Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves this Saturday evening (April 24, 2021) with a title trifecta, headlined by a grudge match between Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, and the ever-dangerous Jorge Masvidal.
UFC 261, which takes place inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., will also see women’s Strawweight queenpin, Weili Zhang, and Flyweight empress, Valentina Shevchenko, defend their respective belts against former champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade. In addition, a long-brewing rematch pitting Chris Weidman against Uriah Hall and a Light Heavyweight crossroads battle between Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute will join the PPV main card.
The first crowd-filled event in more than one year will cost you a pretty penny to watch, but luckily, we know how to get you one. Read on and find out ...
What Went Wrong at UFC Vegas 24?
If the judges’ scorecards agreed with the vast majority of the mixed martial arts (MMA) media, it would have been a flawless event. Unfortunately, they didn’t, as Lupita Godinez and Alexander Munoz wound up on the wrong end of split decisions to cause a major loss. Munoz had a better argument, but I’m far more frustrated with Godinez — I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but she threw away an extremely winnable fight through her insistence on clinching with Jessica Penne. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
UFC 261 Odds For The Undercard:
Randy Brown (-150) vs. Alex Oliveira (+130)
Dwight Grant (-225) vs. Stefan Sekulic (+185)
Brendan Allen (-150) vs. Karl Roberson (+130)
Pat Sabatini (-225) vs. Tristan Connelly (+185)
Batgerel Danaa (-185) vs. Kevin Natividad (+160)
Zhu Rong (-250) vs. Rodrigo Vargas (+210)
Qileng Aori (-110) vs. Jeffrey Molina (-110)
Ariane Carnelossi (-220) vs. Liang Na (+180)
Thoughts: Allen is an absolute steal at -150. That’s because Karl Roberson — though an increasingly potent offensive wrestler — surrenders takedowns to pretty much everyone willing to try them. Allen’s got the chain-wrestling to drag Roberson to the mat without issue and the submission skills to end the fight once there. Sure, Allen’s coming off a rough knockout loss to Sean Strickland, but it’s not his first defeat and he’s still young enough to have improved considerably since then.
In short, go all-in on “All In.”
The rest of the undercard is a little trickier; four of the remaining seven bouts feature at least one fighter making their UFC debut, and I was only able to find recent footage of some of them. Still, Pat Sabatini, Batgerel Danaa and Rongzhu look like solid investments. Sabatini is welcoming Tristan Connelly back to the cage for the first time since 2019 and back to the Featherweight division for the first time in 2015. Batgerel seemingly has the clear edge in toughness against a fellow close-quarters bruiser in Kevin Natividad, and Rongzhu is more than skilled enough to sprawl-and-brawl “Kazula” Vargas into oblivion.
Stefan Sekulic could be an okay long shot bet. Dwight Grant’s poor volume and poor cardio could very well sink him in what should be a gimme, and you can get some nice odds by parlaying Sekulic with Kamaru Usman.
UFC 261 Odds For The Main Card:
Kamaru Usman (-410) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+330)
Zhang Weili (-210) vs. Rose Namajunas (+175)
Valentina Shevchenko (-420) vs. Jessica Andrade (+335)
Chris Weidman (-125) vs. Uriah Hall (+105)
Jimmy Crute (-200) vs. Anthony Smith (+170)
Thoughts: Losing to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic does not make Anthony Smith a bad fighter. It does, however, give the increasingly wrestle-happy Crute an obvious roadmap to victory. “The Brute’s” shown some solid takedown chops lately to go along with his quality striking, which should be more than sufficient to put Smith on his back and keep him there for a while. While Smith’s submission skills do pose a threat, it’s not enough to tip the scales, so put your faith in the Aussie.
UFC 261 Best Bets:
- Parlay — Brendan Allen and Jimmy Crute: Bet $100 to make $150
- Parlay — Pat Sabatini and Batgerel Danaa: Bet $80 to make $98.40
- Parlay — Brendan Allen and Rongzhu: Bet $60 to make $79.80
- Parlay — Stefan Sekulic and Kamaru Usman: Bet $40 to make $102
UFC 261 features three title fights and loads of fresh prospects ... sign me up! See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 261 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 261: “Usman vs. Masvidal 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.