It has been almost 13 months since the UFC has held an event in a sold-out venue. At UFC 261 on April 24th, the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida will do just that.
Headlining the card will be a rematch between two bitter welterweight rivals, the Champion Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman and the BMF Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal.
Two other title fights are also scheduled on this weekend’s all-action UFC 261 main card. The first one is set to take place in the women’s strawweight division in a highly anticipated bout between current champion Zhang Weili and former champion Rose Namajunas. Slotted in the co-main event will be dominant women’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko taking on another former strawweight champion in Jessica Andrade as she continues her journey at flyweight.
The rest of the UFC 261 main card will feature a middleweight match between Chris Weidman and Urial Hall -which is also a long-awaited rematch. Opening up the card will be Jimmy Crute and Anthony Smith taking each other on in the light heavyweight division.
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal: The Rematch
As the 5th round horn buzzed during the main event of UFC 251 back in July of 2020, Usman uddered the words “We’ll run it back” to his cohort Jorge Masvidal after both athletes fought on a showing they weren’t all that thrilled about. 9 months later at UFC 261, here we are.
Kamaru Usman (18-1)
Ever since The Nigerian Nightmare captured the belt back in March of 2019, he’s been one of the most active champions in the UFC. Saturday night, Usman will be looking to make his 4th title defense in less than 2 years since defeating Tyron Woodley for welterweight gold.
Later that year, Usman took on division rival Colby Convington in a fight of the year contender that saw the Nigerian Nightmare finish his bitter rival late in the 5th round in a very close contest.
The middleweight champion’s last outing was one of his most impressive. Defeating former teammate and number one contender Gilbert Burns via TKO in the third round less than 2 months ago at UFC 258.
Jorge Masvidal (35-14)
After a long 16-month layoff, Jorge Masvidal came back to the UFC in very hostile territory. In early 2019, the Miami-native was booed by the London home crowd. Across the cage was Darren Till, a young up-and-coming scouser coming off a title fight loss to the then champ Tyron Woodley. Masvidal rallied after getting knocked down in the first round to finish the fight himself in devastating fashion only 3 minutes into the second frame.
However, it would be Masvidal’s next matchup that really put him onto the casual fans of the sport. The build-up between Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren was one for the ages. This was ultimately what made the moment of Masvidal’s flying knee break all boundaries.
In Masvidal’s eyes, the rematch with Usman was inevitable, just like the champion had told him at UFC 251. The BMF has seemed to have his mind focussed on one thing and one thing only, building on a somewhat successful outing vs Usman with less than a week of preparation.
This fight is about redemption for Gamebred. Jorge Masvidal has yet to enter the octagon since stepping in on 6 days’ notice in the hopes to fulfill his goal of becoming champion. The second time around feels just as emotional for both guys involved.
UFC 261 Main Event Fight Preview
Just like Saturday, the first time these two top welterweights went to battle against one another it was very highly anticipated. Doing 1.3 million PPV buys, the event itself was very successful. However, the fight was a little one-sided.
1 day into UFC 251 fight week saw its main event lose one-half of the competitors after it was reported Gilbert Burns had contracted COVID-19. Lucky for Usman and the UFC, Masvidal stepped up to the plate. The BMF had to cut down 20 lbs in one day and did so with professionalism. This set up his first-ever attempt at welterweight gold.
Gamebred was seeing early success on the feet as well as surprising getting up off his back when taken down by Usman. After the first 5 minutes, the contest was shaping up in a very interesting manner. It had fans wondering if this really was Masvidals’ time. Many viewers felt the champion was struggling to hold the BMF down. Jorge Masvidal would land heavy blows on the feet whenever the two gave each other a moment to breathe, with one judging giving Gamebred the nod in the first.
From then on it was all Usman. His long jab and forward pressure had the BMF on the back foot for the next 20 minutes. The champion’s relentlessness paid off as Masvidal slowed down significantly, unable to defend the second and third takedown attempts from the Nigerian Nightmare. The champion should look to execute a very similar game plan.
As for the challenger, a longer preparation time should lead to some significant changes, including his stamina, which I feel will have to be his most important asset. Masvidal was doing the right things early during their first encounter, he just slowed down very quickly as the fight went on. His gas tank will be valuable when it comes to his footwork as well. I think the BMF should constantly be on his bike, mixing up his kicks and boxing combos off of Usman’s jab, never letting the champion set his feet to shoot for a takedown or land any power shots.
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal Prediction: Usman Decision
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