Sunday, January 23, 2022

UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2 Staff Predictions

Yesterday, there was a press conference to help promote this weekend’s UFC 261 extravaganza, and we’ve got some staff picks from the team here at to help get you even more ready for the big event!

In the main event of UFC 261, Kamaru Usman will look to follow through on his promise to pick up a more emphatic victory over Jorge Masvidal in the rematch. Meanwhile, “Gamebred” cannot wait to show the difference a full training camp makes and put the welterweight division on notice that there is a new head honcho at 170 lbs. To do so, he will need to be the first man to defeat Kamaru Usman in the UFC and win his backers a lot of money as the sizable betting underdog.

In addition to this grudge rematch, there will also be not one, but two other world title bouts on this card. First, Valentina Shevchenko will look to remain unbeaten at flyweight as she takes on the fierce locomotive that is Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade. And of course, who can forget the highly anticipated strawweight title bout between champion Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas?

The UFC 261 main card will also feature a rematch between ranked middleweight veterans Uriah Hall and former champion Chris Weidman as well as a light heavyweight bout that will also feature two ranked fighters: Jim Crute vs. Anthony Smith.

UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2 PPV Main Card

  • UFC Welterweight Championship Bout: Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal
  • UFC Strawweight Championship Bout: Zhang Weili (c) vs. Rose Namajunas
  • UFC Flyweight Championship Bout: Valentina Shevchenko (c) vs. Jessica Andrade
  • Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman
  • Anthony Smith vs. Jim Crute

UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2 Predictions

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 261 updates. Andrew Ravens, Ed Carbajal, Doug Murray, and I have provided predictions for the card, which you can find below.

Anthony Smith vs. Jim Crute

Clyde Aidoo: Ah, the classic youth vs. experience matchup to kick off the UFC 261 main card. Anthony Smith knows what it’s like to be in just about every situation imaginable while Crute, only 13 fights into his professional career and at only 25 years of age, still has a lot more to learn. Each of Crute’s wins in the UFC have been by stoppage, 9 of his 12 career wins overall. “Lionheart” is a very tough out, though, so I predict that once Smith weathers the storm, his experience and grit will win out over a younger fighter who has not dealt with too much adversity. (Prediction: Anthony Smith)

Andrew Ravens: Smith turned around his losing ways in his previous fight, but Crute is on the rise and enters on a two-fight winning streak. It seems as if Crute is on the way up while Smith is frantically trying to find his way. I have Crute getting a decision win. (Prediction: Jimmy Crute)

Ed Carbajal: This is a curious fight and a great way to open up the main card. Smith, who has earned the name “Lionheart” in his career, is either on or off for some of his fights since he faced Jon Jones. The “on” Smith gets it done and can certainly pull off a victory over Crute. Crute, on the other hand, is younger and probably more athletic but does not have the experience Smith has. Smith is the slight underdog, but I am picking him to win here. (Prediction: Anthony Smith)

Doug Murray: Aside from his lone loss to Misha Cirkunov by Peruvian neck-tie, the 25-year-old Australian has looked impressive inside the cage. However, he has a stiff test ahead of him with the former title challenger Smith. Despite Smith getting older, he continues to adapt his game and is a versatile fighter. I see Smith controlling where the fight plays out and that’s why I’m picking him. (Prediction: Anthony Smith)

Consensus: 3-1 Smith

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman

Clyde Aidoo: 11 years after their first bout, I’m predicting the same result but in a different method. No, I don’t think Weidman will be knocking Hall out in the first round here, but I do think his pressure and wrestling remain major obstacles for the often passive Hall. Chris Weidman is one of the worst fighters in the division to allow to dictate the pace of the fight, and I see him doing just that here. I envision Weidman having the better endurance, fight IQ, and grappling to overwhelm Hall for the win. (Prediction: Chris Weidman)

Andrew Ravens: Weidman, who broke his two-fight losing streak in his past fight, is now fighting Hall, who enters on a three-fight winning streak. Most might side with Weidman, but I believe in the hype of Hall, who has turned things around in a big way. I have Hall getting a really close split-decision win here. (Prediction: Uriah Hall)

Ed Carbajal: This fight is long overdue. It was supposed to happen at UFC 258 and, for fans unaware, is a rematch from their days before the UFC. That fight in 2010 was for the Ring of Combat middleweight title that Weidman won. However, a lot of time has passed and it has not been kind to Weidman, who has had a few surgeries and suffered two knockouts in his last three fights. As much as I would like to pick Weidman, I can’t. (Prediction: Uriah Hall)

Doug Murray: When they fought many moons ago, Weidman was on the come-up. The All-American wrestler finished Hall the first time out, but the tables have turned now. After Hall’s finish over Anderson Silva, the flashy striker has never looked sharper. Conversely, it seems Weidman has been struggling in the UFC in a downward trend, unlike Hall. (Prediction: Uriah Hall)

Consensus: 3-1 Hall

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Jessica Andrade, Valentina Shevchenko

Clyde Aidoo: It’s a five-round fight, so even if Shevchenko is ahead early, as many of Andrade’s opponents have been, she has to continue keeping the unrelenting bulldog that is Andrade off of her for five rounds, which is easier said than done. Frankly, I don’t think Shevchenko has the footwork to fend off Andrade for that long.

