UFC 261 featured three title fights and the return of fans to an indoor arena that certainly helped fight fans feel a sense of normalcy after a turbulent year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While two champions defended, one title changed hands and the entire event is certainly one for the books.
There was a lot to take away from UFC 261, here are some things that stood out.
To Mask or Not to Mask
Dana White’s interview with Kevin Iole seemed to leave it up to fans but in order to play it safe, COVID-19 protocols were in place. While there were plenty of wide shots of the arena, it did not seem like anyone was thinking about it on fight night. For those unaware, the UFC provided free face coverings to ticket holders of UFC 261.
And The Crowd Goes Wild
The VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida was sold out and if ever there were an example of what a crowd’s energy can have on fighters UFC 261 was a good example. The very first bout of the night had fans roaring when Ariane Carneloss and Na Liang erupted at one another at the opening round. Call it an adrenaline rush but the two women fought as if a title was on the line. See the first few seconds for yourself:
Carneloss would emerge the victor but it seemed as if it could have gone either way had Liang not worn herself out.
That Calf Kick
The first round leg kick from Anthony Smith to Jimmy Crute was so damaging it would make Crute’s leg unusable. Smith may be known as “Lionheart” but Crute’s willingness to compete makes for one of those great moments in the sport that show why the saying “There’s levels to this,” exist.
The Irony of History Repeating Itself
A rematch over 10 years in the making between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall would end horrifically when a checked kick thrown by Weidman would cause his leg to break. Both men have a win over Anderson Silva, a man who suffered the same injury when he faced Weidman in 2013. For Weidman to be on the receiving end of the same injury is something that seems so oddly coincidental, to tell the story would make it unbelievable. At the close of the event, Megan Olivi updated fans that Weidman was admitted to the hospital, and surgery would be done in the morning. The injury could be career-ending for Weidman, but if it isn’t Hall said he owes Weidman a rematch no matter where he ranks if he is able to return.
And Still:Valentina Shevchenko:
Shevchenko’s challenger, Jessica Andrade thought her advantage would lie in her strength and clinch work but the champion decided to make an example of her, and anyone that feels they have a plan to beat her at flyweight. Shevchenko would initiate the clinch and dictate where the fight would end up both when brought to the ground and at one point when she let Andrade up in round one to deliver a head-kick. By round two, Shevchenko would win with a TKO and deliver a message to the rest of the division, “ While my opponents try to figure out what is a weakness of mine, don’t waste your time. There is none.”
And New: Thug Rose!
It did not take Rose Namajunas long to reclaim the strawweight title. A first-round, lead leg kick would catch Weili Zhang off guard and she was dropped. She seemed to dispute the stoppage, and even told Joe Rogan in her post-fight interview she thought the referee stopped it too early. Could a rematch be coming soon?
And Still: Kamaru Usman
Whatever doubts fans had in Usman that were present after the first time he and Jorge Masvidal faced off, Usman erased them at UFC 261. The right hand of the champ would be the equalizer to cement his reign as champion. Usman keeps saying he is a problem for the rest of the welterweights and right now, he certainly is.
There’s obviously more to take away from this event than what is listed here. There are sure those that will track to see if the event was a “super spreader” as the news likes to look for as we are still navigating through a pandemic . However, for a few hours on Saturday night there were fans, great fights and great moments to help everyone escape the doom and gloom of recent days.
What did you take away from the event?