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3 fights that should be booked following UFC 261

UFC 261: The Champions
UFC 261: The Champions
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 26 Apr 2021
Feature

Another UFC card has passed us by and with it comes a host of possibilities moving forward for both the victors and the unfortunate fighters who were defeated.

The UFC 261 pay-per-view had some of the UFC's most memorable and shocking moments. During the prelims, Brendan Allen returned to the winning column with a remarkable heel hook, Pat Sabatini debuted with a comfortable decision victory and Randy Brown pulled off an incredible one-armed rear-naked choke in the prelim headliner against Alex Oliveira.

Where do we start with the main card? Anthony Smith and Uriah Hall picked up wins after two leg injuries to their opponents. A perfect kick from 'Lionheart' disabled the left leg of Jimmy Crute, forcing the opening fight of the main card to be waved off after five minutes.

Returning fans were left shocked next when Chris Weidman suffered one of the most horrific broken legs in sporting history. With the first kick thrown, the American snapped his leg. If you haven't watched it, don't...

As if the card wasn't memorable enough already, the three title fights more than delivered. Valentina Shevchenko dominated Jessica Andrade before bringing out her trademark dance in front of a crowd of 15,000 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Rose Namajunas nearly brought everyone to tears when she reclaimed the UFC women's strawweight championship with a perfect head kick to Weili Zhang. In the main event, Kamaru Usman provided a reverse baptism to Jorge Masvidal.

So, what are the next steps we should see after some of those results? Here are three fights that should be booked following the events at UFC 261.


#3 Jorge Masvidal vs. Vicente Luque - UFC welterweight

Jorge Masvidal (left) and Vicente Luque (right)
Jorge Masvidal (left) and Vicente Luque (right)

At UFC 261, Jorge Masvidal's planned baptism of Kamaru Usman was reversed. On Saturday night, the welterweight king Kamaru Usman brutally knocked out 'Gamebred'.

Nevertheless, Masvidal's rise since his win over Darren Till has been special. He's become one of the UFC's biggest superstars and his credentials inside the cage remain clear. However, back-to-back championship fight losses in under 12 months will leave him a fair distance away from title contention.

With Colby Covington seemingly next in line for a title shot and Leon Edwards, Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson all booked to fight in the coming weeks and months, it stands to reason Masvidal's resurgence will need to start with a name outside of the welterweight top-5.

Having fought in March and risen close to the top-5 with a win over former 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley, Vicente Luque is the clear choice.

Despite not having a fight booked, Luque has said he's keeping himself ready should either Leon Edwards or Nate Diaz pull out of their 5-round co-main at UFC 262 in May.

Should the Brazilian not be required, he'll be looking for a big name opponent in the near future and Jorge Masvidal, given his back-to-back losses and the availability of other top names, is the obvious choice.

For Masvidal, this matchup would offer him the opportunity to prove he's still up there with the elite at 170-pounds and can beat "any welterweight on the planet" as his coach Mike Brown has claimed.


#2 Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang 2 - UFC strawweight championship

UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2
UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2

Rose Namajunas provided one of the best moments of the night at UFC 261. Her knockout of Weili Zhang was both shocking, memorable, heartwarming and emotional, all in one.

With one of the best kicks we've seen in the UFC, Namajunas' left-foot sent an unconscious Zhang to the mat. Hammerfirsts from 'Thug Rose' to the dazed Chinese strawweight led to Keith Peterson stepping in. Zhang complained afterwards, but it can be assumed she was devastated about losing her title and hopefully has watched it back and realized that Peterson made a perfect stoppage.

So what is the next step at strawweight? A rematch.

The 115-pound division is the strongest the UFC's women's roster has. There are a number of contenders and worthy names for Namajunas' first title defense, but given her record and her performances against Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Weili Zhang has to get a rematch.

Although Jedrzejczyk announced her intention to fight the winner, I can't see her being given an opportunity over Zhang. I think we should see the Pole fight a name like Mackenzie Dern to establish a number one contender, whilst Namajunas and Zhang rematch later in the year.


#1 Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington 2 - UFC welterweight championship

Kamaru Usman v Colby Covington
Kamaru Usman v Colby Covington

Kamaru Usman is one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever step foot inside the UFC octagon. A portion of the fanbase have long claimed he is boring. We have the recency bias after his first fight with Jorge Masvidal to thank for that. But the rematch left no doubt. He is far from boring.

Under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman, 'The Nigerian Nightmare' looks unstoppable on the ground and now on the feet too. We got a taste of his striking improvements in his incredible display of jabs against Gilbert Burns in February. This past weekend we had the main course - a brutal knockout of Jorge Masvidal.

It seems clear another rematch is the next step in Usman's welterweight reign. Dana White has already confirmed Colby Covington is next in line for another crack at Usman's belt and it appears to be as close to official as a fight can be without being booked.

The first meeting between the two was a memorable one. If we are treated to anything remotely similar in the rematch we're in for a treat.

Published 26 Apr 2021
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