UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will defend his title Saturday against Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida. It will be the first UFC card in front of a capacity crowd since before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down spectator sports in March 2020.
ESPN has Usman ranked No. 2 in the world on its best pound-for-pound MMA fighters list. At welterweight, ESPN has Usman at No. 1 and Masvidal at No. 7.
At UFC 251 last year, Usman (18-1) beat Masvidal via unanimous decision in a fairly one-sided bout. But Masvidal came into that fight on just six days’ notice after Usman’s initially scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus. Usman, 33, is looking for his fourth straight title defense and his 14th straight UFC victory.
The UFC will host a full crowd at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, where three title fights — headlined by welterweight champ Kamaru Usman defending against Jorge Masvidal — will play out in front of 15,000 fans. Women’s strawweight champ Zhang Weili and flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko also defend their belts.
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UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal
• Saturday, April 24, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida
• Main card: 10 p.m. ET, PPV
• Prelims: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+
• Early prelims: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+
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If Usman, a Nigeria native who trains out of Colorado, were to win Saturday he alone would have the second-longest winning streak in UFC history. Currently, Usman is tied with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jon Jones with 13 straight victories. Only Anderson Silva has more consecutive wins in UFC history (16).
Masvidal (35-14) is one of the biggest stars on the UFC roster. The Miami native was on a three-fight winning streak before falling to Usman last year. In 2019, Masvidal knocked out Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in a span of eight months to become one of the hottest MMA athletes in the world. The latter was for the mythical BMF title at Madison Square Garden. Masvidal, 36, has been a pro fighter for almost 18 years but has just recently become one of the most popular MMA athletes in the world.
In the co-main event, Zhang Weili defends her UFC women’s strawweight title against former champion Rose Namajunas. Zhang (21-1) has not lost since her pro debut eight years ago, while Namajunas (9-4) has won four of five. ESPN has Zhang ranked No. 4 on its women’s MMA pound-for-pound list. Namajunas is right behind her at No. 5.
UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will also defend her title against former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Shevchenko (20-3) has never lost at flyweight in the UFC and has been defeated by only one woman since joining the promotion: bantamweight and featherweight champ Amanda Nunes. Andrade (21-8) has won five of her past seven fights, including a first-round TKO victory over Katlyn Chookagian last October in her flyweight debut. On ESPN’s women’s pound-for-pound list, Shevchenko is No. 2 and Andrade is No. 6.
Follow along with Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim as they recap the action as it happens or watch UFC 261 on ESPN+ PPV.
Fight in progress:
Women’s flyweight: Aori Qileng (15-6, 0-0 UFC, -110) vs. Jeffrey Molina (8-2, 0-0 UFC, -110)
Strawweight: Ariane Carnelossi (13-2, 1-1 UFC) defeats Liang Na (9-5, 0-1 UFC) by second-round TKO
Recap to come.
What a first fight #UFC261 👏🏼👏🏼
— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) April 24, 2021
Still to come:
Welterweight title fight: Kamaru Usman (c) (18-1, 13-0 UFC, -450) vs. Jorge Masvidal (35-14, 12-7 UFC, +350)
Strawweight title fight: Zhang Weili (c) (21-1, 5-0 UFC, -200) vs. Rose Namajunas (10-4, 7-3 UFC, +170)
Women’s flyweight title fight: Valentina Shevchenko (c) (20-3, 9-2 UFC, -470) vs. Jessica Andrade (21-8, 12-6 UFC, +360)
Middleweight: Uriah Hall (17-9, 9-7 UFC, +105 ) vs. Chris Weidman (15-5, 11-5 UFC, -125)
Light heavyweight: Anthony Smith (34-16, 9-6 UFC, +170) vs. Jimmy Crute (12-1, 4-1 UFC, -200)
Welterweight: Alex Oliveira (22-9-1, 11-7-1 UFC, +125) vs. Randy Brown (12-4, 6-4 UFC, -150)
Welterweight: Dwight Grant (10-3, 2-2 UFC, -220) vs. Stefan Sekulic (12-3, 0-1 UFC, +180)
Middleweight: Karl Roberson (9-3, 4-3 UFC, +145) vs. Brendan Allen (15-4, 3-1 UFC, -160)
Men’s featherweight: Patrick Sabatini (13-3, 0-0 UFC, -240) vs. Tristan Connelly (14-6, 1-0 UFC, +200)
Men’s bantamweight: Danaa Batgerel (8-2, 1-1 UFC, -190) vs. Kevin Natividad (9-2, 0-1 UFC, +160)
Lightweight: Kazula Vargas (11-4, 0-2 UFC, +200) vs. Rong Zhu (17-3, 0-0 UFC, -240)