While most of the attention has been on the UFC 251 headlining bout between bitter rivals Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal, who will square off with the UFC welterweight title on the line, there are three former champions on Saturday’s card that will look to regain their footing in a sport they once dominated.
— UFC (@ufc) July 11, 2020
Aldo, 33, is the former UFC featherweight king.
After winning the WEC featherweight belt in November 2009, Aldo fought twice more in the promotion before it was absorbed by the UFC. He then defended the belt seven times between 2011 and 2014, and was considered by many the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Jose Aldo after he won at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro
What a scene pic.twitter.com/tYXVxKObYr
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) July 8, 2020
At UFC 194 in December 2015, Aldo famously lost the belt to UFC superstar Conor McGregor in 13 seconds, but Jose bounced back to win the interim featherweight title in his next fight, a decision win over another UFC legend, Frankie Edgar, at UFC 200 in July 2016.
However, Aldo lost the belt via TKO to Holloway at UFC 212 in June 2017, and once again lost via TKO to Holloway in December of the same year. Since then, Aldo is 2-2 in his last four fights.
But Saturday, Aldo can return to the mountaintop with a win over rising UFC star Petr Yan, as the two will face off with the recently vacated UFC bantamweight title on the line. The 27-year old Yan is on a 9-fight winning streak and is the favorite at -213 to knock off Aldo, according to FOX Bet.
Is it time for a new generation!?
— UFC (@ufc) July 11, 2020
While Aldo’s reign at featherweight might have been ended by McGregor, Conor never ruled the division. After defeating Aldo, the Irish superstar never defended the 145-pound belt and hasn’t fought at featherweight since that victory.
It was Holloway that became the new king at featherweight. He defeated Anthony Pettis to win the interim 145-pound strap at UFC 206 in December 2016, before defeating Aldo twice and then defeating Brian Ortega at UFC 231 and Edgar at UFC 240.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 4, 2020
But in his most recent outing, Holloway’s reign at the top of the division came crashing down at the hands of Alexander Volkanovski, whom he will take on Saturday with a chance to regain his crown.
Volkanovski, 31, defeated Holloway, 28, via unanimous decision at UFC 245 in December of last year, in a fight that not many people thought was close. He hasn’t tasted defeat since May 2013, and he is on a 8-fight winning streak in the UFC.
In their first meeting, @alexvolkanovski derailed the “Blessed Express” 🚂
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 11, 2020
Volkanovski is favored to defend is belt at -200, according to FOX Bet.
The third former champion that will take the cage on Saturday night is former UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, who took the division by storm when she knocked out strawweight queen Joanna Jędrzejczyk in the first round at UFC 217 in November 217.
After winning the strawweight belt at UFC 185 in March 2015, Jędrzejczyk defended the belt five times in dominant fashion, before falling to Namajunas in a major upset.
The two immediately ran it back and Namajunas proved her first win was no fluke, this time defeating Jędrzejczyk via unanimous decision at UFC 223 in April 2018.
While she seemed poised to be the strawweight champion for years to come, and she actually dominated the first round in her second title defense against Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 in May 2019, Namajunas hopes came crashing down with one nasty slam from Andrade.
Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade’s first fight was WILD and ended with a huge slam 😱
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 5, 2020
Andrade, 28, has since loss the strawweight belt, so Saturday’s fight is nothing more than an opportunity for Namajunas, 28, to exact revenge on an opponent who ended their first fight so violently.
FOX Bet has Namajunas as the favorite at -188.
The rebuilding of Rose Namajunas: https://t.co/OR8jFTDT7z
— The Athletic MMA (@TheAthleticMMA) July 9, 2020
Saturday will serve as a proving ground for three former champions, all looking to regain their mojo.
We’ll see if Fight Island can turn into paradise for each of the three UFC superstars.