For the first time in over a year, there will be a full house for a UFC event. UFC 261 will have no attendance restrictions due to COVID, so we will see as many as 15,000 people in attendance to watch three title fights. Kamaru Usman will face Jorge Masvidal for the welterweight title, Zhang Weili will take on Rose Namajunas for the women’s strawweight belt, and Valentina Shevchenko will defend her women’s flyweight strap against Jessica Andrade.
UFC 261 will be held on Saturday, April 24, 2021 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The early prelims will start at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and the prelims proper will begin at 8 p.m. ET. The main event will be available via PPV through ESPN Plus at 10 p.m. ET.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
Usman (18-1) lost his second professional fight, but he has since reeled off 17 straight wins on his way to becoming the UFC welterweight champion. The Nigerian Nightmare (sorry Christian Okoye) proved he was the best welterweight with his unanimous decision victory over Tyron Woodley at UFC 235, and he has successfully defended his belt three times. Usman secured a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245, won a unanimous decision over Masvidal at UFC 251 last July, and picked up a third-round TKO of Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in February.
The last time Masvidal stepped into the ring with Usman, he was kept in the clinch for most of the bout. Masvidal filled in for Burns a week before the fight after the latter tested positive for COVID, and he didn’t fare too well. However, the current BMF champion is hoping that a longer training plan with more prep work will help him here.
Masvidal won three straight fights in spectacular fashion before the loss to Usman. His five-second KO win over Ben Askren is the fastest knockout in UFC history, and he also earned knockout wins over Darren Till and Nate Diaz. He is always a threat to knock out opponents with his explosive power, but Usman is a very disciplined fighter.
Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas
Weili (21-1) lost her debut MMA fight before dominating the Chinese MMA scene. She went on to win the KLF and Top FC strawweight championships before transitioning to the UFC three years ago. She has won all five of her fights since joining the UFC, and Weili claimed the UFC women’s strawweight belt with a quick first-round TKO of Jessica Andrade in August 2019. Her first title defense at UFC 248 was a little rocky though, as she beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk by split decision.
This will be Rose Namajunas’ first fight against someone not named Joanna Jedrzejczyk or Jessica Andrade in four years. She won the UFC strawweight championship off Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217 in November 2017, and she successfully defended the belt in the rematch at UFC 223. Namajunas was then knocked out by Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 and lost the belt, but she did win the rematch against Andrade by split decision at UFC 251.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade
Over the last 10 years, Shevchenko has only lost in the Octagon twice. Both of those losses came to Amanda Nunes, but she has run roughshod over the rest of the competitors in the flyweight division. Shevchenko has won six straight fights at flyweight and has held the women’s flyweight title since securing a unanimous decision win over Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 in December 2018. We have seen her successfully defend the title against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, and Jennifer Maia without much trouble.
Andrade is a newcomer to flyweight. She previously took on Weili and Namajunas at strawweight, and she made the decision to drop down a class after losing those two bouts. Andrade beat Chookagian by first-round TKO in her flyweight debut six months ago, but Shevchenko has dominated this di