UFC 261 was an event to be remembered. The return of the fans just added to the overall excitement that everyone got while witnessing great fights. The main card all produced exciting finishes, a feat which hasn’t been done since UFC 189. Let’s take a look at possible matchups for the winners.
Kamaru Usman shocked Jorge Masvidal with fast hands, knocking him out in the second round at UFC 261. Since moving to Colorado to train with Trevor Wittman, Usman has shown large improvements to his MMA skillset. At UFC 261, Usman showed the smoothest transition between his outstanding grappling and striking. His dominance has motivated the rest of the division and created many intriguing matchups for him.
Dana White has stated that Colby Covington is in line to receive the next title shot. Ali Abdelaziz, Kamaru Usman’s manager, has stated that he views the winner of the Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz fight as the number one contender. With many conflicting opinions, Usman may want to allow the division to sort itself out. Especially with the fight between Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson happening in July, Usman deserves the right to be able to pick the most deserving contender after such a compelling performance at UFC 261.
“Thug” Rose Namajunas only needed one round to put Zhang Weili away. A spectacular knockout reminiscent of her UFC 217 win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas has once again established herself as the best 115-pound fighter in the world. For her first title defense, “Thug” Rose may want to watch the May 22nd fight between Yan Xiaonan and Carla Esparza closely.
Yan Xiaonan is undefeated in her UFC tenure, most recently earning a unanimous decision over Claudia Gadelha. Esparza, who submitted Namajunas to become the first UFC strawweight champion, has experienced a career resurgence. Since losing to the talented Tatiana Suarez in 2018, she has earned four victories and aligned herself for a number one contender fight. Either fighter could pose an interesting threat to Namajunas new title reign.
At UFC 261, Valentina Shevchenko once again proved she is a well-rounded mixed martial artist. In the second round, Shevchenko effectively wrestled Jessica Andrade to the ground. She trapped Andrade in a mounted crucifix and earned a TKO victory. With Amanda Nunes slated to fight Juliana Pena in August, Shevchenko’s next title defense will be against the winner of the Joanne Calderwood and Lauren Murphy fight.
Calderwood and Murphy is an interesting style clash. Calderwood has a strong Muay Thai background while Murphy is a well-rounded pressure fighter. Shevchenko has shown the ability to adapt to different styles of fights and whoever wins will pose an intriguing test for the flyweight champion.
Uriah Hall used to be a middling UFC fighter who would have flashes of brilliance in his fights. Recently, he has put together a four-fight winning streak including wins over former champions: Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. At UFC 261, Uriah Hall TKOed the aforementioned Weidman after a checked leg kick broke Weidman’s tibia. At thirty-six years old, Hall has combined his improved fundamentals with the explosiveness and unorthodox techniques which made him such a prospect years ago. If Hall chooses to remain busy after his quick showing at UFC 261, he may entertain a fight with fellow striker: Kevin Holland. If Hall wants a higher ranking opponent, he may choose to welcome a returning Darren Till back to the middleweight division.
By defeating the surging Jimmy Crute at UFC 261, Anthony Smith authenticated his number six ranking in the UFC light-heavyweight division. Dispatching his foe with vicious leg kicks and a steady rhythm of educated jabs, Smith proved he could still compete against the divisions best. Smith rebounded from his losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksander Rakic; he secured first-round victories over Devin Clark and Jimmy Crute. With Glover Teixeira receiving the next title shot, Smith may want to stay busy against the well-rounded Magomed Ankalaev. Ankalaev is on a six-fight winning streak. Most recently, he defeated Nikita Krylov by decision in February. The winner of this fight could be positioned for a number one contender bout soon.
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