The UFC put on potentially their greatest ever event at UFC 261 as the returning fans were treated to a stunning fight card in Jacksonville, Florida.
A 13 fight card saw nine brilliant finishes and produced moments that will be remembered forever in the sport, culminating in a new champion being crowned and an Earth-shattering knockout in the main event.
Welteweight champion Kamaru Usman took on Jorge Masvidal for the second time in the space of ten months, promising to win this fight in more dominant fashion than the first and boy did he deliver. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ made it three knockout wins in his last four fights, with a stunning right hand putting ‘Gamebred’s lights out for the first time in his career.
It was exactly the type of statement he intended to make, sleeping his rival in the second round to move to 14-0 in the UFC to move closer to the record 16-0 start Anderson Silva made to his UFC career.
After the fight Usman thanked Masvidal for pushing him to elevate his game further, while the now 50-fight veteran made zero excuses and simply said that Usman ‘had his number’. Usman’s performance solidified that despite being a champion and now defending that belt four times, he continues to get better and better in every performance he has in the octagon.
It’s likely to set up a fight against Colby Covington later this year, with Dana White confirming that he is the number one contender. The two fought in Usman’s first title defence back in 2019, with the champ knocking ‘Chaos’ out in fifth-round and leaving him with a broken jaw.
For now, he will enjoy the conversations around him about being the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now and it’s incredibly hard to argue against. He has the best wrestling in the entire division by a distance, his chin is made of granite, he has terrific conditioning, is only 33 and his hands are becoming increasingly more effective. It’s hard to see anyone being able to stop him in the near future, or potentially ever at his current rate.
In the co-main event, ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas became the first woman ever to regain a title she previously held when she knocked out Weili Zhang in the first round with a brutal head-kick. Weili wasn’t able to get her offence going as Rose bounced in and out of range throughout the first minute or so, then faked a low kick and went high to score the finish.
It was a top performance from Rose, and while the next contender isn’t known just yet the attention will now be on her once again. She seems to be more ready for what comes with being champion this time around though and with skills like hers all eyes will be on how she grows as a mixed martial artist in coming fights.
Valentina Shevchenko also confirmed her status as one of the most complete martial artists in the world, regardless of gender, as she dominated Jessica Andrade from start to finish in their title bout before getting a TKO finish in the second round.
It was supposed to be the toughest fight of her flyweight reign so far and yet it couldn’t have been more one-sided. A potential superfight against Weili is off the table now, while a trilogy with Amanda Nunes seems highly unlikely with White not interested and both fighters seemingly making it clear that they’re on different paths.
A tremendous card wasn’t without it’s down side though, as a cruel twist of fate saw Chris Weidman suffer a horrific leg break just 17 seconds into his fight with Uriah Hall.
In almost identical fashion to what happened in his second fight with Anderson Silva, Weidman threw a leg kick that Hall checked with his knee. Weidman’s leg folded as his shin bone completely shattered and the fight was called off immediately.
It was revealed after the card ended that he was stable and in hospital to undergo surgery and the hope is that he will eventually be able to return to the octagon just like Silva did.