The Vystar Arena in Jacksonville, Florida was home to a great night of fights at UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2. The card saw seven (T)KOs, two submissions, and four decisions, including two split-decisions.
The show opened with Ariane Carnelossi taking out Na Liang with a TKO in the second round to get the night started. Jeffrey Molina and Qileng Aori put on a helluva scrap that saw Molina victorious via unanimous decision. Kazula Vargas picked apart Rong Zhu, taking the unanimous decision that had a pretty wide range of scoring (30-26, 29-28 x2). Danaa Batgerel defeated Kevin Natividad with a sensational, first-round TKO and he did it in under a minute to wrap up the early prelims.
The televised prelims started with Patrick Sabatini outclassing Tristan Connelly via unanimous decision. Brendan Allen and Karl Roberson put on a sensational fight for almost five minutes, but Allen secured a buzzerbeater heel hook to snag the victory. Dwight Grant and Stefan Sekulic battled to a split-decision that saw Grant log another win for the record book. Randy Brown needed less than three minutes to choke out “Cowboy” Oliveira and he did with just one arm. Outstanding way to wrap the undercard.
The main card opened with Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute having a spirited fight, but it wore on one of Crute’s legs enough to have the fight waved off between the first and second round. Honestly, how Crute was able to fight as long as he did was a testament to mental fortitude. Smith looked in peak form. Uriah Hall won in 17 seconds flat, but it was due to Chris Weidman suffering the exact same fate Anderson Silva suffered in their infamous first bout where Silva suffered the same gruesome leg break.
Valentina Shevchenko had no problem picking apart Jessica Andrade in the first of three sensational title fights. She overpowered Andrade easily, boxed her up, kicked her brutally, andf in the second round, she finished the Brazilian powerhouse with vicious elbows. She looked like a machine, like a Terminator.
Rose Namajunas needed just 78 seconds to leg kick Zhang Weili into another dimension, becoming one of the rare unicorns that won back a title after losing it.
Kamaru Usman dominated the first round of his rematch against Jorge Masvidal, proving that whether it be six days notice or six weeks of a full camp, he is still at the top of the food chain. Just a minute into the second round, after winging seemingly sloppy overhands, he launched a perfect right down the middle and cracked Masvidal so perfectly, the Floridian was out before he hit the ground. Herb Dean was late to get to Masvidal and Usman managed to land a couple more. Usman is a bad, bad man.
Performance of the Night: Rose Namajunas & Kamaru Usman
Ariane Carnelossi (TKO (strikes), 1:28 of round 2), Danaa Batgerel (TKO (strikes), :50 of round 1), Brendan Allen (heel hook, 4:55 of round 1), Randy Brown (rear naked choke, 2;55 of round 1), Anthony Smith (TKO (injury), 5:00 of round 1), Uriah Hall (TKO (injury), :17 of round 1), Valentina Shevchenko (TKO (elbows), 3:19 of round 2), Rose Namajunas (KO (head kick and strikes), 1:18 of round 1), and Kamaru Usman (KO (massive right hand down the pipe), 1:02 of round 2) all finished their opponents early but it would be Kamaru Usman and Rose Namajunas taking home the POTN cheddar.
Fight of the Night: Aori Qileng vs. Jeffrey Molina
Jeffrey Molina (29-28, 29-28, 29-27), Kazula Vargas (30-26, 29-28, 29-28), Patrick Sabatini (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), and Dwight Grant (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) all went the distance but Jeffrey Molina’s thriller with Aori Qileng would win FOTN honors.