Last Week in Sports: UFC 261 in review

Saturday, April 24, saw one of the best MMA cards in recent memory. Taking place in front of the first large live audience that the UFC has hosted since the start of the pandemic, the 15,000-person crowd in Florida lit up the Jacksonville Arena with cheers and jeers that had been missing since fight night Brazil on March 14th of last year. The card offered three title fights and an undercard of quality fighters, with all fights ending in some sort of TKO. Three champions put their belts on the line, two of them leaving with another title defense. With all the fights ending in some spectacular fashion, there was no way any fan of MMA could watch UFC 261 and not be amazed. 

The card started with the two undercard events at light heavyweight and middleweight respectively: Anthony Smith Vs. Jimmy Crute and Chris Weidman Vs. Urijah Hall.  The first fight ended with a perfectly placed leg kick by Anthony Smith which shut off the leg of Jimmy Crute causing him to have severe foot drop with around a minute left on the clock. Crute still managed a single leg takedown with the remaining functional leg, keeping Smith down out of a sheer will. Unfortunately, at the end of the break going into the second round, Crute’s leg had not recovered enough to continue, and the doctor called the fight off, awarding the win to Anthony Smith. 

Next up was the long-awaited fight between former middleweight champ Chris Weidman and Urijah Hall. The two are veterans in the UFC and favorites of many fans of the sport. The fight started and ended with one strike being thrown. Chris Weidman wound up a heavy low leg kick which Urijah Hall proceeded to check with his left leg. Weidman’s shin connected and snapped, wrapping around Hall’s leg before retracting and unknowingly stepping back onto the foot attached to the now snapped- in- half shin. The fight was immediately called, with the win going to a very distraught Urijah Hall. In a coincidental turn of events from Weidman’s last fight with former champion Anderson Silva in 2013, where Weidman caused the break of Silva’s leg, Weidman now found himself on the other end of that exchange. Unfortunately for Weidman, his long-awaited return to the ring was cut short by this tragic injury. Recent reports by Weidman himself put his recovery at about 8 weeks to be back in action. 

With the undercard concluded, the first championship bout saw Ukrainian flyweight champion Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko defend her title against the Brazilian contender, Jessica Andrade. The fight saw a masterclass display by Shevchenko to out-grapple Andrade, who is a fantastic wrestler herself. The fight ended in the middle of the second round, with Shevchenko lining up Andrade in a crucifix and dropping elbows onto her until the ref called the fight after Andrade failed to get herself out of the position and receiving multiple unanswered strikes. Shevchenko left the fight with her 5th title defense and leaving no other exciting opponent left in her division outside of a possible rematch with double champ Amanda Nunes. 

The next title Fight saw Chinese strawweight champion Weili Zhang defend her belt against former champion “Thug Rose” Namajunas. The fight lasted slightly over a minute, with Rose controlling distance well and keeping Weili’s devastating strikes at bay. Rose ended the fight with a perfectly placed lead leg high kick to the chin of Weili, causing her to drop almost instantaneously. The defending champ nearly found her way back up, but Rose finished the fight off with two hammer fists, winning her back the belt. Weili thought the fight was ended soon, but her stumbling steps after the call confirmed that the ref did his job well in protecting the fighters. The fan-favorite, “Thug Rose,” regained her title and lit up the arenas with cheers. 

The final fight was the rematch between dominant Nigerian champion, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvi Saturday, April 24, saw one of the best MMA cards in recent memory. Taking place in front of the first large live audience that the UFC has hosted since the start of the pandemic, the 15,000-person crowd in Florida lit up the Jacksonville Arena with cheers and jeers that had been missing since fight night Brazil on March 14th of last year. The card offered three title fights and an undercard of quality fighters, with all fights ending in some sort of TKO. Three champions put their belts on the line, two of them leaving with another title defense. With all the fights ending in some spectacular fashion, there was no way any fan of MMA could watch UFC 261 and not be amazed. 

