began his octagon career strictly as a wrestler. He recorded 17 takedowns in his first three UFC bouts but in the last couple of years, he has shown a very improved striking game. Usman outstruck Woodley and then he knocked out Covington.

Similarly, Burns had the same career path. He was known as a high-level submission expert when he entered the UFC but in his recent bouts, he has shown tremendous improvement on his feet. He has three knockouts and one submission in his last eight wins. His striking isn’t at the elite level yet but he has power which rocked Woodley several times.

Burns looked terrific against Woodley but Usman is a much more active fighter than the Chosen One so he won’t be a standing target for Burns here. But if Burns can land his power punches, this could turn out to be an interesting title bout.

There’s no question that Usman will still go for his takedowns here because that is his bread and butter. However, I don’t think he’ll want to stay long on the mat against a world champion grappler like Burns so I expect this fight to be fought mostly on the feet.

Usman not only has the more polished striking but he also has a significant advantage in reach here. If he doesn’t find success on the ground, expect Usman to paw away at Burns. We’ve seen the champion carry his pace in a five-round bout and while Burns went five-round with Woodley, I’m not 100% sure his cardio will hold against the relentless Usman.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman

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