Last night (Sat., April 24, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ventured to Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., for UFC 261, and there was much to be excited about. Three title fights, the return of a full crowd of fans, lots of action throughout the card — UFC 261 was a must-watch event that gives us plenty to discuss and analyze.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Usman Leaves No Doubt
It’s time to wake up and realize that Kamaru Usman is one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Jorge Masvidal was fighting well. That’s not to imply he was winning, but the first round was really competitive. “Gamebred” was doing a nice job of mixing up the speed and targets of his attacks, and he was finding some success in chewing up the lead leg. He did not look tired at the end of the round.
Unfortunately for the veteran, Usman is dramatically better than he was in July 2020. The champion may have scored a takedown in the first, but he was not desperate to hug and foot stomp Masvidal. No, Usman was working the body well early, and that set up his right hand, which crisply cracked Masvidal’s jaw twice in round one.
Usman also threw a few fairly sloppy overhands that seemed like a bad move. Instead, those wingers served to set up a perfectly straight power cross. Masvidal was looking to time Usman swinging wide with his check hook, but instead, Usman’s right found its way inside, direct to the jaw.
It was a tremendously powerful punch. It’s a testament to Masvidal’s legendary durability that he didn’t instantly go to sleep. Instead, Usman followed him to the mat to secure the stoppage and become the first man to truly put Masvidal down for the counter via strikes.
So, where does this leave the analysis on Usman? His wrestling and top control are impeccable. You will not find a more physical Welterweight. And while I don’t want to imply that his kickboxing is technically perfect, it’s become quite good, and in the last two months, Usman has more than proven that he hits like a bull.
I’m not saying Usman is better than Georges St-Pierre, but if one were to make that argument, it just got a whole lot more doable. As with all G.O.A.T. discussions, it’s extremely subjective, but that overshadows the main point: Usman deserves to be in such discussion alongside any other great from any era.
Thug Rose Reigns Again
Rose Namajunas is a special, special fighter.
This fight was barely going when “Thug Rose” kicked Zhang Weili straight in the face. The two were moving around, trading distance strikes and feints. Both women looked sharp and speedy. Suddenly, Namajunas feinted her lead leg, and Weili brought her own lead leg square to avoid the inside low kick.
The mental side of the game. What it takes to get into the right frame of mind to produce the goods on the biggest stage. Incredible.pic.twitter.com/Ybb7x9kT8n— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) April 25, 2021
Instead, the foot came up high and clocked her in the chin. Just like that, Namajunas secured the Strawweight title a second time, also via first-round knockout. That’s simply unbelievable.
Valentina Shevchenko is expected to dominate all comers, and she does. Jessica Andrade is a former champion with lots of power up her sleeve, but it made little difference. Andrade is used to having a strength advantage, and she willing gives up bad clinch positioning in attempts to lift.
Shevchenko punished that trait repeatedly, securing underhooks then manhandling her opponent. The takedowns never looked difficult for her, and once on top, it took roughly seven minutes for Shevchenko to secure her favored fight-finishing position: the crucifix.
The elbows started to fly, Andrade couldn’t move, and the referee intervened. Another easy title defense in the books!
What Comes Around ...
There is no way to explain what happened between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall last night logically, so I did my best to find an alternative explanation right HERE!
Rude Boy Wins Big
Randy Brown has been fighting tough competition for about five years now. From the genesis of his UFC career, Brown took on difficult opponents, and he’s never gone on a seriously extended win streak as a result. However, the bright side of those struggles is that Brown has come out the other side improved, and he’s still just 30 years old.
Oliveira came out looking for low kicks, a historic problem for “Rude Boy.” However, Brown came up with a simple solution: slam a one-two combination straight down the pipe. The Brazilian “Cowboy” hit the floor, and Brown chased him to the mat, landing punches. Oliveira gave up his back, and Brown managed to secure a one-armed rear-naked choke finish.
For my readers who grapple: there’s a trick to finishing the rear-naked choke with one arm. Rather than pull straight through the neck, cut the choke arm elbow backward. It’s less of a carotid artery choke and instead grinds the forearm straight across the windpipe — much more painful!
All In On Leg Locks
Brendan Allen is a really good Middleweight. The Sanford MMA representative has some genuinely dangerous kickboxing, but his strength is undoubtedly in his mat work. He can wrestle well enough, but once on the ground, Allen tends to really dominate his opponents from top position.
Such was the case opposite Karl Roberson. Both men landed some hard strikes early on, but when Allen flurried, it convinced Roberson to engage in the grappling — a mistake and a trend! Allen reversed the clinch and scored a takedown, applying heavy shoulder pressure once in control.
Roberson struggled from his back, but he actually did a nice job in the closing seconds of the round to hook a leg and roll into a leg lock position. Usually, strikers like Roberson can use that position to quickly stand, but he opted to attack his foe’s leg instead. That proved a terrible decision, as Allen immediately demonstrated himself the sharper leg locker.
Leg locks are a gunfight; there’s little safety available. Allen won the shootout, forcing his foe to submit via the rare straight ankle lock!
- Anthony Smith defeats Jimmy Crute via first-round knockout (RECAP): This was shaping up to be a really great fight! Crute came out firing, landing some thudding low kicks and looping shots. Meanwhile, Smith landed some very solid straight punches. Out of nowhere, a single calf kick from Smith crippled Crute! The Aussie survived the round — even scoring a takedown — but the referee called a stop to the contest before the second began. It goes to show just how seemingly random calf kicks can be: Crute landed some good one, but Smith’s landed in the right spot, and that’s it!
- Danaa Batgerel defeats Kevin Natividad via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Natividad landed a couple right hands early, but unfortunately for him, Batgerel has one hell of a left hook. The Mongolian athlete shifted stances backwards as Natividad advanced, but he did so with a beautifully tight left hook that landed right on the button. It was really a gorgeous punch, and the ensuing flurry ended the bout immediately.
- Ariane Carnelossi defeats Liang Na via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Na is tough, but her style doesn’t appear to be well-suited for UFC. She’s very willing to fight from her back, and Carnelossi took advantage, using that top position to brutally smash her foe with ground strikes. By the second round, Na was wearing it, and it only took a bad head-and-arm throw attempt from Na for Carnelossi to gain top position again and seal the deal.
For complete UFC 261: “Usman vs. Masvidal 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!