UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman will attempt to continue his dominant reign as champion when fighting Jorge Masvidal in a rematch at UFC 261. The five-round bout headlines a packed card from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, which also includes UFC’s Strawweight and Flyweight Champions on the main card.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates.
Correction: A previous title in the article incorrectly stated that the pay-per-view title was “UFC 256.” The title has since been changed to reflect the proper title, “UFC 261.”
Early Prelims (5:45PM EDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Main Card (10:00PM EDT) (PPV)
Bout 13: Kamaru Usman (18-1) vs. Jorge Masvidal (35-14) (UFC Welterweight Champion)
Usman Flattens Masvidal With Right Cross To Retain UFC Welterweight Championship
A powerful right cross from Kamaru Usman put an end to his rivalry against Jorge Masvidal on Saturday, stopping their main event fight in the second round and giving him his fourth title defense as the UFC Welterweight Champion.
Usman’s finish victory came early in the second round, as a right hand dropped Masvidal on his back. Usman then continued with punches on the ground until the referee called an end to their fight.
“Jacksonville, Florida: You said you wanted violence? You got it,” said Usman during his post-fight interview, to a crowd that had a mixed reaction following the loss of Masvidal in front of his home state.
The loss for Masvidal was his second to Usman. His previous appearance against Usman came on short notice last year, as he stepped in on days notice to fight at UFC 251. The appearance was a one-sided victory for Usman, who controlled Masvidal for 25 minutes.
Usman’s win on Saturday came just two months after his previous title defense, where he stopped Gilbert Burns in the third round of a fight. He has now defended his belt four times since taking it from Tyron Woodley in 2019.
The loss for Masvidal was the first time he was finished in a fight in over a decade. His last stoppage loss was back in 2009 when he was submitted on a Bellator card.
Bout 12: Zhang Weili (21-1) vs. Rose Namajunas (9-4) (UFC Strawweight Championship)
Namajunas Floors Zhang With Head Kick, Begins Second Title Run
Rose Namajunas landed a perfectly timed head kick to stop UFC Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili in the first round and kick off her second run as champion. Zhang was finished on the ground with hammerfist punches by Namajunas shortly after a head kick knocked her down in the second minute of action.
The fight, which did not last long, was still in the feeling out process prior to the finish win for Namajunas.
Namajunas was making her return to the title picture after she lost her belt to Jessica Andrade in 2019. She was given a title shot on Saturday after avenging her loss to Andrade last year, defeating her via split decision at UFC 251.
After her win, Namajunas addressed remarks she made leading up to the fight which implied Zhang represents communism due to her Chinese background.
“It was never my intent to personally attack her … It’s just my history,” said Namajunas in her post-fight interview.
Zhang’s championship run at strawweight has concluded after two fights. Her first title defense was in March of 2020, where she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split decision in what many considered the “Fight of the Year.”
Bout 11: Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) vs. Jessica Andrade (21-8) (UFC Flyweight Championship)
Shevchenko Finishes Andrade Early With Strikes From The Crucifix Position
Valentina Shevchenko’s run as UFC Flyweight Champion continued on Saturday with a win over Jessica Andrade that was nothing short of dominant. The victory for Shevchenko came in the second round where she landed a series of punches and elbows from the crucifix position, causing the referee to end the fight eventually.
Shevchenko kept control of Andrade for most of the two-round fight, scoring numerous takedowns throughout.
“I like to surprise people,” said Shevchenko about her game plan during the post-fight interview.
Andrade, a former UFC Strawweight Champion, was getting the title shot shortly after moving up a division. Andrade won her flyweight debut in her previous matchup, defeating Katlyn Chookagian in October.
Shevchenko’s run as champion has been strong since she gained the belt in 2018. She has now defended her belt five times, with three of the wins via stoppage now.
Bout 10: Chris Weidman (15-5) vs. Uriah Hall (16-9) (Middleweight)
Gruesome Leg Injury Takes Weidman Out of Fight Against Hall Within Seconds
Chris Weidman’s fight against Uriah Hall ended in the opening seconds, as a checked leg kick snapped his leg. The injury stopped the fight in only 17 seconds, forcing Weidman to get stretchered out of the cage.
The gruesome injury brought shock to Hall and the live attendance in Jacksonville.
The fight between Weidman and Hall was a rematch over a decade in the making, as the middleweights had met on the regional scene early in their careers. Weidman won that encounter, stopping Hall within a round in 2010.
“I got nothing but respect for Chris Weidman,” said Hall in his post-fight interview, later mentioning their history together.
While rare, abrupt leg injuries are not unheard of in MMA. Bellator fighter Alberto Gonzales suffered the same injury in 2019 during a fight against Tyson Miller, forcing their fight to end within a round.
