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
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.
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