UFC 261 – Usman vs. Masvidal 2 - Preview
Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute: The main card starts in the light heavyweight division with the young prospect Jimmy Crute looking to make a statement in the division against the former title challenger Anthony Smith. Despite being only 32, Anthony Smith is very much a veteran coming into his 51st professional mixed marital arts fight whereas Jimmy Crute will be making only his 14th appearance. Smith has shown over his career just how versatile he can be in his finishing with 18 wins by knockout and 13 by submission. Jimmy Crute has also shown this type of flexibility in his finishing with 5 wins by knockout and 4 by submission. This shows that both fighters will be comfortable wherever the fight ends up making it very difficult to call. I think Anthony Smith will be able to continue to build his momentum here and look to climb back up the rankings.
My prediction: Smith by KO
Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman: A rematch that has been 11 years in the making is up next in the middleweight division between the former champion Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall. Hall will be looking to continue his current form which has seen him win three in a row including a TKO win against another former world champion, Anderson Silva, whereas Weidman has been up and down in his last few performances and has only won twice since 2015 accumulating 5 losses during the same time. Hall is very much a striker and will look to finish the fight as he has done with 76% of his wins. Weidman will add more grappling into his game and will look to do damage in the clinch and look for takedowns to avoid the power shots. I think Uriah Hall will get his revenge in this fight and will have too much for Weidman who will not be able to last long on the feet with Hall.
My prediction: Hall by KO
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade: The first of three title fights on this card is for the women’s flyweight championship between the dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko and the former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade. Shevchenko makes her fifth title defence here in a division that she has cleaned out with relative ease. Andrade made the step up to flyweight in 2020 and finds herself in a title fight after only 1 fight in the division so far. Shevchenko is a heavy favourite for this fight and rightly so, being taller by 4-inches and having a 4.5 reach advantage will give her a great advantage on the feet. I expect Shevchenko to be patient and pick her shots carefully. Andrade will need to use her power and speed to close the distance and land her power shots inside the range of Shevchenko. This will be her best route to victory although I don’t think there will be a new champion in this fight.
My prediction: Shevchenko by KO
Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas: A very exciting fight for the women’s strawweight title is up next in the co-main event between the first Chinese UFC champion Zhang Weili and the former champion Rose Namajunas. Weili makes her second defence of the title tonight in what appears to be her toughest opponent to date. Both fighters love to strike averaging 6.38 and 4.13 significant strikes landed per minute respectively showing that this is going to be a battle and my pick for fight of the night. Weili is very much a volume striker, in that she does not necessarily have one punch knockout power but what she will do is hit regularly and wear down her opponent. Her fight of the year contender with Joanna Jędrzejczyk showcased this as well as her ability to last the full 25 minutes which is testament to her cardio. I think this fight will go the distance in what we will be a back-and-forth battle which will come down to who can land the most and do the most damage. Namajunas has a higher takedown average than Weili as well as 5 wins by submission which she may see as her route to regaining her championship, however, I don’t think she will be able to take Weili down and keep her there for a significant amount of time if she does try this.
My prediction: Weili by DEC
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal: The main event of the evening brings a rematch between the welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and the “BMF” Jorge Masvidal. Whilst not being the most entertaining fight last time out, Usman showed he has what it takes to grind out wins in unfashionable style which stands as a good indicator of a great champion. Usman knows that if he stands and trades punch for punch with Masvidal he is less likely to retain his championship, whereas if he uses his superior wrestling ability, he will increase his chances of winning tenfold. Despite not making for a great watch at times it is certainly effective, and I believe will be the strategy coming into this again. Masvidal will need to avoid getting caught in this trap like he did last time and use his takedown defence to stuff the first few attempts, if he can stuff the takedowns and then put the pressure on with punches whilst Usman recovers then he will do a lot of damage. The main line from Masvidal is now he has had a full training camp he will win, from their previous fight and fights before that I think the gap in skill level is too big, in favour of Usman, for a full training camp to be enough for Masvidal to win. The key for Masvidal will be to frustrate the wrestling of Usman and not get caught for too long in the clinch or on the ground otherwise I can see this going in a similar way to their first fight.
My prediction: Usman by DEC
Written by Luke Penny