The UFC heads to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida for a trifecta of title fights back in front of a cheering crowd. The main event sees dominant Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman face Jorge Masvidal once again. In the co-main Thug Rose returns to attempt to regain her belt against champion Weili Zhang and Valentina Shevchenko faces Jessica Andrade in the third title fight. This card will be absolute fireworks and I expect more finishes in front of a blood thirsty audience. Let’s get right into the previews.
UFC 261 Betting Tips
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
Honestly this fight shouldn’t be happening as it will be as one sided as the first. Masvidal has only beaten one currently ranked opponent in the division, Michael Chiesa back in 2013 before Chiesa knew how to defend himself on the mat. Masvidal comes with hype but realistically he won’t ever win a real belt.
I cannot see him honestly beating a single fighter in the top 5 and I was screaming as loud as I could to see Masvidal v Covington and Usman v Stephen Thompson, as both those fights would be a true test for each fighter. However, here we are so let me get to it. Usman under Trevor Wittman has vastly improved his striking which was by far his weakest part of his game.
He derailed Gilbert Burns from his jab alone and over the past 12 months he has gone to another level. Masvidal’s power is an X Factor but Usman has a chin and it is at a point where it could be argued that their striking discrepancy really isn’t much at all. Put that with a clear wrestling, clinch and grappling advantage for Usman and I do not see Masvidal’s route to victory away from a freakish shot.
Although it may sound harsh Masvidal literally has a punchers chance. Usman is on another level and is constantly sold short for how good he truly is. Usman wins in dominant fashion and I expect him to let off some brutal ground and pound on Masvidal in this fight to shut him up for good.
Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas
I am a Rose fan and have been since 2015 when she bounced back from a bad loss to Carla Esparza. Namajunas’ striking has improved to such a degree that her striking is her best asset. Her lateral movement and versatility proves difficult to get reads on and makes her a tough fight for anyone.
While her game plan still revolves around taking opponents back and choking them out, Thug Rose can hang with the best of the best on the feet and that is what she will have to do here. Weili Zhang’s work ethic honestly must be next level. The Zhang we see today is unrecognizable to the one that beat Danielle Taylor at the back end of 2018. She is strong for the division and has crisp boxing and decent clinch wrestling.
If I was to see both fighters at their peak, I would pick Rose but it is hard to tell where she is at. Her performance against Andrade showed her world class footwork and movement but she was too willing to get in long drawn-out exchanges which got her in some bother. Against Weili if she engages in drawn out exchanges she will likely get put away.
If Rose is at 100% and fights smart, she wins it but she can’t afford to make the same mistakes as she did in the Andrade fight as Zhang has the power and speed to put her away. This should be a fascinating fight and one I truly cannot wait for but from a betting stand point I am staying away.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko is as complete of a mixed martial arts fighter as you will find. Her muay thai is still her bread and butter but she is completely comfortable wherever this fight goes. This fight will be the toughest test for Shevchenko since Jedrzejzczyk but one I have her overcoming with flying colours. From range this will be one sided as anything, Andrade needs to get in tight and work the body and in the clinch to have a chance of the upset.
The big concern for mine for the Brazilian is she moves in a straight line. Shevchenko’s timing and diverse array of strikes will all but find the mark constantly against a stagnant Andrade. With lateral movement and the cutting of angles I expect Shevchenko to make a mess of Andrade on the feet before she lands a brutal head kick to end the fight.
Brendan Allen vs Karl Roberson
My pick of the undercard is Brendan Allen who has the perfect style to succeed against Karl Roberson. Roberson is strangely a good offensive wrestler but appalling at defending takedowns. Allen’s got the chain-wrestling to put Roberson on the mat and the submission skills when it gets there to finish the fight. Expect Allen to make a mess of Roberson and fast, simple as that.