UFC 261 Prelim Review – Crazy Fights and Finishes

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UFC 261 is now one for the books and we have your UFC 261 prelim review right here. What a night of fights. From the first fight on the card to the last, the event delivered. Was it the fans being back in the arena? The matchmaking? The fighters themselves? Whatever it was, the event was one of the best of the year and up there with the best we’ve seen in recent memory. We go through the prelims and review each fight, giving a nod to the highlights.

UFC 261 Prelim Review

Early Preliminary Card

The first fight of the night was a war for as long as it lasted. Straight from the off, Na Liang dropped Ariane Carnelossi, swarmed on her, and ultimately paid the price. Throughout the first round, there were multiple transitions between the two women. Liang left it all in the first round and had to be carried back to her stool. Despite landing a takedown in the second, she was reversed and finished. It was certainly a merciful stoppage, Carnelossi was only going to cause more damage. To start the night, it was certainly exciting.

Could it get better? Oh, of course, it could. Jeff Molina defeated Qileng Aori by unanimous decision. Throwing 647 total strikes between them, with two knockdowns in favour of the victor, the two men put it all on the line and it ultimately paid dividends. Awarded the fight of the night, simply put, go back and watch it.

Rodrigo Vargas gained his first UFC victory when he outpointed Rong Zhu in a fairly ordinary fight. Despite Vargas almost locking up a guillotine in the second round, this one went to the judges. 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28 saw the Brazilian get the W.

Kevin Natividad suffered his second UFC knockout loss, this time in just 50 seconds. Taking on Danaa Batgerel, the bout was over in under a minute. A strong left hook catching Natividad coming in was the beginning of the end. After a few follow-up shots that bounced ‘Quicksands’ head off the mat, Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.

Preliminary Card

After an action-packed four-fight early prelim card, the ESPN prelims were upon us. Opening the card was Tristan Connelly and Patrick Sabatini. Making his first featherweight appearance since 2015, Connelly fell at the wrestling and ground game of Sabatini. A unanimous decision victory for Sabatini saw him get a W in his UFC debut. For Connelly, it was disappointing after such an impressive debut but coming off surgery, we can expect to see him back in the win column soon.

Brendan Allen looked to bounce back from his first octagon loss at UFC 261. Taking on Karl Roberson, Allen was able to get the fight to the ground after a trip in the clinch following a few exchanges. Despite getting back to his feet, Roberson was taken down again instantly, leading eventually to an ankle lock finish with five seconds left of the first round for Allen. The future is bright for Allen for sure.

Dwight Grant defeated Stefan Sekulic via split decision, 28-29, 29-28, and 29-28. Grant’s team wasn’t convinced that he had won any of the first two rounds, telling him that he needed a finish going into the third. Despite not getting a finish, Grant did get his hand raised. A relieved look on his face when Bruce Buffer announced him as the winner tells your everything you need to know about this one.

The Preliminary headliner at UFC 261 saw Alex Oliveira square off against Randy Brown in a fight that, strangely had some bad blood behind it. After a back and forth at the weigh-ins, the two almost didn’t make the opening bell, squaring off and eyeballing each other when Buffer was still in the octagon. The fight certainly delivered. After punishing with some strong leg kicks, Oliveira caught a nasty one-two from Brown. After a brief transition on the ground, Brown locked in a one-armed rear-naked choke, leading to the Brazillian tapping out. Brown continued the trash talk after the fight and although we did get a handshake, it certainly seemed Brown still holds some ill-will towards his foe.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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