UFC 261 Preview: Usman vs. Masvidal 2

By Nick Dinisco, UFC contributor

Date: Saturday, April 24th

Location: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL

Time: Preliminary Card begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, Main Card begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV

Just nine months after meeting at UFC 251 on short notice, Kamaru Usman (18-1) and Jorge Masvidal (35-14) will square off in a welterweight title fight rematch to headline UFC 261. The matchup will occur in front of a full crowd for the first time in over a year, with three total title fights on the card. The strawweight belt will be on the line as Zhang Weili (21-1) will defend her title against Rose Namajunas (10-4). In the third title fight of the night, we will see Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) defend her belt against challenger, Jessica Andrade (21-8) in the flyweight championship. 

Usman vs Masvidal

This highly anticipated matchup will happen for a second time with the title once again hanging in the balance, only this time both fighters will have had equal time to prepare.

Usman recently improved his undefeated record in the UFC to 13-0 with a victory over his former teammate, Gilbert Burns. After UFC 258, Usman has successfully defended his title three consecutive times and remains three fights behind Anderson Silva’s record of consecutive fight victories. “The Nigerian Nightmare” sought out this rematch with Masvidal in attempts to silence his often talkative rival.

After a breakout campaign in 2019 that saw the fastest recorded knockout in UFC history as well as a dominant performance against Nate Diaz, Masvidal stepped in for Burns last summer on six days notice to fight Usman. Although he suffered defeat, “Gamebred” has remained confident that with a full camp to prepare, things will go differently than they did at UFC 258. Will the talkative rival in Masvidal come out victorious? Or will the Nigerian Nightmare continue his dominance in the UFC and prove that no fighter is on his level?

Weili vs Namajunas

The strawweight title will be up for grabs on Saturday night as Zhang Weili will put her 21-fight win streak to the test against challenger Rose Namajunas. After shooting to the top of the division with four wins in 13 months, Weili fought Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a fight that will be etched into the history books. After five highly entertaining rounds, Zhang Weili won by decision, successfully defending her belt. 

Rose Namajunas returned to the octagon for the first time since losing her title last summer, fighting Jessica Andrade and winning via split decision. This will be a quicker turnaround for the 28-year-old usually has, which could be a testament to her focus and commitment. Can the current champion continue her reign, or will the former belt holder halt her impressive win streak?

Shevchenko vs. Andrade

The first of the three title fights slated to happen on Saturday night will be Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade. Shevchenko will be looking to successfully defend her title for the fifth consecutive time and Andrade will be looking to begin her own reign. 

Shevchenko has been dominant in this division and has barely given any hope to the rest of the division at a chance to defeat her. However recently, Shevchenko suffered a knee injury and will look to silence any doubters that believe her dominance has come to an end. 

Jessica Andrade moved up to the flyweight division after coming up just short in her strawweight fight against Rose Namajunas. She immediately showed she belonged as she stopped former #1 contender Katlyn Chookagian, setting up her chance at the belt against Shevchenko.

Both of these fighters are elite but have very different styles which is why this matchup will be extremely interesting.

Sideline Selection

Usman is the heavy favorite in this fight for good reason as he has shown no reason for people to doubt him. It will be interesting to see the two meet in the octagon as Masvidal will have a full camp to prepare this time. Masvidal most likely has a slight edge on the feet but Usman’s fight IQ is second to none. This will be an interesting fight but I believe Usman will walk away with the victory. 

Fight Odds (via DraftKings):

Kamaru Usman -400

Jorge Masvidal +300

This will also be an interesting fight as Weili comes in as the favorite. This fight will most likely go the distance and something tells me that Namajunas is ready for this moment and will be the fighter to stop Weili’s 21-fight win streak. 

Fight Odds (via DraftKings):

Zhang Weili -200

Rose Namajunas +165 

Shevchenko enters this fight as the favorite and rightfully so. Although her title defense last year was closer than many expected, she still came out with the victory. I believe this will be a close fight but Shevchenko will ultimately tire Andrade out and win via KO in a later round. 

Fight Odds (via DraftKings): 

Valentina Shevchenko -455

Jessica Andrade +340

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