Valentina Shevchenko waits for openings and then executes like an assassin. The problem is that Jessica Andrade is not going to play that game. She is going to keep coming forward. So if Shevchenko does not knock her out, I believe it’s more likely that Andrade will eventually close the distance then use her power advantage to take the fight over and shock the world.  (Prediction: Jessica Andrade)

Andrew Ravens: It’s no secret this division is not the deepest, but Andrade is a really good fighter. However, not only has she struggled as of late aside from her last fight, which to her credit she won, but she is going up against Valentina, who is in her prime. I think Andrade will give her a tough challenge in the early going, but Valentina will take over around the third round and cruise to a decision win. (Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko)

Ed Carbajal: Shevchenko at flyweight is what Amanda Nunes is at bantamweight and featherweight: good and getting better with every contest. Andrade is a legitimate threat because of the power she brings, but I just do not see her outsmarting Shevchenko. (Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko)

Doug Murray: If Andrade can live up to her pile-driver nickname, that type of fight will be essential to coming out on top. A master of range and distance, Shevchenko’s striking is hard to match, but Andrade’s raw strength could be a big benefit on the mats. Shevchenko is a brilliant tactician, however. If Andrade closes the distance, it will be a closer fight. Otherwise, “The Bullet” can just pick her off at range. (Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko)

Consensus: 3-1 Shevchenko

Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas

Weili Zhang, Rose Namajunas

Clyde Aidoo: Due to the fact that many people believe the main event is a bit more lopsided, this match is considered by some to be the people’s main event in terms of competition level and unpredictability. The fact that Zhang Weili participated in one of the greatest fights of all time in her last outing doesn’t hurt the anticipation, either. It certainly does not get much more high level than this, but I feel as though Namajunas will be too graceful and tough to be bullied by Weili. 

Namajunas’ defensive grappling should neutralize if not outskill Weili’s power and offensive grappling. And on the feet, I think the biggest difference between the two is hittability. I believe Namajunas’ head movement and overall fluidity is noticeably greater than Zhang’s. So from both a grappling and a standup aspect, I believe Namajunas’ superior defense will be enough to crown Thug Rose as a two-time UFC strawweight champion here. (Prediction: Rose Namajunas)

Andrew Ravens: For me, this is the fight of the night. Rose hasn’t fought since 2019 and is going up against a beast in Weili. I have questions as to where Rose’s head is at as well. She lost the strap then got a split decision win in her previous fight. Meanwhile, the champ has shown no signs of slowing down, and I think that keeps going here. Zhang gets a second round TKO win to make a real statement. (Prediction: Zhang Weili)

Ed Carbajal: Weili’s only loss is by decision in her very first MMA fight.  Since then, she has put together a string of victories that make her a dominant strawweight. Namajunas has been known to be very cerebral in her approach and while a finish might not be coming from her, she could very well have a plan to outpoint Weili and pick up a decisive victory. (Prediction: Rose Namajunas)

Doug Murray: These two strawweights are some of the best strikers in the UfC. With a common opponent in Jessica Andrade they are both used to having to fight aggressively and also at a fast pace. I think Namajunas’s toughness and striking will keep Zhang at bay until the champion runs into something she shouldn’t. (Prediction: Rose Namajunas)

Consensus: 3-1 Namajunas

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

Kamaru Usman, Jorge Masvidal
Kamaru Usman, Jorge Masvidal, Image Credit: Jeff Bottari, Zuffa LLC

Clyde Aidoo: Masvidal is very dangerous, but I wouldn’t classify him as a KO artist. Factor that in with Usman having one of the best chins in the entire UFC, and I feel like that one path to victory isn’t strong enough to bank on. Because without the KO, even if Masvidal is outscoring him on the feet, eventually Usman is going to throw out all the pre-fight talk about an emphatic victory and revert back to simply using fight IQ to do what he has to do to win. So if Usman is ever in any real danger or is getting outpointed, I don’t think Masvidal would be able to prevent Usman from outmuscling and outgrappling him. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Andrew Ravens: I would be very surprised to see fans pick Masvidal to win this fight. He’s been on a tear and, yes, he took their first fight on short notice, but the best fighter in the welterweight division and one of the best fighters in the entire sport right now is Usman. Masvidal did take him the distance before, but the trash talk that Masvidal has dished out is only going to fire up Usman even more, and I see Usman getting a TKO win here in the fourth round, but he won’t break Masvidal. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Ed Carbajal:  This is a rematch that Usman seemed to want after his victory over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258. While the tension was there to build a rivalry between these two, their first match went to a decision for Usman. It seems Usman wants to silence any doubters by delivering a finish here. For Masvidal, after their first match, the fact that he took that fight on short notice and lost by decision has fueled him to believe that, with preparation, he can hold the UFC title and his BMF belt simultaneously. Hard to pick between two motivated competitors, but leaning towards Usman. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Doug Murray: Out of the three championship fights, this one, in my opinion, is the easiest to predict. Even though Masvidal can hold his own against the champion, as we saw in their last meeting on six days’ notice, the gap in wrestling skills is too wide to compensate for. I believe the fight will look very similar to their first encounter, but I envision Usman wrestling even more. (Prediction: Kamaru Usman)

Consensus: 4-0 Usman

That’ll do it for the UFC 261 predictions. Do you agree with the MMA News staffers? Who do you think will emerge victorious on the main card? Give us your predictions in the comments below and be sure to stick with us for live coverage of UFC 261 from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville with the return of fans in live attendance!

UFC 261 Undercard

  • Randy Brown vs. Alex Oliveira
  • Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulic
  • Brendan Allen vs. Karl Roberson
  • Tristan Connelly vs. Pat Sabatini
  • Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Nativdad
  • Kazula Vargas vs. Rong Zhu
  • Qileng Aori vs. Jeffrey Molina
  • Ariane Carnelossi vs. Na Liang

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