The UFC octagon makes its return to the road this weekend in front of a sold-out crowd in Jacksonville, Florida. UFC 261 features three title fights at the top of the card, but the rest of the lineup is mediocre at best. Hopefully, my UFC 261 predictions will be far better than mediocre.
All odd courtesy of PointsBet
UFC 261 Predictions
Kamaru Usman (-450) vs Jorge Masvidal
The rematch no one was itching to see but we’re getting anyway – Usman-Masvidal 2 for the UFC Welterweight Championship headlines on Saturday night. Their first meeting last summer was a dominant win for the champion Kamaru Usman, and a full training camp this go-around isn’t going to make much of a difference for Jorge Masvidal. His lone chance of winning is to knock out Usman, which no one has done yet. The most likely outcome is the champ grinding out a decision victory on the mat, or even finishing the challenger via ground and pound.
Zhang Weili (-200) vs Rose Namajunas
At least on paper, this should be the most competitive title match on the card, pitting the current champ Zhang Weili and former queen Rose Namajunas. I’m going with Zhang to retain due to her strength and punching power, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Thug Rose pull off the upset.
Valentina Shevchenko (-450) vs Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko is untouchable in the UFC, only losing to one woman – GOAT Amanda Nunes, twice – at a weight class above the one she rules, flyweight. While Jessica Andrade has the pedigree of a former champ (at strawweight) and is a powerful, explosive fighter, Shevchenko is just too good and too smart in the cage to lose.
Uriah Hall (+105) vs Chris Weidman
Chris Weidman has lost via knockout in five of his last seven fights. Uriah Hall is a knockout artist. Not much more analysis needed in this one. While Weidman’s wrestling is a concern (and an area of weakness for Hall), I’m counting on Hall cracking him before that’s an issue.
Jimmy Crute (-210) vs Anthony Smith
After suffering his first career defeat in 2019, Jimmy ‘The Brute’ Crute has reeled off two straight wins, both via stoppage. I expect him to take care of Anthony Smith on Saturday night to make it three straight, as Smith’s best days appear to be behind him. Smith has been KO’d nine times in his career, so you might want to play a prop here.
Randy Brown (-155) vs Alex Oliveira
It’s tough picking a guy coming off of a knockout loss to win his next fight, but Randy Brown is bigger, younger, a more active striker, plus a better grappler than Alex Oliveira. Oliveira has lost via submission five times in his career, including his last fight, so you might want another prop bet here for ‘Rude Boy’.
Dwight Grant (-230) vs Stefan Sekulic
Stefan Sekulic will be making his first appearance in the octagon since September of 2018 due to a drug suspension, so there’s no telling how he’ll look. Regardless, I think that Dwight Grant has the advantage in striking and grappling over him.
Brendan Allen (-155) vs Karl Roberson
Brendan Allen tasted defeat for the first time in the UFC his last time in the cage, but I’m expecting him to go to 4-1 in the octagon after Saturday. His grappling is going to be the key here, as he’s very good at submissions and all of Karl Roberson’s losses have come via tap out (three in total). Hey – another prop bet!
Pat Sabatini (-230) vs Tristan Connelly
Pat Sabatini will be making his UFC debut on a two-fight winning streak, having been crowned the CFFC Featherweight Champion in his last fight. Tristan Connelly has been on the sidelines since September of 2019 due to injuries sustained in a traffic accident. I’m going with the younger, more active fighter in this one.
Danaa Batgerel (-190) vs Kevin Natividad
Danaa Batgerel has never been finished in a fight and is the superior striker to Kevin Natividad, who got KO’d his last fight. I like Batgerel to win, and it might be worth yet another prop bet via KO.
Rong Zhu (-250) vs Kazula Vargas
Rong Zhu will be making his UFC debut on the strength of 10 straight wins. Born in 2000, he’ll be 15 years Kazula Vargas’s junior but should teach the old dog some new tricks in the cage.
Jeffrey Molina (-112) vs Qileng Aori
Two debuting flyweights coming in currently as a pick ’em on the board. Qileng Aori has lost three times via submission, while half of Jeffrey Molina’s wins come via submission, so….
Na Liang (+165) vs Ariane Carnelossi
I’ve read good things about ‘Dragon Girl’, so getting her in her debut for such a positive number looks real good to me. We’ll kick off Saturday night with a nice plus money score.
Overall Record: 388-324
Return on Investment: -(15.1)%
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