The most notable leg injury in MMA comes from a fight that Weidman was on the winning end of. The former UFC Middleweight Champion’s 2013 rematch against Anderson Silva finished in the second round after a broken leg forced Silva out of their fight.
Bout 9: Anthony Smith (34-16) vs. Jimmy Crute (12-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Smith Picks Up Stoppage Victory After Inflicting Leg Damage To Crute
Damage to Jimmy Crute’s left leg forced him out of a fight after one round, handing UFC veteran Anthony Smith a victory. Damage to Crute’s leg seemingly came from kicks that hurt Crute early on.
A leg of Crute seemingly got hurt late in the first round, as a leg kick dropped him for a moment. While Crute was able to survive the rest of the round by landing two takedowns, he limped back to his corner after the fight and clearly had little control of it. After a doctor checked Crute out in-between rounds, the call was made to end the fight.
The fight was Smith’s first that wasn’t a headlining bout since 2017. His seven previous fights were the main events to cards, including a title fight against Jon Jones in 2019.
Smith now has two consecutive victories. His previous fight was also a first-round stoppage, as he submitted Devin Clark within a round in November.
Crute entered Saturday’s fight win a streak of two first-round victories.
Bout 8: Randy Brown (12-4) vs. Alex Oliveira (22-9-1) (Welterweight)
Brown Hurts Oliveira With Punches, Finishes Him With One-Arm Rear Naked Choke
Randy Brown showed his striking and grappling skills in a quick performance, submitting Alex Oliveira in the first round with a rear naked choke on Saturday.
Brown scored a knockdown early in the fight with a right hook. Brown stayed pressed on Oliveira afterwards, staying mounted on his back when they got to the feet. Brown applied a one-arm rear naked choke as they went back down, causing Oliveira to tap out eventually.
Brown got in the face of Oliveira immediately after the fight finished, shouting and waving the middle finger at him. He mentioned in his post-fight interview that he will explain his issues with Oliveira later on in a Twitch stream.
The win put Brown back to his winning ways after he took a loss to Vicente Luque last year.
Oliveira has now lost two consecutive bouts. His previous fight saw him get submitted within a round by UFC newcomer Shavkat Rakhmonov.
Bout 7: Dwight Grant (10-3) vs. Stefan Sekulic (12-3) (Welterweight)
Grant Defeats Sekulic In Controversial Split Decision
Dwight Grant pulled off a close win against Stefan Sekulic, defeating him via split decision on the prelims (29-28 Sekulic, 29-28 Grant & 29-28 Grant). The win for Grant came after a close fight that included both fighters showing their striking skills.
Sekulic looked to close the fight out late, attempting a guillotine choke on the ground after hurting grant with a punch on the feet.
Media scores from MMADecisions.com varied, with 12 of 18 participants scoring the fight for Sekulic.
The fight received a mixed reaction from the crowd, which was audibly cheering and booing after the decision was read.
Sekulic was returning for his second fight in the UFC, attempting to pick up his first victory in the promotion. The 29-year-old was out of action for two years due to a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspension. Sekulic made his UFC debut in 2018.
Grant is now back in the win column after getting stopped by Daniel Rodriguez last year.
Bout 6: Brendan Allen (15-4) vs. Karl Roberson (9-3) (Middleweight)
Allen Secures Late Heel Hook Against Roberson For Tap
Brendan Allen scored an abrupt victory on the prelims, submitting Karl Roberson in the closing seconds of the first round with a heel hook.
Allen was able to get the submission after grabbing a hold of Roberson’s left leg in the final minute. The tap came during a position that saw both fighters have a hold of each other’s legs in a seated position.
The middleweights exchanged with hard strikes in the first half of the round before Allen scored a takedown.
Allen is back in the win column after taking his first UFC loss late last year to Sean Strickland. Allen had three wins in his rookie year in the UFC prior to his loss in the fall.
Roberson was returning after getting submitted by Marvin Vettori last year.
Bout 5: Tristan Connelly (14-6) vs. Pat Sabatini (13-3) (Featherweight)
Two-Time CFFC Champ Sabatini Wins UFC Debut
Former two-time CFFC Featherweight Champion Pat Sabatini had a successful UFC debut on Saturday, defeating Tristan Connelly in a unanimous decision fight (30-27, 29-28 & 29-28). Sabatini’s win came from control with wrestling and grappling for the majority of the time.
Sabatini was getting his first UFC fight after being a veteran in regional promotion CFFC in recent years. He exited the regional circuit after earning two stoppage wins last year.
