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March 30th, 2021
UFC 261 will bring the gold and the fans for the first major card to have a live attendance since the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Let's preview the big fights and big stories ahead of the landmark event.
UFC 261 is scheduled for action Saturday, April 24, 10 p.m. ET. The event will take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The main card will air as an ESPN+ pay-per-view, with preliminary bouts available to existing ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass subscribers.
UFC 261 will feature three title fights, headlined by the rematch between Usman and Masvidal. In the supporting bouts, Shevchenko will aim to assert her dominance at flyweight against Andrade, and the always entertaining Weili rounds out the title bouts.
The inclusion of a live crowd should make this event of the most impactful cards in recent memory.
When the two clashed at UFC 251, Masvidal admittedly took the title shot on short notice and dropped a lopsided decision. Because Masvidal had that back-door excuse ready, not to mention the drought of competition at welterweight, he’s up for another shot.
Despite a full camp, it is telling that Masvidal has opened as a bigger underdog than he was in the first fight. Masvidal’s drawing power will certainly put butts in seats and generate revenue, but it will take a herculean effort for him to unseat Usman.
Shevchenko is suffering the same issue as her pound-for-pound rival, Amanda Nunes.
They’ve wiped out multiple weight classes and are prohibitive favorites each time they step into the octagon.
Nothing against Andrade, but she has the same remote chance as most opponents who face Shevchenko.
Should Shevchenko win, it would be foolish for the UFC to pass up a trilogy fight between her and Nunes to settle their grudge once and for all.
The last time we saw Weili, she was in the war of wars against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, a fascinating, unforgivably brutal brawl.
Though Weili kept her title, it’s likely she lost something she can never get back. To her credit, she is getting right into the thick of it, against the dangerous Namajunas, who is going to give her another rough night of work.
Beating Namajunas, even at 100%, is a tough task, so we’ll learn a lot about Weili at this event.
It has been a long, unfortunate fall from grace for Weidman, and he is facing career calamity if he cannot defeat Hall.
Weidman is long removed from his glory days. He has a 2-5 record over the last six years and can’t expect to remain with the UFC with this pattern of poor performances.
Hall couldn't care less about how poorly Weidman has fared. His mind is set on avenging the loss he suffered 11 years ago.
If Weidman can’t pull this out, the UFC will likely let him go.
The magic number for welterweight title defenses is nine, held by Georges St-Pierre. Usman has made three successful defenses and will look to make the Masvidal rematch his fourth.
Usman shares GSP’s predicament, in that they both laid waste to the division, which leaves their leftovers to fight for another shot. They also both held their gold for a long time. With potential rematches against Leon Edwards and Colby Covington on the horizon, and the hope that new blood will enter the rankings soon, there is a good chance Usman may be on his way to either matching or breaking GSP’s historic number.
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