UFC fans are in for a delightful treat as April 2021 promises to be an action-packed month in the world of mixed martial arts.
This month, three dominant champions will make their returns to defend their titles against formidable challengers. On top of that, a former UFC champion will look to get back into title contention by defeating one of the toughest fighters in the middleweight division.
So what's in store for fight fans for the next few weeks to come? Let's take a look at five blockbuster fights to look forward to in April 2021.
#5 UFC on ABC 2: Marvin Vettori vs Kevin Holland
Originally, Marvin Vettori was supposed to face Darren Till in the main event of UFC on ABC 2. However, Till had to pull out of the fight after suffering a severe collarbone injury. As a result, Marvin Vettori will instead take on Kevin Holland – who agreed to take Till's spot on short notice – on April 11.
Kevin Holland just recently fought a few weeks ago, losing a decision against Derek Brunson on March 20. He'll get an immediate opportunity at redemption but he'll have to do it against a red-hot up-and-comer in Vettori.
Marvin Vettori, meanwhile, has strung together four wins in a row with his most recent victory coming against Swedish submission specialist Jack Hermansson in December last year.
#4 UFC Fight Night: Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
In another main event bout involving a replacement fighter, former UFC middleweight king Robert Whittaker is set to face Kelvin Gastelum, who stepped in for Paulo Costa.
Paulo Costa was forced to withdraw from his fight with Robert Whittaker after reportedly suffering from a severe illness. It didn't take long before the UFC announced Kelvin Gastelum as a replacement opponent for Whittaker on April 17.
Short notice or not, Robert Whittaker is very confident about his chances against Gastelum. In fact, he predicted a second-round finish in his favor:
“I think I put him away in the second. All I know is I’m going to go into this fight the best Robert Whittaker I’ve been, and I’m going into this fight very happy – and a happy Rob is a very dangerous one,” he told MMA Junkie in an interview.
#3 UFC 261: Valentina Schevchenko vs Jessica Andrade
The unstoppable queen of women's flyweights will defend her throne on the undercard of UFC 261 on April 25. Valentina Schevchenko will square off against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in a matchup that 'Bullet' is expected to dominate.
Brimming with confidence, Valentina Schevchenko shared a breakdown of how she thinks her upcoming fight will go:
“I think it’s same as other girls. It’s like an opponent who has a style of fighting, you know, specific things. There is no difference. I’m going to be preparing myself the same way, the same hard work and like doing everything that I have to do to get the victory. Of course, look into like specific details of her, what she can bring, Nothing like super special but you have to be everytime with attention to everything,” she told MMA journalist James Lynch.
Schevchenko hasn't lost since 2017, winning her last six fights in dominant fashion. If Jessica Andrade, however, proved anything in her last fight against Katlyn Chookagian, it's that she still has the power in her hands to score a stoppage at any point of the fight.
#2 UFC 261: Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas
After avenging her loss against Jessica Andrade, 'Thug' Rose Namajunas has finally secured an opportunity to get her strawweight title back. Doing so, however, won't come easy as she'll have to beat current champion Zhang Weili, who has displayed nothing but sheer dominance in her last 21 outings.
Zhang Weili's title defense against Namajunas will be her first fight in more than 12 months. However, the Chinese star is still positive that her preparation will be enough to get the job done come April 25:
“Everything is now moving smoothly and I’m excited about this fight with Rose. Since my last title defence Rose has been on my mind as my ideal opponent. I’m very happy. She has great footwork and boxing skills. I have been preparing specifically for her skill set," she said in an interview with South China Morning Post.
Whether Zhang can implement her game plan against Namajunas remains to be seen. What's exciting is that fans will soon find out.
#1 UFC 261: Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal have been booked to headline the UFC's first event in front of a full crowd in more than a year. After successfully defending his UFC middleweight title against Gilbert Burns earlier this year, Kamaru Usman will attempt to go 2-0 against Masvidal.
Jorge Masvidal miserably failed in his first attempt to dethrone Kamaru Usman last July. On April 25, he gets another golden opportunity. But what's going to be different this time? He'll be fully ready.
In July 2020, Jorge Masvidal agreed to replace Burns on short notice, hoping to take the UFC welterweight strap away from Usman. As expected, Masvidal was dominated by the champion, who had a full training camp.
At UFC 261, Usman can once and for all prove that his victory wasn't due to his challenger's lack of preparation while Masvidal has the opportunity to show that he's championship material.