The card started with the two undercard events at light heavyweight and middleweight respectively: Anthony Smith Vs. Jimmy Crute and Chris Weidman Vs. Urijah Hall.  The first fight ended with a perfectly placed leg kick by Anthony Smith which shut off the leg of Jimmy Crute causing him to have severe foot drop with around a minute left on the clock. Crute still managed a single leg takedown with the remaining functional leg, keeping Smith down out of a sheer will. Unfortunately, at the end of the break going into the second round, Crute’s leg had not recovered enough to continue, and the doctor called the fight off, awarding the win to Anthony Smith. 

Next up was the long-awaited fight between former middleweight champ Chris Weidman and Urijah Hall. The two are veterans in the UFC and favorites of many fans of the sport. The fight started and ended with one strike being thrown. Chris Weidman wound up a heavy low leg kick which Urijah Hall proceeded to check with his left leg. Weidman’s shin connected and snapped, wrapping around Hall’s leg before retracting and unknowingly stepping back onto the foot attached to the now snapped- in- half shin. The fight was immediately called, with the win going to a very distraught Urijah Hall. In a coincidental turn of events from Weidman’s last fight with former champion Anderson Silva in 2013, where Weidman caused the break of Silva’s leg, Weidman now found himself on the other end of that exchange. Unfortunately for Weidman, his long-awaited return to the ring was cut short by this tragic injury. Recent reports by Weidman himself put his recovery at about 8 weeks to be back in action. 

With the undercard concluded, the first championship bout saw Ukrainian flyweight champion Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko defend her title against the Brazilian contender, Jessica Andrade. The fight saw a masterclass display by Shevchenko to out-grapple Andrade, who is a fantastic wrestler herself. The fight ended in the middle of the second round, with Shevchenko lining up Andrade in a crucifix and dropping elbows onto her until the ref called the fight after Andrade failed to get herself out of the position and receiving multiple unanswered strikes. Shevchenko left the fight with her 5th title defense and leaving no other exciting opponent left in her division outside of a possible rematch with double champ Amanda Nunes. 

The next title Fight saw Chinese strawweight champion Weili Zhang defend her belt against former champion “Thug Rose” Namajunas. The fight lasted slightly over a minute, with Rose controlling distance well and keeping Weili’s devastating strikes at bay. Rose ended the fight with a perfectly placed lead leg high kick to the chin of Weili, causing her to drop almost instantaneously. The defending champ nearly found her way back up, but Rose finished the fight off with two hammer fists, winning her back the belt. Weili thought the fight was ended soon, but her stumbling steps after the call confirmed that the ref did his job well in protecting the fighters. The fan-favorite, “Thug Rose,” regained her title and lit up the arenas with cheers. 

The final fight was the rematch between dominant Nigerian champion, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal. Their first match saw Masvidal take the fight on 6 days’ notice, cutting 20lbs in a week for a fight that was originally meant to be between Usman and contender Gilbert Burns. The first fight went to decision, with Usman dominating Masvidal on the ground for the last four rounds. Fans, including myself, were assuming that a full 6-week training camp would do Masvidal well and change the story for the second fight. The fight started strong for Usman, with him dominating in the striking, and still throwing Masvidal around as in the first fight. Masvidal seemed to try and block strikes with his head, disrespecting the power of Usman’s hands as he had been in the lead up to the fight. At the end of the first round, Masvidal looked gassed from getting thrown around and punched in the face about 40 times in a single round. Usman ended the fight in the first minute of the second round by finding Masvidal’s chin with a missile of a right hand. The shot slumped Masvidal’s body to the ground, and Usman secured the finish with two hammer fists to the head. A picture-perfect cross cemented Usman’s striking ability into the head of Masvidal. Usman successfully defended his title for the fourth time and added Masvidal to his highlight reel, capping off one of the most exhilarating UFC cards in a while. It has been confirmed that Usman’s next title defense will be a rematch against Colby Covington, who has arguably given Usman his most challenging fight to date and will likely take place in the fall. 

Related posts

Top