UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2 Predictions
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
As good of a fighter as Masvidal is, it’s hard not to feel that current No.1 contender Colby Covington is more deserving of the title shot here given how highly-competitive his original fight with Usman was, and how uncompetitive the first encounter with Masvidal turned out to be.
Masvidal hasn’t fought since then, but clearly the UFC brass still feels he’s the bigger draw and ‘Gamebred’ also has the excuse that he accepted the original fight with Usman on extremely short notice, so he’s vowed to be better prepared this time around.
It’s true that it was far from an ideal situation last time out, but the reality that’s been glossed over is that Masvidal had been preparing to fight Usman earlier that year and had been working with top-level wrestlers specifically for that before Gilbert Burns was selected to fight the champ instead when negotations between the parties fell through. Masvidal’s training partner Dustin Poirier said as much at the time and also stated that he’d been very active in the gym even after that.
Undoubtedly the extra time that Masvidal has now had to focus even more on his takedown defense and take stock of the lessons learned from their previous encounter will be invaluable, but I’m just not convinced it’s going to make a big difference to the outcome.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have a chance. Masvidal is an excellent striker and the more offensively-minded version of ‘Gamebred’ that propelled him to stardom in recent years will make him dangerous, though the threat of the takedown is always going to make him wary.
The biggest problem for Masvidal is that Usman has shown that he’s far from a one-trick pony as he’s also very good on the feet, has world-class cardio and a good chin, so even if he can stuff a takedown or two he’s not got an easy route to victory by any stretch of the imagination.
As such it just has all the making of another tough night for Masvidal and I do feel it will likely play out much the same way as their first meeting with Usman dominating him on the mat.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas
Both Weili and Namajunas only had one fight in 2020, but they will both be happy with the way they went, as Weili emerged victorious in an amazing ‘Fight Of The Year’ war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, while Namajunas managed to avenge a tough loss to Jessica Andrade.
This figures to be another fascinating title encounter as just as in her last outing, Weili is facing another excellent striker in Namajunas, who has already bested Jedrzejczyk on two occasions.
Namajunas is a good boxer who works well from range, cuts angles nicely, has solid accuracy and puts combinations together well. Those are all attributes she’ll need here as Weili is a master of pressure fighting and will bring the fight to her with high volume offense and solid power.
Weili is also the more physically strong fighter and has good wrestling, though she will have to be very careful if she tries to take her opponent to the mat, as Namajunas might not have the best takedown defense, but she is very crafty indeed with her submission skills.
Namajunas was able to edge out another powerful pressure based fighter in Andrade last time out, but Weili is better than the Brazilian and I think she’ll be able to overpower Rose as the fight goes on and earn a decision victory, if not a late TKO stoppage.
Prediction: Zhang Weili to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade
Shevchenko has been unstoppable since moving down to flyweight and has already beaten back most of the viable opposition in the weight class, so former strawweight champion Andrade has been a welcome addition to the ranks.
Andrade moved up after a couple of losses to Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas at strawweight, but she looked good in her 125lb debut against a former title contender in Katlyn Chookagian, finishing her late in the first round by TKO.
Andrade was already short and stocky at 115lbs and that will be even more pronounced here, with Shevchenko being 3.5″ taller and with a 4.5″ reach advantage. That will suit the champion well as she likes to command the fight from range with her strong kickboxing ability.
While Shevchenko has a more measured, methodical pace, Andrade’s game is based around her pace and pressure, constantly pressing forward with high volume offense while relying on her toughness to wade through the strikes coming her way.
Andrade is also very strong and can use that to overwhelm opponents with slamming takedowns and tireless work on top. Shevchenko is also a very capable wrestler though and I don’t expect Andrade to be able to easily outmuscle her in the same way as she has others in the past.
I am interested to see how Shevchemko copes with Andrade’s pressure, but in the end I feel the champion has a sizeable technical advantage and while she might not be able to stop the Brazilian, she will be able to force her to endure a lot of punishment over the course of five rounds as she constantly tries to force her way into range , leading to a decision victory.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall
After only picking up one win in his previous six fights, Weidman was in desperate need of a victory last time out and got it with a workmanlike decision win against Omar Akhmedov, and now he goes up against Hall, who has won his last three fights in a row, with two coming inside the decision by way of strikes.
Hall is a fast, athletic striking specialist who has a wide variety of striking techniques at his disposal and can unleash flashy kicks out of nowhere and with big power behind them. The downside though is that at times in his career he has struggled mentally to embrace the ‘killer instinct’ make the most of those gifts.
When he does the results can be devastating for his opponents though, and that must be a big concern for Weidman as despite that recent win, it doesn’t wipe the memory that the former champion suffered five KO / TKO losses in four years not so long ago.
Weidman has made adjustments and is now leaning more heavily towards his wrestling ability, and that’s a good move as it’s something he’s very good at and could give him a big advantage in this match-up.
Hall’s takedown defense is fairly solid though and enhanced by the fact that there’s always a danger of running into a fight-ending blow while attempting to close the distance on him, and he has also shown some ability to get back to his feet if grounded.
Even just surviving a few attempts will afford him opportunities to let his strikes go, and given that I do still do have serious concerns about Weidman’s chin at this stage in his career, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that this isn’t one of Hall’s ‘gun-shy’ nights and take him to catch Weidman out with his unpredictable, powerful offense and deliver a second round KO finish.
Prediction: Uriah Hall to win by KO in Rd2 – Bet @ Sportsbet
Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute
After a couple of recent losses, Smith steadied the ship last time out with a submission win over Devin Clark, while Crute has been coming on strong with a 4-1 UFC record so far, including three finishes inside the opening five minutes.
I’d say that Smith is the better overall striker in this match-up and despite his recent form being underwhelming, his ability to produce finishes with all eight limbs at both 185lbs and 205lbs always makes him a serious threat.
However, Crute is a hard-nosed fighter with enough striking ability to at least hold his own on the feet at times as he pushes the pace and looks for opportunities to utilize his effective wrestling game.
Smith’s takedown defense if far from impenetrable and though he does have a crafty submission game, I like Crute’s chances of controlling him on top and roughing him up with ground and pound over the course of three rounds to earn a decision victory.
Prediction: Jimmy Crute to win by decision – Bet @ Sportsbet
UFC 261 Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Alex Oliveira vs. Randy Brown
Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulic
Karl Roberson vs. Brendan Allen
Patrick Sabatini vs. Tristan Connelly
Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Natividad
Kazula Vargas vs. Rong Zhu
Qileng Aori vs. Jeffrey Molina
Na Liang vs. Ariane Carnelossi
Jamey Simmons vs. Johnny Munoz
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process. You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.