By Daniel Rebain – NHL/UFC Staff Writer
For the first time in a little over a year, the UFC hosted its first crowd with fans in attendance, and it was a MASSIVE success for the company and the world of sports in general. UFC 261 took place in front of 15,269 fans as Dana White and the UFC SOLD-OUT the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Florida, bringing in a gate of $3.3M (Arena Record)
But UFC 261 will not be remembered just for being the first sold-out crowd since the COVID-19 pandemic, but all the fights that took place on the card that made this event so wild. And to cap it all off, all three of the title fights, yes THREE title fights, were finished via TKO/KO. So let us begin!
© Valentina Shevchenko 21-3 def Jessica Andrade 21-9 via R2 TKO (Elbows)
To get the ball rolling in the first title fight of the night was Valentina Shevchenko defending her belt against Jessica Andrade, a former champion at 115lbs. According to the experts and odds makers, this fight would have been Shevchenko’s toughest fight since fighting the former Strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The thing was for Andrade to win, she needed to use her strength and wrestle the champion if she wanted to have any chance because Shevchenko will piece you up on the feet. Shevchenko heard this noise and made it her mission to out wrestle Andrade, and she did. She took Andrade down SEVEN TIMES in under two rounds. Shevchenko pulled a Khabib, and mauled Andrade until the referee stepped in and called the fight.
In hindsight, Andrade had no chance against Shevchenko, Shevchenko is just one of the best fighters in the UFC, male or female. Her domination of the women’s flyweight division is right up there with Usman at 170, Jon Jones at 205 and Amanda Nunes at bantamweight & featherweight.
The question now is, what is next for Shevchenko? Will we finally get to see the trilogy of Shevchenko v Nunes or will someone step up next at 125lb to take their inevitable beating from the “Bullet”.
#1 Rose Namajunas 11-4 def © Zhang Weili 21-2 via R1 KO (Head Kick)
Now onto the Co-Main event and looking back on even before the fight, we should have realized Rose Namajunas was going to upset Zhang Weili. If you have not seen what i am talking about, check out Bruce Buffer introducing Rose as she just stands there repeating, “I’m the best”. Now that’s gangster!
“Thug” Rose shocked the world for the second time in her career as she took back here crown in the featherweight division. With an out of left field high kick, she put Weili to sleep. Namajunas in her first time as champion did not enjoy the spot light as champ and has come out stating her troubles with mental illness.
But when that belt was wrapped around her waist, her emotions took over and showed, this meant the world to get that title back, and she is ready to defend it.
Weili on the other hand had won every fight since losing her first fight of her career back in 2013, and that was a split decision. The question is, will she get an immediate rematch, or will Joanna Jedrzejczyk get her shot back at the title she lost to Rose back in 2017, her first loss in MMA.
© Kamaru Usman 19-1 def Jorge Masvidal 35-15 via R2 KO (Straight Right)
Now if you thought Rose KO’ing Weili was shocking, then the Main Event between Usman and Masvidal was a “Holy Shit” moment. Before the fight if you were thinking of ways Usman would win you would say, “wrestle him to death & TKO on the mat or unanimous decision.”
If you had Usman would flat line Masvidal with one punch you are either lying or exposed yourself because you are from the future. NEVER in his career had Masvidal ever been knocked out. Only TWICE had he ever been stopped. Usman for all the hate he gets is evolving right in front of our eyes.
Since moving his camp to Colorado with Trevor Wittman and overhauling his striking game, Usman has shown massive improvements. Usman threw a beautiful push left into a straight right, right down Broadway, ending the night for Masvidal with one punch. There should be no more doubting Usman now as one of the best, he’s not just a prolific wrestler anymore, he could throw hands with anyone he wants with Wittman in his corner.
Other Notable Fights
Anthony Smith (35-16) def Jimmy Crute (12-2)
Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute was set to open this massive PPV with a bang. But it all went downhill for Crute when Smith kicked him behind the knee and shut his leg down. The doctor stopped the fight after the first round due to Crute not being able to stand on two feet.
Uriah Hall (18-9) def Chris Weidman (15-6)
In a rematch of their first fight back in 2010 where Chris Weidman got a TKO win over Uriah Hall, Hall was looking for revenge. Except when Weidman threw is first kick, he snapped his right leg in half, giving Hall his fourth win in-a-row. Not the way Hall wanted to win. Hoping Chris, a speedy recovery.
Randy Brown (13-4) def Alex Oliveira (22-10-1)
The Welterweight division better watch out for Randy Brown after his single arm rear naked choke over Cowboy Oliveira, a black belt in BJJ. Standing at 6’3 and a reach of 78′ he will be a problem for everyone in the division including Usman down the line.
50k Fight of the Night: Jeff Molina def Aori Qileng via UD (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
50k Performance Bonus: Kamaru Usman & Rose Namajunas
To say it is great having the fans back would be a massive understatement. The fans have made the UFC what it is today and the year off with an empty UFC Apex or Fight island was cool, but the UFC needs fan to have moments like we saw at UFC 261.
Will UFC 261 go down as one of the best events of all-time for the company? I think it will be in the conversation. The first sold-out event after the pandemic, three title fight KO/TKO’s; the hype was real leading up to this event. Now it is UFC 262 turn to bring us that up and it goes down once again, sold out crowd in Houston Texas. See you there May 15th!
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