UFC 261: Usman vs Masvidal 2 Preview

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Our UFC expert previews the UFC 261 fight card and picks out some underdogs worth watching out for.

Usman v Masvidal in UFC action

After over a year on the sidelines, the UFC octagon goes on the road, proper, this weekend at UFC 261. The sold-out event (15,000 fans expected) will go down in the VyStars Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, pandemic be damned. And they’ve stocked the fight card, with three title fights topping the bill (although the rest of the card is rather pedestrian).

Main eventing the card is the rematch no one was clamouring for yet we’re being given regardless. That would Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal for the UFC Welterweight Championship. Usman retained his title against Masvidal last summer, dominating him for 25 minutes to earn a unanimous decision victory. So, what has changed in the rematch? First off, Masvidal will have the benefit of a full training camp this time, as opposed to their first meeting which he took on short notice. Other than that, not much should be different in the sequel.

Masvidal has one route to victory on Saturday night and that is to knock out Usman with his dangerous striking. The only problem with that route is that Usman has never been knocked out in his career, and has only lost once in total, via submission, and that was in the second fight of his career back in 2013. The more likely outcome Saturday is Usman to use his superior wresting and physical strength to take Masvidal down repeatedly and grind out another decision victory. There’s a reason he’s 4/21 on the board currently. However, he has won two of his last three fights via TKO, so you might want to get yourself down on some prop bet action in this one.

Co-Main Event Can Go Either Way

The co-main event should be the most competitive of the three title fights, pitting current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili against former champion Rose Namajunas. It’s also the closest on the books, with the champ coming in at 5/11, while Rose brings you back 8/5. This fight can very go either way, but I’m leaning toward Zhang to retain. I like her strength and superior striking to carry the day for her, but Namajunas regaining her title wouldn’t be a shock by any means.

The UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship will also be up for grabs in Florida on Saturday, with the seemingly unstoppable champion Valentina Shevchenko defending her crown against another former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion, Jessica Andrade. Andrade is a very fierce, physically strong fighter, having fought at all three of the UFC’s women’s weight classes in the past. However, I feel Shevchenko is just too skilled and too smart to lose her belt in this one.

Knockout Underdog Picks

There are a few underdogs I’m high on for Saturday night as well. Take Uriah Hall at 21/20 against former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman. Weidman has lost five of his last seven bouts via knockout, and Hall is a fearsome striker, so this seems to be a real solid number to get him at. Feel free to make it even better by picking him to win via knockout.

I also like the debuting Na Liang in her women’s strawweight bout against Ariane Carnelossi. I’ve read good things about ‘Dragon Girl’, so I’m excited to get her at such an advantageous number as 8/5. Not a whole lot is known about her since she has fought exclusively on the regional circuit in her homeland of China, but her wrestling and grappling is expected to be the difference maker versus Carnelossi and hopefully the path to us kicking off Saturday night with a nice plus money score.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Jeff Fox offers expert insight into the world of MMA & UFC betting from his years of experience in the industry. His work has appeared in publications such as SI.com, St Louis Post-Dispatch, SLAM, Fighters Only Magazine & FIGHT!, among many others. Jeff shares his UFC betting tips with MansionBet readers on a weekly basis.
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