UFC 261: Where to watch and fight card preview

UFC 261 is set up to be one of the biggest and most relevant cards on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 2021 calendar. The massive 13-fight card is the promotion’s return to Jacksonville, Florida, and the first event with fans (not celebrity 1%ers) in attendance since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. The event will be headlined by a welterweight championship rematch between incumbent division figurehead Kamaru Usman and “Street Jesus” himself, Jorge Masvidal. Not to be outdone, the card all features two pound-for-pound talents in Zhang Weili and Valentina Shevchenko, taking on the championship challenge of former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade.

How to watch UFC 261 on April 24

  • The event’s early prelims begin at 5:45 pm ET exclusively on UFC Fight Pass
  • The action then switches over to a simulcast of the regular prelims on ESPN and ESPN+, at 8 pm ET
  • The main card pay-per-view kicks off at 10 pm ET on ESPN+

UFC 261 fight card

Main card (10 pm ET, ESPN+)

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall

Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute

Prelims (8 pm ET, ESPN & ESPN+)

Alex Oliveira vs. Randy Brown

Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulic

Karl Roberson vs. Brendan Allen

Patrick Sabatini vs. Tristan Connelly

Early prelims (5:45 pm ET, UFC Fight Pass)

Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Natividad

Rodrigo Vargas vs. Zhu Rong

Jeffrey Molina vs. Qileng Aori

Na Liang vs. Ariane Carnelossi

UFC 261: Appointment television bouts

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvial

It’s the fight fans wanted to clear up any doubts from the first fight. The first scrap between Usman and Masvidal 10 PPV’s ago was a one-sided affair that the champion found little danger in. However, close observers of the sport understand there was an excuse fail-safe for “Gamebred.” He did something no other fighters were willing to do (he deserves every ounce of credit for it) and took on the challenge of one of the best fighters on the planet on a week’s notice. It is a marketing sale you can make to any fan of the sport, especially those beloved admirers of the Floridian fighter. Yet, one part of that narrative that is often left out is while Masvidal deserves credit for taking on an elite challenge on short notice, so does the champ. Switching from months of training for Gilbert Burns, to a completely different type of fighter is a daunting task. And honestly, with far more to lose, if he had turned down the booking it would’ve been understandable. But he didn’t. On Saturday, Masvidal will get to prove if the limited training was a legitimate hindrance or narrative misdirection from simply losing to a better fighter.

Prediction: Usman by unanimous decision

Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas

What makes UFC 261 so spectacular is it features not only four of the best female fighters on Earth, but top-shelf strikers in the strawweight and women’s flyweight division. And Zhang versus Namajunas is the most evenly matched of the two bouts. “Thug Rose’s” rise to an elite striker, over the last four years, has been a sight to behold. However, “Magnum’s” UFC rise to prominence with a similar skillset has been equally enchanting. Considering the absolute classic Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on last March, the champ and Namajunas have a hell of an act to follow. But there is no better pairing in the division with the ingredients necessary to reach that lofty goal, or even surpass it.

Prediction: Namajunas by split-decision

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Valentina Shevchenko is the second biggest favorite on the card, only behind Usman. Yet, while seeming like the biggest skill gap among the three title fights, Andrade brings a legitimate never-out-of-it quality that she has proven at the highest levels. She slammed Namajunas into unconsciousness in a fight she was being clowned in. In the rematch, the clowning continued for a couple more rounds until her uncanny power and pressure turned a fight she seemed badly outgunned in, to a razor thin split-decision loss. “Bullet” is a favorite for good reason. She’s the best female fighter alive not named Amanda Nunes. And another win would be seven straight. However, with Andrade going for a chance at history in being another two-division champion, this one seems like the fight with the best chance for unpredictability.

Prediction: Shevchenko by submission, round 4

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman

Plain and simple, Chris Weidman needs to get a win. Yes, I know he beat Omari Akhmedov in August, but it was far from a memorable performance for “All-American,” following a four-year run where he lost five of six, and was knocked out in all of those defeats. In Uriah Hall, the former middleweight champion gets a fellow New Yorker a few levels below him in grappling skills, while being another serious threat to hit his reset button with his fists or feet. Another win for “Primetime” would be his fourth straight and back-to-back on middleweight legends. After beating Anderson Silva in his October UFC swan song. It’s a fight that seems tailor-made not to go to a decision.

Predicition: Hall by knockout, round 2

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