UFC Predictions: UFC 261: Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal II Predictions & Picks

Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal rematch in the main event of UFC 261 this weekend.
Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal rematch in the main event of UFC 261 this weekend.
Scott Newman

The UFC welcomes fans back to its show this weekend when the promotion presents UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.

UFC 261 will see three title fights, as the UFC Welterweight, Strawweight and Flyweight titles will all be on the line at one of 2021’s biggest events.

So with this in mind, here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 261: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal II.

#1 UFC Welterweight title: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

Kamaru Usman will be hoping to finish Jorge Masvidal as he finished Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
Kamaru Usman will be hoping to finish Jorge Masvidal as he finished Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.

It’s rare that the UFC books a rematch when the original fight was so one-sided, particularly when it didn’t see a longtime champion dethroned.

But there are a couple of caveats to the booking of this rematch between UFC Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman and top contender Jorge Masvidal.

Firstly, Masvidal is a major star for the UFC right now and stands as one of the promotion’s biggest drawing cards. His first fight with Usman at UFC 251 drew over a million buys on pay-per-view.

And secondly, Gamebred did have somewhat of a ready-made excuse for the loss. He took the fight on very late notice when Gilbert Burns dropped out due to COVID-19, meaning he couldn’t adequately prepare for a fighter as great as Usman.

So can more time to prepare really allow him to win this fight?

To be frank, it feels doubtful.

Masvidal’s strengths lie in his striking game. One of the best boxers in the UFC, Gamebred chains punches together in combinations, his chin and defense are both good, and he’s adept at throwing kicks and knees when he needs to as well.

However, despite being a solid submission fighter, Masvidal has never been the best wrestler. Outside of Stephen Thompson, who picked him apart on the feet, most of his UFC losses have come against fighters capable of taking him down.

And in the form of Usman, he’s up against arguably one of the best grapplers in UFC history.

The Nigerian Nightmare has never failed to take an opponent down when he’s faced them, and nobody’s taken him down in response.

And more to the point, Usman is a simply phenomenal athlete who is also capable of bullying a foe in the clinch, as he did to Tyron Woodley – breaking the longtime champion’s spirit entirely.

Usman is not as credentialed on the feet as Masvidal, but his striking game has improved dramatically over the years.

He was dropped by Burns early in their fight but recovered excellently and eventually stopped Durinho with some violent strikes of his own.

Usman probably shouldn’t look to strike with Masvidal here. It’s simply too risky, and the fact that he comfortably outgrappled him last time suggests he probably doesn’t need to.

With that in mind, this should come down to whether Masvidal can stop the early takedowns. If he can - and he can draw The Nigerian Nightmare into either a brawl or a prolonged striking exchange - he’s got a chance.

But if he can’t stop the takedown – or can’t stop Usman from bullying him from the clinch – then he’ll almost certainly lose again.

Overall, not enough seems to have changed from their first meeting, and there’s nothing to suggest that the late notice was the main reason for Masvidal’s loss.

Therefore, the pick is Usman via unanimous decision.

The Pick: Usman via unanimous decision

Check out here: Jorge Masvidal's Career Earnings

#2 UFC Strawweight title: Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas

Weili Zhang has not fought since her war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248.
Weili Zhang has not fought since her war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248.

When you consider the fighting style of both women – as well as the fact that Rose Namajunas has used apparent xenophobia to drum up a personal issue of sorts – this one should be an excellent fight.

The last time we saw Weili Zhang, the UFC Strawweight champ was involved in an instant classic.

She went toe-to-toe with former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248, eventually outpointing her after 25 minutes of non-stop action.

The two women traded the kind of strikes that would likely have stopped any other fighter in the division – but in the end, Magnum came away with her hand raised.

This fight should give her a different kind of test, though.

Namajunas – who beat Jedrzejczyk twice – is one of the best female strikers we’ve seen in the UFC. Thug Rose has an excellent boxing game based around her jab, but she’s also adept at throwing kicks and knees. On the ground, she has a venomous submission game.

Essentially, she’s a threat in every single area.

What she seems to lack somewhat, though, is the power of Zhang. Magnum hits as hard as any fighter we’ve seen at Strawweight – as we found out when she destroyed Jessica Andrade with punches, elbows and knees in her title win.

And the Chinese fighter is equally dangerous on the ground, too. Of her 21 wins, seven have come by submission, including one over Jessica Aguilar in the UFC.

The big question here is how much that war with Jedrzejczyk has taken out of her. We often hear about wars that can take years off a fighter’s career, and Zhang’s fight at UFC 248 would definitely be considered one of them.

However, Zhang has stayed away from the UFC since, meaning she’s had well over a year to recover now.

And while Namajunas did beat Andrade in her most recent fight in 2020, it wasn’t an overly convincing win, as she struggled with the Brazilian’s power and strength.

Overall, this one could go either way, as both women are dangerous finishers capable of putting the other away. However, Zhang seems to be the more powerful fighter, and so she seems like the more logical pick, even if there are some question marks over her durability after that Jedrzejczyk war.

The Pick: Zhang via second-round TKO

#3 UFC Flyweight title: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Valentina Shevchenko is arguably the UFC's most dominant champion.
Valentina Shevchenko is arguably the UFC's most dominant champion.

The third UFC title fight on this card is an indicator as to how thin the promotion’s female Flyweight division really is.

Champion Valentina Shevchenko will be looking for her fifth successful title defense after claiming the title in December 2018.

Challenger Jessica Andrade, meanwhile, will be fighting for just the second time at Flyweight in her UFC career.

Admittedly, her debut at 125lbs was mightily impressive. She destroyed former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian in the first round with punches to the body.

However, against Shevchenko, she’ll be facing off with an entirely different animal.

One of the most technical strikers in UFC history, The Bullet is basically perfect on the feet. She rarely gets hit, can chain together combinations from any angle and is more than capable of knocking an opponent out.

And on the ground she’s also a highly underrated submission artist, holding wins over the likes of Julianna Pena and Chookagian on the mat.

Her last defense saw her firmly outpoint Jennifer Maia, and while the UFC’s announcers tried to play up Maia’s chances, in reality the Brazilian was outclassed.

And realistically, there’s no reason why Andrade should fare any better. Sure, she’s got plenty of striking power, but Shevchenko came close to beating Amanda Nunes twice.

The UFC will undoubtedly talk up Andrade’s chance of winning this fight, focusing on her punching power, but in reality she’s got little more than a puncher’s chance. For Bate Estaca to win would be one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

It’s doubtful that we’ll see that happen and so the pick is Shevchenko via third-round TKO.

The Pick: Shevchenko via third-round TKO

#4 UFC 261: The Main Card

Picks in bold

UFC Middleweight division: Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman

UFC Light-Heavyweight division: Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute

#5 UFC 261: The Prelims

Picks in bold

UFC Welterweight division: Alex Oliveira vs. Randy Brown

UFC Welterweight division: Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulic

UFC Middleweight division: Karl Roberson vs. Brendan Allen

UFC Featherweight division: Patrick Sabatini vs. Tristan Connelly

UFC Bantamweight division: Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Natividad

UFC Lightweight division: Kazula Vargas vs. Rong Zhu

UFC Flyweight division: Qileng Aori vs. Jeffrey Molina

UFC Strawweight division: Na Liang vs. Ariane Carnelossi

UFC Bantamweight division: Jamey Simmons vs. Johnny Munoz

Edited by Zaid Khan
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