John Locher/Associated Press
The UFC 261 main card was marked with a lot of memorable performances, but there was none more violent and explosive than Kamaru Usman’s brutal knockout of Jorge Masvidal to close the show.
In the first round, it appeared Usman would mostly employ the wrestling-heavy game plan he used to beat Masvidal the first time. He had no plans to take the fight to decision this time, though. After throwing out a left hand, Usman followed it up with a clean right hand that immediately sent the challenger to the ground.
A few follow-up strikes, and it was all over.
After some trash talk in the lead-up, Usman was complimentary of his opponent after the bout:
Usman: No disrespect, thank you to my man Jorge. You elevated me. He made me go to the workshop and I had to sharpen all my tools to put on a performance like that. I told everybody, I’m still getting better. The sky’s the limit for me for as long as I’m doing this #UFC261
The loss was the first time Masvidal has been knocked out in 50 professional fights. The result once again showed off the skills of Usman who has proven to be a worthy champion in the welterweight division.
The Nigerian Nightmare has now defended his title four times. That leaves him quite short of Georges St-Pierre’s nine title defenses, but his 14-fight win streak is just two from tying Anderson Silva’s all-time record.
- Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal via KO at 1:02 of Round 2
- Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili via KO at 1:18 of Round 1
- Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Andrade via TKO at 2:19 of Round 2
- Uriah Hall def. Chris Weidman via first-round TKO (injury, 0:17)
- Anthony Smith def. Jim Crute via first-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage, 5:00)
- Randy Brown def. Alex Oliveira via first-round submission (rear-naked choke)
- Dwight Grant def. Stefan Sekulic via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
- Brendan Allen def. Karl Roberson via first-round submission (heel hook)
- Pat Sabatini def. Tristan Connelly via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
- Danaa Batgerel def. Kevin Natividad via TKO at 0:50 of Round 1
- Kazula Vargas def. Rong Zhu via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28 x2)
- Jeffrey Molina def. Aori Qileng via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 29-27)
- Ariane Carnelossi def. Liang Na via TKO at 1:28 of Round 2
Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili
With one picture-perfect head kick, Rose Namajunas ended the unbeaten streak of Zhang Weili and became the first woman to reclaim a championship.
Namajunas and Zhang spent the first minute of the fight mostly feeling out the dynamic between the two. As soon as Namajunas felt comfortable enough to uncork the head kick, it was lights out, and the referee was left to explain to the now-former champion what happened.
This is a monumental win for Namajunas and one that shakes up the division. Thug Rose previously held the title before losing it to Jessica Andrade who promptly lost it to Zhang.
The game of musical chairs at the top of the division continues as Namajunas will work to keep a tighter grip on the belt than last time.
Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko put together yet another performance that proved she’s the best woman in MMA not named Amanda Nunes. The flyweight champion held on to her belt with a second-round TKO win over Jessica Andrade.
More impressive than the victory itself is the way in which Shevchenko won. Rather than try to outpoint the aggressive wrestling game from distance, the champion simply plied her own grappling to defend the belt.
Shevchenko set a personal record for takedowns with seven. Ironically, Andrade holds the record for takedowns in a women’s fight with 10, per ESPN Stats & Info.
After nearly sinking in a rear-naked choke that would have ended the fight, the champion went a more violent route. She finally got Andrade in a crucifix where she pummeled her opponent until she drew the finish.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to find intriguing challengers for Shevchenko. She has beaten everyone she has fought outside of two losses to Nunes since 2010. Her running through Andrade can’t help others in the top five feel great about their chances.
Uriah Hall def. Chris Weidman
What was an anticipated middleweight rematch between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall ended in disappointment as a second consecutive fight was ended with a leg injury. Seconds into the bout, Weidman threw a kick that was checked by Hall causing Weidman’s leg to break.
There was more than one analyst who immediately saw the parallels to Weidman’s second bout with Anderson Silva. The Spider snapped his leg when Weidman checked a leg kick in the second round.
This could have been an interesting bout if not for the injury. Weidman was coming off a win against Omari Akhmedov in his first fight back in the middleweight division. Hall had won three in a row and was looking to avenge his first career loss all the way back in 2010.
Instead, we got just a few seconds of the men in the cage and Hall winning without throwing a significant strike.
Anthony Smith def. Jimmy Crute
The power of leg kicks continues to be a prevalent theme in the MMA landscape today. Jimmy Crute is just the latest victim.
The light heavyweight opener got off to a fun start with Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute going at each other. Smith established his jab early, while Crute responded with some heat of his own, but a Smith calf kick left Crute unable to put weight on his legs.
Crute actually took top position after the apparent leg injury, but the cageside doctor wouldn’t allow the Australian to continue.
This is a major disappointment for Crute. With four wins in his last five fights, the 25-year-old really had an opportunity to step into the next tier of 205’ers.
There’s a good chance he still winds up there eventually, but losing to Smith definitely sets him back for now.