UFC 261 review: Usman shines on a crazy night in Jacksonville
With 15,000 fans in the stands, UFC 261 delivered the most dramatic event of 2021 so far
What. A. Night. UFC 261 saw crowds return to cageside as a packed house of 15,000 screaming fans took the roof off the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, and boy were they treated to an unforgettable night.
The main card stacks up against almost any pay-per-view main card in UFC history, with all five fights ending in finishes, and each fight telling a compelling story.
Some were tinged with sadness and pain, as Jimmy Crute’s smashed peroneal nerve saw him forced out of his fight with Anthony Smith, while Chris Weidman’s cruel reversal of fortunes saw him on the receiving end of a kick check that left him with a broken leg. It was a near carbon copy of what happened to Anderson Silva when “The All American” faced him in their middleweight title rematch.
But if the first two main card fights offered injury-related endings, the three title fights the followed showed us the best of MMA.
Valentina Shevchenko showcased her complete mastery of mixed martial arts as she wrestled Jessica to the mat, then finished her clinically with elbows.
Then Rose Namajunas gave us a highlight-reel moment for the ages with a spectacular head-kick knockout of Zhang Weili in the night’s co-main event. It meant “Thug Rose” became the first female fighter to reclaim a UFC title. It was a special moment.
It meant Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal had a huge task to match what had come before. But, thanks to striking skills sharpened initially by Henry Hooft, then further honed by Trevor Wittman, Usman connected with a perfect straight right hand to knock out Masvidal and stamp his authority all over their rivalry, and the rest of the welterweight division.
It was an incredible night, and on this week’s show we take a deep dive into the entire main card to give our takes on what happened in the cage, and lift the lid on a few things that happened outside it, too.
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