UFC Fight Island on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
UFC Fight Island on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Image Credit: USA TODAY

Dubai: The UFC pretty much delivered on its promise to host one of its overall best fight cards at the Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, on Sunday morning. Well, almost.

Given the massive hype that the event had generated thanks in the main with the never-held-before, three-title-fight main card, you would have expected plenty of fireworks which would culminate with a big bang. But instead, it did with nothing more than a whimper.

UFC Fight Island on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
UFC Fight Island on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Image Credit: USA TODAY

The reason being? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. The overhyped headliner between UFC welterweight champion and the fearsome Jorge Masvidal almost put me to sleep.

It was like watching a Mission: Impossible movie with a denouement so confounding that it left us feeling cheated, baffled, and just plain angry.

It reminded me of what Gilbert Burns, for whom Masvidal was a late coronavirus-enforced replacement, predicting it would be the most ‘boring fight’ at UFC 251.

I wondered just how lacklustre could an MMA fight be given the fact that the two protagonists were among the baddest men on the planet.

But Burns, who was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19, was dead right.

Jorge Masvidal lost to Kamaru Usman at UFC 251.
Jorge Masvidal lost to Kamaru Usman at UFC 251. Image Credit: Zuffa LLC

“I see Kamaru dominating, that’s what I see,” Burns had said. “I think a lot of people get a big expectation in this matchup, but the way I see the fight I’d even say it’s a boring fight.

“I’d say, Kamaru takes him down and smashes him on the cage. I don’t want that as a fan, but I believe it’s gonna be a boring fight, Kamaru controlling every aspect of the fight.”

Burns should seriously consider fortune telling as an alternative career, because that’s just what happened for 25 minutes.

I had set my clock to wake up just before 2am in the morning, and after a strong cup of Java coffee I was ready for some real pyrotechnics from inside the Yas Island Octagon.

Division: Bantamweight Davey Grant (9-4 MMA, 0-2 UFC) def. Martin Day (10-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) via knockout (punch) – Round 3, 2:38
Davey Grant defeated Martin Day.

The first fight in the history of ‘Fight Island’ was soon underway pitting Davey Grant and Martin Day against each other and both fighters wasted no time to swing at each other, while Day even attempted some eye-popping spinning kicks.

It was the perfect aperitif to what was to follow with some highly engaging fights, such as the light-heavyweight battle between Jiri Prochazka and Volkan Oezdemir at the top of the preliminaries and the absolute crackers featuring Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, Petr Yan and Jose Aldo, and the show-stopper of the day between the re-opposing Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway.

This was what the UFC is all about — pitching some of the best fighters on the planet together in guts-and-glory contests that made me thinking if I should have another Java to calm my nerves, which had started to jangle.

And it was still only roughly 8am in the morning, a time that I would normally be slipping into the deepest recesses of my sleep.

Alexander Volkanovski earned a split decision victory over Max Holloway at UFC 251.
Alexander Volkanovski earned a split decision victory over Max Holloway at UFC 251. Image Credit: Zuffa LLC

As we approached zero hour for the headliner, I was left reflecting on what were the best fights of the morning. Was it Prochazka’s second-round KO of Oezdemir? Or Grant’s third-round knockout of Day with less than 30 minutes remaining before the final gong.

Or was it the brilliant Rose Namajunas, who was at her best in exacting revenge over a very dangerous Jessica Andrade? Or Amanda Ribas who taught the UFC-exiting Paige VanZant a thing or two about mixed martial arts?

I would have to say the fight of the morning was delivered by Volkanovski and Holloway, but not the result, which went on the former’s favour.

Holloway was clearly ahead on strikes and Octagon control while Volkanovski made an impression with the power punches he threw.

But what scores a win, power or sheer volume and class, which Holloway had in abundance.

The less said about the Usman vs Masvidal fight the better, although I would take my hat off to the latter for accepting the fight at short notice to save Fight Island’s opening-day card, after Gilbert Burns was ruled out to COVID 19.