UFC 261 ready to rumble as fans return for Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal

Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal headlines UFC 261
Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal headlines UFC 261 Image Credit: Courtesy ESPN

The UFC returns to Florida on Saturday with three titles on the line in a stacked 13-fight card which is arguably the biggest of the year.

The event marks the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that a capacity crowd of 14,000 fans will watch the action live at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

What’s more UFC boss Dana White has said that face masks will not be required but that the promotion would be providing free face masks for fans in attendance.

The main event features a welterweight bout between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal, which is a rematch of their fight last July that Usman won via decision.

On that occasion Masvidal took the fight on short notice but appears to be better prepared to exact revenge on the Nigerian.

Usman makes a quick return to the Octagon after overwhelming Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 with an improved display of striking while absorbing some punishment from the Brazilian.

Masvidal is one of the more explosive fighters on the UFC roster and will be looking to assert his supremacy early in the contest and keep Usman on the back foot. He has the power and speed and possesses strong clinch strikes.

This looks a closer match than the first with the fighter with the higher IQ carrying the day.

The co-main event sees strawweight champ Weili Zhang defending her belt against former champ Rose Namajunas, who is arguably one of the best strikers in the division.

However ‘Thug’ Rose will need to be at her fighting best against the Chinese mixed martial artist who has already beaten two former 115lb champions including Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

The third title fight will see Valentina Shevchenko looking to defend her title against Jessica Andrade.

Shevchenko (20-3), one of the most accomplished female fighters on the UFC roster, is undefeated at the flyweight division. During her career she has dominated most rivals and only suffered a pair of decision losses to Amanda Nunes, the best fighter in the history of women’s MMA.

In May 2019, Andrade won the strawweight championship with a brutal slam knockout of Namajunas before she lost the title to Weili Zhang in her first defence, where she suffered a 42-second knockout. Andrade also lost on a split decision to Namajunas in the rematch.

Saturday’s mouth-watering card also features a thrilling middleweight matchup between Uriah Hall and Chris Weidman while Anthony Smith and Jim Crute clash in a light heavyweight bout.

Fight card

Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal, welterweight

Zhang Weili v Rose Namajunas, strawweight

Valentina Shevchenko v Jessica Andrade, flyweight

Uriah Hall v Chris Weidman, middleweight

Anthony Smith v Jim Crute, light heavyweight

Alex Oliveira v Randy Brown, welterweight

Dwight Grant v Stefan Sekulic, welterweight

Karl Roberson v Brendan Allen, middleweight

Patrick Sabatini v Tristan Connelly, featherweight

Danaa Batgerel v Kevin Natividad, bantamweight

Kazula Vargas v Zhu Rong, lightweight

Qileng Aori v Jeffrey Molina, flyweight

Na Liang v Ariane Carnelossi, strawweight