UFC president Dana White has announced the UFC 261 fight card and the return of fans to the arena after over a year in emphatic fashion. The stacked card is the second this year to feature three title fights on the same night.
While tickets for UFC 264 sold out in seconds, considering it's a Conor McGregor card, UFC 261 is the biggest gate in UFC arena history and also sold all its tickets in minutes. There are ample reasons for the same.
5 reasons why UFC 261 can be the promotions' best PPV of 2021:
5) Return of crowds to the arena
2020 saw the whole world shut down in an unprecedented manner, owing to the pandemic. Events and the sporting world were some of the worst affected, with all manner of sporting events canceled. Dana White outdid himself by managing to put on a fight card every weekend. We've been spoilt and have loved every minute of it.
While we do enjoy being able to hear every shot landed in a fight, it's going to be an amazing experience to witness a packed arena after over a year. Fight fans are some of the most animated in the world, and the experience of watching a fight with fans in the crowd is unlike any other in the world.
4) Three title fights
When UFC 259 was announced, the MMA world could not stop drooling over the prospect of three title fights on the same card. It was the first time in UFC history that something like this was happening. Fast forward to today, and we're suddenly being treated to another card with three title fights.
Dana White is spoiling us more and more each day, and we're only too happy. The UFC 261 card features two title fights in the women's division and a rematch between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal for the welterweight championship. You can see the predictions and picks here.
3) The card
The card itself is an absolute treat. Even if we focus solely on the main card, it promises fireworks from the very first fight.
The first bout on the card is a light-heavyweight matchup between Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute. Smith is a former title contender and Crute is an exciting prospect in the division. Jimmy Crute has had only one loss in his career so far and Anthony Smith is working his way back to a title shot. You can be sure that both men are going to bring their A-game.
The next bout is a middleweight fight between Uriah Hall and Chris Weidman. Both these men have defeated middleweight legend Anderson Silva, but Chris Weidman is a former middleweight champion who beat prime Anderson Silva not once, but twice. Weidman may be past his prime but will be fighting a very tough opponent who is exactly as old as him at 36 years of age. We can't wait to watch these two men battle it out.
Weidman is famous for having given Anderson Silva one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of MMA, by checking a leg kick from 'The Spider' with impeccable timing.
Watch the next image at your own discretion, if you haven't seen it yet.
2) High stakes for the headlining fighters
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman takes on Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 261. Many think Usman should have a rematch against Colby Covington, but the reason for this fight is that Masvidal fought Usman at UFC 251 on just 6 days' notice. Kamaru Usman wants to give Masvidal a full training camp and then finish him, as opposed to outpointing him to a decision victory like last time.
While Jorge Masvidal is the underdog going into the fight, this bout is taking place in his home state of Florida. 'Gamebred' has been raised in Miami, and the stakes are high for him because he's competing in his home state in front of a full-capacity crowd. Apart from the added pressure, he will have the advantage of competing at home but will need to make some necessary adjustments if he wants to win the belt this time.
Kamaru Usman also happens to live in Florida, but that's hardly the reason his stakes are higher than ever for him in this fight. Usman's father has spent the last 10 years incarcerated, and this will be the first time he steps into the arena to watch his son fight. To add to that, Kamaru Usman has surpassed GSP's record for the longest active winning streak in the welterweight division after he beat Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
Victory in the fight will take him one step closer to eclipsing GSP as the best welterweight in the history of the UFC.
1) Surpass UFC 259
The hype for UFC 259 was real, considering it was the first time we were treated to three title fights on the same card. However, some felt the event didn't live up to the hype, considering Petr Yan lost his belt via DQ to Aljamain Sterling, Amanda Nunes dominated Megan Anderson, and Israel Adesanya had a bad day at the office against Jan Blachowicz.
Of course, fans who truly enjoy every aspect of martial arts loved the card, but UFC 261 could very well surpass UFC 259 for fans across the board.
In UFC 261, Valentina Shevchenko will face her toughest challenge yet in former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade. While Shevchenko has dominated the flyweight division for a long time, Andrade could be the first challenger to truly give her a hard time. We could witness the first instance of the flyweight belt being taken away from 'Bullet' Valentina.
Current strawweight champion Zhang Weili faces former champion Rose Namajunas in the co-main event. Weili is physically stronger than Namajunas, but 'Thug' Rose has been on the path to redemption. While Namajunas has rubbed some fans the wrong way and could be a little emotional heading into the fight on account of her comments against Weili and communism, you can be sure she will bring her very best to the octagon.
Zhang Weili defended her title last year against former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk in what is arguably the best women's fight we've ever witnessed in the UFC. We're expecting to see some fireworks at UFC 261, to say the least.