For the first time in over two months, this weekend’s UFC event takes place away from the Apex in Las Vegas. On Saturday night UFC® 261: USMAN vs. MASVIDAL 2 will be held in Jacksonville in front of a sold-out Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. With three titles on the line, fans are in for a special treat on their return to live action.
Gamebred for revenge
The welterweight title is on the line as Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman aims to retain his belt against Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal.
Coming into this bout with the longest active winning streak in UFC, at 13 straight, Usman will need to maintain his elite performance levels against a worthy opponent. In his career he has successfully defended all 20 takedown attempts against him in the UFC. He is the only fighter in UFC history with 10 or more appearances with zero opponent ground control time. He is offensively relentless too, his strike rate is frightening – in his title defence against Colby Covington he landed 175 significant strikes, which is the 5th most ever in one UFC welterweight bout.
Jorge Masvidal has won three of his last four bouts and will be focussing on utilising his offensive firepower to win this one. Masvidal recorded the fastest ever UFC knockout in only five seconds, with a flying knee against Ben Askren, and would love to repeat that feat. In his career he has recorded 16 wins via KO and two by submission, eight of those finishes coming in the first round. Masvidal is powerful and unforgiving, and the champion, Usman, will need to be at his best to retain his title against the no.4 ranked welterweight contender.
The co main card sees two of the top five pound-for-pound female UFC athletes clash, as “Magnum” Zhang Weili defends her belt against Rose “Thug” Namajunas.
After a loss in her first professional bout Zhang Weili is unbeaten since, winning her last 21 bouts. She has dominated the strawweight division and has recorded 17 finishes in her career so far with 10 KOs and seven via submission, 11 of these coming in the first round. Her ability to control bouts is a major factor in her success, she boasts the fourth largest strike differential and fourth highest strike rate in UFC strawweight history. She will be hoping to assert that dominance to continue her incredible win streak.
Namajunas, who approaches this bout with momentum on her side, will be confident she can make this a thrilling encounter. She has won seven of her last nine and has racked up a reputation for being an exciting athlete, securing five post-fight bonuses. She has the most finishes in UFC strawweight history with four. She is efficient when taking down her opponents, succeeding in over half of her takedown attempts (53.3%) and her 16 successful takedowns is the 6thmost in strawweight history. She will likely need to utilise her versatility in order to claim the belt on Saturday.
Bite the Bullet
The third greatly anticipated title fight on this card has the flyweight belt on the line, as Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko is challenged by Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade.
The champ is flying, having won six bouts in a row and 13 of her last 15. Shevchenko has looked unstoppable in the flyweight division, boasting a 6-0 record. She has the highest strike accuracy and strike absorption rate in flyweight history as well as the highest takedown accuracy, which has contributed to her achieving the most takedowns in flyweight history. She is aggressive, persistent and has the versatility to keep her opponents on their toes.
In only her second flyweight bout, Jessica Andrade could quickly establish herself as a serious player in the flyweight division. The former strawweight champ held a 7-3 record before stepping up a weight class. She is explosive and entertaining to watch, her seven post-fight bonuses being the most in UFC strawweight history. She has finished 15 of her 21 career victories, seven via submission and eight via knockout. These two athletes are very entertaining to watch and have similar styles, which should make for yet another excellent bout on this card.