UFC 261 Review – Leg Injuries and Title Fight Finishes

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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 24: (R-L) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria punches Jorge Masvidal in their UFC welterweight championship bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC 261 is now one for the books and we have your UFC 261 review right here. What a night of fights. From the first fight on the card to the last, the event delivered. We heard ‘and still’ twice, both in the main event and in the first of three title fights, and heard ‘and new’ once, in the strawweight title fight on the card. In the first two fights on the main card, leg injuries were suffered, leading to the bouts being finished prematurely. We take a look at the main card fights and discuss the highlights. If you want a breakdown of the prelim fights, you can find one here.

UFC 261 Review

Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute

In what was ‘the old guard’ vs the up and comer, Anthony Smith took on Jimmy Crute to open up the main card at UFC 261. Going into the fight, many thought that Crute would get it done, having won his previous two by first-round finish. Landing heavy leg kicks of his own, the Australian seemed to take little time to find his kicking range. That being said, the jab of Anthony Smith was landing constantly. Smith landed 20 head strikes in the first round, the majority of which were his piston-like jab, marking up Crute’s face badly. It was a heavy leg kick landed by Smith, however, that ultimately ended the night. Landing right behind the left knee of Crute, it debilitated the 25-year-old, leading to obvious injury.

Simply put, the nerves weren’t firing as they should to Crute’s foot, leading to him suffering ‘drop foot’. It’s impossible to hide, as we’ve seen with Henry Cejudo and Sean O’Malley and it lead to the end for Crute. Despite being able to last out the round by landing takedowns and controlling Smith, it was a doctor call after that ended it. Despite being able to walk towards the doctor, whilst walking back, Crute stumbled and that was it for the Crute. An unfortunate ending but props to Smith, he caused the injury and fairly won the fight.

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman

Cast your mind back to 2010 on the regional circuit and we saw Chris Weidman knockout Uriah Hall. Now, having had varied success in the UFC, the two met again. Weidman obviously had captured the title back in 2013. He then defended it against Anderson Silva (the man he defeated for the title). This one ended when Weidman checked a leg kick in the second round, breaking Silva’s leg.

Skip forwards to 2021 and we have the rematch. Going into the fight, Hall seemed to be in a good place mentally, which is the most important for him personally as a fighter. The odds on this one were close and it’s understandable why. Unfortunately, we never really got to see the fight itself play out. Just 17 seconds into the fight, Weidman threw a heavy outside leg kick, Hall slightly turned his shin out towards the incoming strike and it was over. Weidman’s leg wrapped around Hall’s leading to a leg break for the former champion and horrific scenes. Luckily, Weidman has had surgery and has detailed his comeback trail already, which is always good to see after such a bad injury.

Valentine Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Annnnnd STILL. Are many people surprised with the outcome of the first title fight of UFC 261? Going into the fight many people thought that Jessica Andrade could cause the dominant Valentina Shevchenko problems with her power. What materialized, however, was the opposite.

Shevchenko certainly had the striking advantage so what did she do? Dominate the fight by taking her opponent down. She landed five of five takedowns in the first round and two of two in the second. She controlled over half of the first round on the ground, starting with a body lock takedown off the low kick of Andrade. A strong flurry of strikes, followed by another takedown saw the first round easily go to the champion. She also almost locked in a rear-naked choke, however, Andrade stayed calm and managed to get herself out of the compromising situation.

The second round saw the beginning of the end for the Brazillian. Despite seemingly landing a cuffing left hook, Andrade attempted to muscle Shevchenko to the ground, ultimately getting reversed. Despite allowing Andrade to get back to her feet, Shevchenko managed to yet again get the fight to the ground. Transitioning the mounted crucifix (a favored position of hers, seemingly), she landed hard elbows, splitting open Andrade and finally finishing her. True dominance, for as long as it lasted.

Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas

‘I’m the best. I’m the best’, the words challenger, Rose Namajunas told herself as her name was announced in the UFC 261 co-main event. She certainly spoke that into existence soon after.

The champion opened with constant inside leg kicks in an attempt to slow Namajunas’ movement down. Landing one off the Namajunas jab, Zhang was in control early on. Did she get overconfident and not respect the power of ‘thug Rose’? Who knows, what we do know though is that she attempted to step back to avoid a Namajunas leg kick. The thing is, the leg kick never came. Zhang left her head open and off the front leg, Namajunas connected with the champion’s jaw, knocking her down. Following up with heavy ground and pound, ‘Thug Rose’ recaptured the belt, becoming the first woman in UFC history to do so. Despite protesting the stoppage, Zhang did come round to accept her defeat. She was clearly out of the fight and the referee saved her from further punishment. Rose Namajunas is the best strawweight on the planet, for now anyway.

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

The main event. The rematch. The one everyone was talking about. What would Jorge Masvidal look like having had a full camp, seeing as he took the last one on short notice? We’d find out in the main event.

The opening round saw a very entertaining five minutes. It wasn’t like their first fight when Masvidal went all out in a bid to get it over with early. He was more measured but certainly entered the second round 1-0 down. We saw Kamaru Usman open up with a number of jabs to the body, a good weapon, especially when he could mix it up by snatching a single leg takedown if he wished. He landed a good 1-2 early on, gaining a reaction out of ‘Gamebread’. Anticipating another jab to the body, Masvidal attempted a flying knee, failed, and ended up on his back from an Usman slam. This didn’t deter him from doing damage, however, constantly peppering Usman with elbows, slaps and strikes from the bottom.

Masvidal was able to get back to his feet after some good hand control and fence work. Usman’s striking was still slick, rocking Masvidal with a straight. As the champion got more fatigued, however, he was loading up on his punches and becoming a little wild.

The Beginning of the End

The second round started with the champion refreshed. He landed a counter-right hook that got a smile out of Masvidal. The champion then was able to knock Masvidal out cold. Patting down the lead hand, Usman followed through with a piston of a right hand, knocking the challenger limp. A number of hammer-fists were the night closer. Statement made, championship defended.

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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – APRIL 24: (R-L) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria punches Jorge Masvidal in their UFC welterweight championship bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

 

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