The UFC is back with another title triple-header with UFC 261, and this time around, there will be close to 15,000 fans in attendance.
In the main event, welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman defends his title in a rematch with Jorge Masvidal. In the co-main event, Chinese sensation Zhang Weili defends her strawweight title against Rose Namajunas, and in the third title fight on the card, Valentina Shevchenko takes on a gritty challenger in Jessica Andrade.
All three fights are extremely competitive, and guarantee to keep the fans on the edge of their seats.
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal 2
In their first meeting, Jorge Masvidal stepped in on one week’s notice to face Kamaru Usman at UFC 251. With less than a week to prepare for the biggest fight of his career, ‘Gamebred’ lost via unanimous decision. With a full training camp this time around, Masvidal plans to shock the world. But can he?
Kamaru Usman’s Keys To Victory
Control The Clinch: In their first fight, Usman did a great job of controlling the fight from the start by winning early in the clinch and tying Masvidal up against the cage. Come UFC 261, he needs to do the exact same thing because Masvidal’s going to be the more efficient fighter in the striking range, with better conditioning. Everyone knows what Masvidal is capable of on the feet, therefore, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ will have to close the distance quickly, push him against the cage and try to take him down.
Wrestling: This one’s also obvious, because Usman wouldn’t want to stand-and-bang with Masvidal, although he has made massive improvements to his game under Trevor Wittman. Masvidal will enter the Octagon this weekend in a much superior condition than the last time, and he wouldn’t have much problem engaging in a striking contest with Usman for 25 minutes. He would also be prepared for wrestling, but Usman can take him down more effectively if he shoots from the center of the Octagon.
Push The Pace: Usman is a cardio freak. He can ‘keep the same energy’ throughout the fight, and that, coupled with his strength, can work wonders for the champion. Masvidal will come all guns blazing at him, so the Nigerian-American needs to put pressure on him right from the word go.
"It's not done."
— UFC (@ufc) April 20, 2021
Jorge Masvidal’s Keys To Victory
Keep The Fight On The Feet: Easier said than done, this is Masvidal’s best route to victory at UFC 261. Usman is no slouch on the feet, but Masvidal has been striking his entire life. He’s the faster, more technical and extremely unpredictable striker. He’s not a big welterweight but he surely has the power to shut any of his counterparts’ lights out. Should he keep the fight on the feet, which will be a very tough task, Masvidal has a great chance of winning this fight.
Takedown Defence: Masvidal is a hard man to take down, even for a wrestler as talented as Usman. In their first fight, Masvidal stuffed 11 takedowns from Usman, and that too on one week’s notice. Having had more time to prepare this time around, Masvidal will definitely be ready for everything Usman throws his way. However, avoiding takedowns is half the job. He also needs to sweep, get back to his feet quickly and sting Usman on the break.
Start Aggressively: Usman tends to age like fine wine during fights. Therefore, the logical thing for Masvidal to do is to attack him and be aggressive from the start at UFC 261, right when Usman isn’t settled. If he lands clean, the fight may not even go past the first round. It’ll be a tricky strategy, but one which could work wonders.
— UFC (@ufc) April 21, 2021
Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas
Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas is one of the most intriguing matchups in all of women’s MMA. It’s a fight between two extremely high-level martial artists in their prime.
Zhang Weili’s Keys To Victory
Push The Pace: Zhang Weili’s chess match with Rose Namajunas is going to reveal a lot about her championship caliber at UFC 261. She’s an elite fighter, that we know, but is she truly the best strawweight in the world? To beat Namajunas, the Chinese sensation will have to push the pace. Rose has great lateral movement, and is very quick with her in-and-out movement, particularly early on. Zhang can either choose to patiently wait for her opportunities or pressure her opponent to force mistakes out of her.
Control The Clinch: This is where Zhang Weili has the clear advantage at UFC 261. Namajunas is a very technical fighter, but she isn’t the strongest. On the other hand, Zhang Weili is extremely strong, particularly with her upper body clinch. That will provide opportunities for her to land knees and elbows and control the fight. Ideally, Zhang should focus on upper body clinch, and not take the risk of taking the fight to the ground, because Namajunas is one of the best grapplers in the division. However, she can use her strength to her advantage on the mat too.
Is another Fight of the Year on deck? 🏆
— UFC (@ufc) April 22, 2021
Namajunas’ Keys To Victory
Lateral Movement: While Zhang will try to push the pace given the aggressive striker she is, Namajunas needs to put her dancing shoes on. She needs to use her in-and-out movement to sting Zhang without getting hurt. She also needs to rely heavily on leg kicks. She’s the taller and longer fighter, with two inch advantage in arm reach and four inch advantage in leg reach. Her kicking game will be vital against Zhang, as it would keep her up on the judges’ scorecards and compromise her opponent’s movement at the same time.
Grappling: Namajunas has five submission wins in her career, and she’s very sharp on the ground. She does have a slight technical advantage on the mat, therefore, if she can take the champion down somehow, she can submit her. Although it will be a very tough task.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko has been on a dominant run in the flyweight division, but even the slightest of mistakes could end her reign against the powerful Jessica Andrade. It’s pure technique vs brute force, and these sort of fights are often unpredictable.
Keys To Victory For Valentina Shevchenko
Stay Light On Her Feet: Jessica Andrade looked significantly bigger and more powerful against Katlyn Chookagian in her flyweight debut last year. She definitely has found her best self at 125lbs and will be a problem for years to come. At present however, she will be aiming for Shevchenko’s head, but there’s a reason why the champion goes by the moniker of ‘Bullet’. Andrade will lunge at the champion with mean intentions, so Shevchenko needs to quickly move out of the way of her opponent’s strikes and counter. She can do that all night.
Kicking: In her title fight with Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Andrade struggled against all sorts of kicks, for example, body kicks, front kicks, head kicks and leg kicks. Joanna was hitting her with some mean kicks as the Brazilian walked her down. Andrade will try to walk Valentina down too, and that’s where the champion needs to throw some mean kicks. Valentina is extremely fast with her kicks, and her strikes are more powerful than Joanna’s. Maybe we’ll get to see another head kick knockout from the champion.
Is another Fight of the Year on deck? 🏆
— UFC (@ufc) April 22, 2021
Keys To Victory For Jessica Andrade
Brawl: Realistically, Andrade is outgunned in all areas. Shevchenko is the better fighter everywhere, despite the Brazilian being the more powerful out of the two. Andrade’s best chance of winning is engaging in a reckless brawl with Valentina, trying to pressure her and going for the kill. It’ll be extremely hard because Valentina manages distance really well, but it’s the best thing to do for the challenger.
Cut Off The Cage: Andrade does a great job of pressuring her opponents against the cage, because she’s got heavy hands. However, she more often than not provides the escape routes to her opponents, instead of going for the kill while her foe is locked up against the fence. Against a striker as elite as Shevchenko, who relies heavily on her movement, Andrade needs to cut off the cage efficiently, and then land her shots.
What are your predictions for UFC 261, featuring Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal 2, Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade?