UFC 261 went down last night (Sat., April 24) inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., featuring a packed house of fans and three incredible title fights. In the main event, Kamaru Usman once again retained his Welterweight title by defeating Jorge Masvidal via devastating knockout in round two (see it again here). In other action, Valentina Shevchenko dominated Jessica Andrade and scored a second round technical knockout (TKO) to hold on to her women’s Flyweight strap (replay here), while Rose Namajunas knocked out Zhang Weili to reclaim the Featherweight title in the very first round (highlights).
Winner: Kamaru Usman
Who He Should Face Next: Colby Covington
For the second time, Usman defeated Jorge Masvidal to put “Gamebred” behind him once and for all. With two straight dominant wins, there should never be a reason to book a third fight between them as long as “The Nigerian Nightmare” is champion. That said, Usman can now look ahead to another rematch, this time against Colby Covington. Dana White had gone on record prior to last night’s event to say that the winner of UFC 261’s title fight would face “Chaos” next. Usman has already defeated his bitter rival, taking him out via fifth round technical knockout (TKO) at UFC 245 in Dec. 2019, sending him home with a cracked jaw in the process. Covington bounced back with a great win over Tyron Woodley, so he has his confidence back. Whether or not he’ll make the proper adjustments to take out the champ is another story. Still, their first fight was a barn-burner and I expect nothing less in the rematch.
Winner: Valentina Shevchenko
Who She Should Face Next: Murphey vs. Calderwood winner...Amanda Nunes trilogy fight?
After earning her fifth consecutive title defense, Shevchenko further thinned out the list of challengers at 125 pounds. Lauren Murphey — ranked No. 3 — is front-runner to land the next shot at trying to stop the speeding “Bullet,” but she is lined up to face Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263 in June. If she loses that fight, her title shot aspirations go out the window. If that happens, the promotion could very well give Calderwood the next title shot, but a trilogy fight against Nunes seems more appealing. “Lioness” already has two wins over Shevchenko, though many felt “Bullet” should have gotten the split decision nod at UFC 215. Nunes is lined up to defend her Bantamweight title against Julianna Pena at UFC 265 in August, but if she wins that bout (which is highly likely), then I would love to see the promotion book a third bout for the 135-pound strap between Shevchenko and Nunes. There are a lot of moving pieces, so let’s see how this all plays out in the coming months.
Winner: Rose Namajunas
Who She Should Face Next: Esparza vs Xiaonan winner (sorry, Joanna)
Former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk has already called dibs for the next title shot, but that should not happen. Now way, no how. “JJ” is coming off a loss to Zhang, and while it was an entertaining scrap, at the end of the day Jedrzejczyk lost. Furthermore, she is a horrid 2-4 in her last six fights with all four losses being title fights. While Jedrzejczyk did have a great run as champion, it’s time to stop living off past accomplishments because remember, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman were once great champions, too. My point is, Jedrzejczyk is a great fighter and former champion, but she hasn’t done much winning since 2017 to warrant one title shot after another. Seriously, how many title shots can one get? Win a few fights and then we can talk. Meanwhile, former champion Carla Esparza has won four in a row while Yan Xiaonan is on a six fight win streak, going undefeated (6-0) inside the Octagon. Those two ladies are scheduled to throw down on May 22 and the winner should WITHOUT A DOUBT get the next title shot. Assuming the promotion doesn’t book an immediate rematch with Weili.
Winner: Uriah Hall
Who He Should Face Next: Hermansson vs Shahbazyan winner
Uriah Hall picked up consecutive win number four and improved to 5-1 in his last six fights after defeating Chris Weidman via TKO thanks to a nasty leg injury suffered by “All American” early in the fight (see it here). Since late 2018, “Primetime” has really kicked it up a notch, with his lone loss in the last four years coming to Paulo Costa. A fight against the winner of the upcoming fight between Jack Hermansson (No. 7) and Edmen Shahbazyan (No. 10) — which is set to go down at UFC 262 on May 15 — seems fitting. Everyone in the Top 5 is out of the question for Hall since they have aspirations to take on higher ranked foes or a title shot.
Winner: Anthony Smith
Who He Should Face Next: Magomed Ankalaev
Anthony Smith picked up a huge win last night against Jimmy Crute, giving him his first back-to-back wins since his run to the championship title shot in 2018. Up next for “Lionheart” should be a fight against Magomed Ankalaev. At first I was feeling a rematch against Thiago Santos, who Smith defeated in 2018, but “Marreta” is currently on a three-fight skid. A bout against Ankalaev seems more appropriate despite the fact that he is ranked one spot behind Smith at No. 7. Ankalaev is currently enjoying a six fight win streak and is eying a spot in the Top 5. A win over Smith could put him over the edge. For “Lionheart,” stopping Ankalaev’s momentum could be what he needs to get back in the championship mix.
For complete UFC 261 results and coverage click here.