The UFC returned to a full capacity crowd on Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida for UFC 261. The card saw three title fights as Kamaru Usman rematched Jorge Masvidal, Weili Zhang took on Rose Namajunas, and Valentina Shevchenko battled Jessica Andrade.
The event was one of the better ones in recent memory and one title ended up changing hands. In the main event, Usman defended his belt with a second-round KO over Masvidal. Namajunas became the strawweight champ with a first-round KO over Zhang, and to no surprise, Shevchenko defended her strap with a TKO win over Andrade.
Now, after UFC 261, here’s what I think will be next for the six fighters involved in the title fights.
Kamaru Usman promised to finish Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and he did just that. In the opening round, he did throw some looping punches looking for the KO shot. In the second, as Masvidal started to taunt and keep his hands down, he connected on a vicious right hand that put “Gamebred” out.
After the win, Dana White made it clear Colby Covington would be next and that has to be the fight. They fought back at UFC 245 with Usman winning by fifth-round TKO in what was one of the best fights of 2019. It’s time for the rematch to happen.
Jorge Masvidal will have a hard time getting another title shot at welterweight as long as Usman remains the champ.
After the loss at UFC 261, Gamebred and his team said he would be back and there is no reason to question that. He will need some time off to heal his brain, but a logical fight is to face the loser of Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz at UFC 262. No matter who loses, Masvidal has a rivalry with both of them and it would be a big addition to any pay-per-view.
Rose Namajunas shocked the world again as he flatlined Weili Zhang just over a minute into their UFC 261 title fight with a beautiful headkick.
Although White mentioned an immediate rematch, it doesn’t seem necessary. Instead, Namajunas’ first title defense as the new champ should come against the winner of Carla Esparza vs. Yan Xioanan. The fight can be the co-main on a pay-per-view sometime in the fall.
Weili Zhang’s return to the Octagon did not go her way at UFC 261.
Although Zhang protested the stoppage, it was a good stoppage as she went out. Even though the loss is disappointing, she is still young in her UFC career and likely only needs a win or two to get another title shot. Zhang should look to return this fall against Marina Rodriguez in what would be an intriguing striking matchup.
Valentina Shevchenko is in a class of her own and she proved that again at UFC 261.
At this point, it is hard to see anyone at flyweight giving Shevchenko any serious problems. She didn’t take much damage and could return sometime soon and the next fight has to be the winner of Lauren Murphy vs. Joanne Calderwood on June 12. The winner could return for a title fight sometime in the fall.
Jessica Andrade had the right game plan of trying to use her strength to grapple Shevchenko as Jennifer Maia had some success with that. However, Shevchenko was just stronger than her and stuffed everything.
After her UFC 261 loss, a logical next fight is facing the winner of Jennifer Maia vs. Jessica Eye at UFC 264. All three have lost to Shevchenko and they will all be looking to climb the ranks and earn another title shot.
What do you think should be next for the six fighters involved in the three title fights at UFC 261?