UFC 261 proved to be the most action packed card of the year, with the return of fans in a sold out Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Florida, it was action from start to finish.
Kamaru Usman went out and proved to the world he is not to be disrespected when he knocked out Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal at the start of the second round.
Absoulte madness erupted after Rose Namajunas TKO’D Zhang Weili in just over a minute in the first round, reclaiming the strawweight title once more.
Another dominant performance from Valentina ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko, she ground and pounded her way to victory in the second round, adding yet another name to her ever expanding resume.
Kamaru Usman shocked everyone by knocking out Jorge Masvidal in truly terrifying fashion, adding another name to his already illustrious legacy, Usman has proved he is the best welterweight in the world at the moment and arguably ever, a couple more wins against some tough competitors could solidify himself as the GOAT. Kamaru still has some tough opponents he is yet to face and a couple fighters who may be deserving of a rematch.
Colby Covington is the obvious choice at the moment, with the long standing rivalry between the two a second fight is bound to produce fireworks and big PPV buys.
The next couple of bouts are determinant on currently scheduled matchups. Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson, Burns is coming off a loss to Usman but ‘Durinho’ can earn his way back if he picks up a win against ‘Wonderboy’. Thompson on the other hand is proving to be more and more dangerous, silencing rising star Geof Neal in his last fight.
Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal’s popularity exploded after his flash knockout over Ben Askren in 2019, however since then he has lost 2 of his last 3, losing twice to ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Kamaru Usman. This however does not change the fact that Masvidal is still one of if not the biggest name in the UFC (outside Conor McGregor).
It is quite unlikely that Masvidal will get another title shot anytime soon, but it is even more unlikely that he is to be released by the UFC. In order for Masvidal to work his way back to a title he needs to prove he is more then just a journeyman with a flashy knockout under his belt.
If Masvidal were to have a grudge match with former teammate Colby Covington it could potentially attract big PPV numbers as well as securing a potential title shot if Colby manages to win, but Masvidal would need more then just a win over Covington. It would make more sense for Masvidal to face someone ranked below him, so a matchup with Vicente Luque or Michael ‘Maverick’ Chiesa.
Rose Namajunas made history this weekend by reclaiming the strawweight title, the first time this has ever been accomplished in the women’s division in the UFC. Namajunas had to silence a tough and durable Zhang Weili in order claim the strawweight strap and has now asserted herself as one of the top female fighters in the world. ‘Thug’ Rose will enjoy this victory for quite some time but will need to defend her title eventually, who will challenge Namajunas?
A rematch with Zhang isn’t completely out of the question, but it think a lot of fans would rather see a rematch between Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine the next no.1 contender.
Another exciting matchup could be the winner of Carla Esparza vs Yan Xiaonan, a rematch with Esparza would be very interesting for Namajunas or even a bout with a legitimate prospect in Xiaonan.
Weilli ‘Magnum’ Zhang suffered a horrible KO loss this weekend, putting an end to her 21-fight winning streak, Weilli proved to be a tough and respectable champion, being humble and respectful un victory and in defeat, such a great champion and role model still has the potential to make another run at the belt and improve her legacy tenfold.
A rematch with Joanna Jędrzejczyk to decide the no.1 contender is a mouth watering thought, another fun bout would be a fight with Mackenzie Dern, it gives both fighters a chance to get a shot at the belt.
Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko proved yet again why she is the best in the world, capturing yet another dominant performance, with every victory it seems Shevchenko becomes more and more unbeatable, is there anyone who can pose a serious threat to the flyweight queen?
The winner of Lauren Murphy vs Joanne Calderwood pops into mind and currently makes the most sense, if for whatever reason it cannot happen then the winner of Kaitlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo, with the help of the process of elimination the next title challenger will become clear, but for now “Bullet” can take time to recover and enjoy her victory.
Former champion Jessica Andrade was defeated at the hands of Valentina Shevchenko, Andrade is now 1-1 at flyweight and has somewhat struggled to keep up with the growing talent pool, if Andrade want another shot at the belt or to prove she can still be dominant she needs to pick up a couple of big wins against big opponents.
Kaitlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo are set to do battle soon, a rematch against Chookagian could get Andrade’s head where it needs to be, whereas a bout with Viviane Araujo could prove that Jessica can hang with the fresher talent.