The UFC is on the move for the first time in a while this weekend as it takes place out of a crowd filled VyStar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Three title fights headline what is a massive card. The main event sees Welterweight king Kamaru Usman face Jorge Masvidal for the second time.
In the co-main, former champion Rose Namajunas faces current champion Weili Zhang and Valentina Shevchenko defends her belt once more this time against Jessica Andrade. We have a look at the three title fights and one on the prelims below.
UFC 261 Betting Tips
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
In all honesty I hate that this fight is happening again. I previewed this fight back at UFC 251 saying “I expect him to dominate Masvidal from start to finish” and it happened then and it will happen again. Whatever Masvidal leads you to believe he was training when called in on short notice. It may not have been a full camp or full intensity but Masvidal was still training and staying fit. A full camp I see benefiting Usman more than Masvidal as he can put together a better game plan for dominating Gamebred. Masvidal may still be the better boxer but the gap is closing as Usman’s jab was elite against Burns.
Trevor Wittman has revolutionized Usman and made him a genuine knockout threat on the feet. He clearly is the best in this division and the only man I currently see giving him any problems is Stephen Thompson, who should have got this fight instead of Masvidal. I respect Masvidal’s work ethic and durability but he does not have the championship quality to win a real belt. Masvidal has only beaten one currently ranked opponent, Michael Chiesa back in 2013….. Usman once again puts on a clinic. He will likely open up more so Masvidal will land some good shots but will be on the end of plenty of punishment from Usman. Expect a one-sided title fight once again and Masvidal rematching Diaz after this.
Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas
This is the best fight on the card for mine. Weili Zhang has been ultra-impressive since joining the UFC but showed in her last fight she has a dangerous tendency to fight the fight in her opponent’s style. Although this led to one of the fights of the year, I believe she is lucky she was awarded the decision as on my scorecards I had Jedrzejczyk winning. Namajunas is incredibly well rounded and her lateral movement can be tough to read. In her last fight against Andrade, I thought she was a little too willing to get in long exchanges with Andrade which put her in some trouble.
Namajunas has some of the best grappling in the division and a very well-educated lead hand that allows her to efficiently use her diverse and dangerous striking arsenal. I am torn on who wins this as I have sided with Namajunas quite successfully throughout her UFC career but Zhang is a tough stylistic match up for her. She is durable and is the stronger of the two which will make it tough for Rose to dominate her on the mat. If Zhang can back Rose up and utilize the clinch, I see her winning but at the odds available I am inclined to stay out. If you are hell bent on a tip, I would suggest a small wager on a Namajunas though as I have her closer to Zhang in the market.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade
Can anyone beat Shevchenko at Flyweight? My answer is no. Andrade is a tougher test for Shevchenko than recent opponents as she is the most powerful fighter Shevchenko has fought at Flyweight. The recipe for beating Andrade is there, make use of angles and lateral movement as Andrade fights in a straight line moving forward and that is why the elite women of the division are able to beat her.
If you look at how Shevchenko fights it fits the bill as she can fight moving in any direction and throws up high kicks effortlessly which will cause Andrade a serious headache (in more ways than one). Andrade will need this fight to take place in a phone booth if she is to win, jamming up under Bullet’s chin and working the body and judo throw takedowns. I simply don’t think she can get there consistently and in the end she will be another victim of the Bullet. I like the chances of Shevchenko landing a massive head kick on the rushing and frustrated Andrade so will suggest a bet on Shevchenko to win by KO.
Shevchenko by KO/TKO
Qileng Aori vs Jeff Molina
Jeff Molina was ultra-impressive in his Contender Series victory over the durable Jacob Silva. I was a fan of Molina’s before with his undeniable potential but against Silva he showed that his striking is developing to the stage he can hang with most men on the feet.
Add his slick submissions to the mix and that is one dangerous man. Aori is a big hitter but lacks technique, he will be there for counters as he overextends on his punches and has a tendency to throw from the hip. Against Molina that wont end well. Molina picks him apart and drags it to the mat to probably find a finish in the second or third.