Connelly was returning for his second UFC fight. His UFC debut was back in September of 2019, where he stepped in on short notice to fight Michel Periera. Connelly won the fight, which was later given a “Fight of the Night” award.
Connelly dropped two weight classes, going from welterweight to featherweight on Saturday.
Bout 4: Danaa Batgerel (8-2) vs. Kevin Natividad (9-2) (Bantamweight)
Batgerel Stops Natividad Within A Minute For Second UFC Win
Danaa Batgerel had a quick and explosive win in his return to the octagon on Saturday, stopping LFA veteran Kevin Natividad in the first minute with strikes.
Batgerel was able to drop Natividad with a left hook while backing up. Moments later, a few punches on the ground from Batgerel forced the referee to end the fight.
Batgerel now has stoppage wins in his last two appearances. His previous fight, which was now over a year ago, saw him stop Guido Cannetti in the first round with punches.
Natividad has yet to win through two UFC fights. His promotional debut was in October, where he was stopped by Miles Johns in the third round with strikes. He entered the promotion after putting together a five-fight win streak on the regional scene.
Bout 3: Rongzhu (17-3) vs. Kazula Vargas (11-4) (Lightweight)
Vargas Ends Losing Streak With Win Over Rongzhu
Kazula Vargas snapped a two-fight skid to defeat UFC debutant Rongzhu via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28 & 29-28). The win came after Vargas was more active on the feet and looked for chokes when on the ground.
Vargas spent a fair portion of the second round looking for a guillotine choke. While it was Rongzhu that took the fight to the ground in the second frame, he spent most of his time on the ground defending.
Vargas landed more strikes throughout. Rongzhu’s output increased later in the fight, and it was clear from the start that he was comfortable in the cage.
Vargas had lost his two previous appearances in the UFC. His most recent fight before Saturday was in February of 2020, where an illegal knee to Brok Weaver disqualified Vargas in the first round.
Rongzhu’s loss broke a 10-fight win streak that he had built up since 2018. He was making his UFC debut in the fight.
Bout 2: Jeff Molina (8-2) vs. Aoriqileng (18-6) (Flyweight)
Molina Out-Lands A Tough Aoriqileng In UFC Debut
Jeff Molina’s back-and-forth striking battle against Aoriqileng earned him a decision win in his UFC debut (29-28, 29-28 & 29-27). The fight showcased the toughness of both fighters along with their cardio, as the output of punches held up through 15 minutes.
Molina did more damage with his punches throughout the fight. He scored two knockdowns in the second round, dropping Aoriqileng with his punches.
Most of the third round saw Aoriqileng remain tough while Molina landed a high volume of punches. Aoriqleng didn’t defend most of the shots in the final round, although he did not seem severely stunned by much of it.
Aoriqileng had a moment in the closing moments of the fight, clearly hurt Molina just before the clock expired.
Molina called for a $50,000 performance bonus during his post-fight interview.
Both fighters were making their UFC debut in the fight.
Molina earned a UFC contract last year with a decision win over Jacob Silva on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
Aoriqileng had a six-fight win streak heading into the fight.
Bout 1: Ariane Carnelossi (12-2) vs. Liang Na (15-4) (Strawweight)
Carnelossi Takes Out Liang With Ground and Pound For First UFC Win
Consistent ground and pound earned Ariane Carnelossi her first UFC victory in the opening bout, stopping Liang Na in the second round. Carnelossi was persistent with a steady pace of hammerfist punches that were hardly defended by Liang forced the fight to end in the fifth minute.
Liang’s wrestling helped her greatly in the first round, putting herself in controlling positions against Carnelossi. However, Carnelossi was active with damage on the ground, landing a high volume of punches that overwhelmed Liang.
Carnelossi nearly stopped Liang late in the first round, landing a series of unanswered shots.
Carnelossi’s previous appearance was her UFC debut, which she lost in 2019 to Angela Hill via doctor stoppage.
Liang was making her UFC debut after putting together a four-fight win streak in Chinese MMA promotion WLF.
Full Capacity Crowds Return At UFC Events
UFC 261 is set to happen in front of a full capacity crowd at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. The electricity from the environment is a sudden change for UFC events, which have been held behind closed doors or in front of minimal crowds since May of 2020.
Just like how it has been since the inception of the pandemic, attending social gatherings comes with a potential risk of contracting COVID-19. This risk is reflected in waivers that attendees have to sign off on before attending the event, which acknowledge the risk of “death” or “permanent damage” due to the virus.
UFC has some protocols in place for the event, like the plan to give out free masks inside the venue, although masks are not mandated for attendees and social distancing will be nearly impossible in the sold-out venue.