After Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed from UFC 251’s main event title fight against Kamaru Usman, most assumed the welterweight title would no longer be on the line this Saturday. Not so.
Enter Jorge Masvidal. Perhaps the UFC’s most high profile welterweight.
Masvidal has officially passed a mandatory COVID-19 test, so now the man they call Street Jesus — who most recently beat Nate Diaz for the one-off BMF title — will be replacing Gilbert Burns and facing off against Usman in the main event of UFC 251.
Which is great news for fans. Usman versus Masvidal is the fight most people wanted to see in the first place. Previous negotiations between UFC boss Dana White and Masvidal had gone awry, forcing White to go with Burns instead, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it looks like White and Masvidal got the deal done at the 11th hour. This blockbuster title fight is now a go.
Right now Masvidal is one of the most charismatic and high profile fighters in the UFC, so this one should be a biggie. As a style match-up it’s fascinating. Masvidal is a striker with world-class take down defense. Usman is a grinding wrestler, with a great gas tank and an evolving kickboxing game. Given this is a short-notice fight for Masvidal, Usman will be the betting favorite — but remember what happened the last time Masvidal faced off against a grinding wrestler?
You’d be crazy to write off Masvidal here.
But as of today, another interesting wrinkle: Masvidal’s head coach Mike Brown just tested positive for COVID-19. Not sure how that’ll impact the fight at this point, but worth noting.
How to watch UFC 251
This year the UFC entered a new partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you want to watch UFC live in the US.
In the US, if you’re looking to watch UFC 251, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site.
Existing yearly ESPN Plus subscribers can order the upcoming UFC fight for $65.
Existing monthly ESPN Plus subscribers will be able to either upgrade to an annual plan and buy UFC PPV for $85 or purchase the ability to watch UFC PPV for $65 by itself.
New ESPN Plus subscribers can buy a bundle of one UFC PPV event (streaming in HD) and an ESPN Plus annual recurring subscription for $85. The ESPN Plus annual ESPN subscription will autorenew after one year, at the price of an ESPN Plus annual subscription at the time of autorenewal.
What about the undercard?
It’s fantastic. The main card in particular is spectacular, packing three title fights. Max Holloway attempts to regain his featherweight crown against current champ Alexander Volkanovski. Absolute banger. Petr Yan versus Jose Aldo might not be the bantamweight title fight most MMA experts wanted, but it’s a great match-up featuring two of the best strikers in the UFC.
We also get to see the return of former strawweight queen Rose Namajunas. Man. This is a UFC card for the ages and you’d be crazy to miss it.