Oh, you want a reason to listen to our writers’ predictions? Byron is currently 9-1 (6-3 on the finish) and Shade is 4-1 (3-2 on the finish). They have been on the money this year, and they if you are betting along their predictions, you are making good money. Byron’s underdog pick of Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 actually would have been an extremely profitable bet.
UFC 260 was a night of flashy finishes, with only one match on the main card going to the judges’ scorecards. Two fights finished in the first round: Sean O’Malley had a walk away knock out in the first and in the third; the main event ended with a destructive second round KO. After an event like that, the UFC is likely going to be looking to maintain their momentum. Therefore, we are getting right back into it with the UFC 261 main card. It is a fantastic, stacked card, so buckle up and keep up.
Match 1: Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute
Jimmy Crute is a young up and coming fighter in the lightweight division. He is 4-1 in the UFC and 12-1 overall as a professional. He has never let an UFC opponent take the fight to the judges’ decisons, and often likes to end the fight before the five minute mark. His upright striking is decent, but he is one of the best fighters in the division when defending, and then using opponent takedown attempts to end fights.
Then, there is the “Lionheart” Anthony Smith. He is 34-16 and a 32-year old veteran. Smith has been a solid gatekeeper for the UFC’s lightweight division’s top 15 rankings. His hands are heavy, which has given him 18 knock out victories in his career. In the twilight years of his career, he has been passed by by some of the younger stars of the promotion, but he can still go.
Shade – Crute
Byron – Crute: This is probably my least confident pick of the night. Crute is younger, faster, and is punching better than Smith is defending right now. However, Smith has the length and the experience. However, I prefer the hungry power striker to win in a crowded arena via first round knockout.
Match 2: Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman
Uriah Hall is a power striking middleweight who is experiencing a nice surge late in his career. He is on a three fight win streak, with three knockouts in his last five wins. He has been taking large breaks between fights, due to being 36, which has helped him to be prepared for these battles.
Chris Weidman is also coming into this bout at 36, but with a much different career position. He is 2-3 in his last five bouts, with his last five losses coming by way of knockout. However, he is a great grappler who can finish fights quickly on the ground. He is successful in more then half of his takedown attempts, thanks in large part to his long legs, which are advantageous in wrestling situations.
Shade – Weidman: Decision via ground control time
Byron – Hall: Knockout, and likely in the first. Hall has defended 71% of his opponents takedown attempts in his career, and often uses the attempted level changes to his own advantage. Hall is going to catch Weidman with a heavy left as he goes low, then finish the fight on the ground with some hammer fists. Side note here: If Hall finishes Weidman with a knockout, he should be given a match with Israel Adesanya before the end of the year. Let him close his career with a match against the champ.
Women’s Flyweight Championship Match 3: Valentina Shevchenko (C) vs. Jessica Andrade
How is this not the co-main event? This pay-per-view features some of the baddest women in MMA (not named Amanda Nunes) today, and Valentina Schevchenko maybe the baddest of them all.
As always, champions enter last.
Jessica Andrade is maybe one of the most well rounded women’s fighters in UFC history. 21 wins: 8 via KO, 7 via submission, 6 via decision. She has speed in her punches, great wrestling instincts despite a Muay Thai base, and loads of experience, despite being only 29. She was UFC’s Women’s Strawweight Champion in 2019, beating Rose Namajunas at UFC 237. She had struggled recently, but broke her losing streak in October of 2020 with a great first round KO.
Then, the champion, the bullet, the second best woman fighter in the UFC, Valentina Shevchenko! She has only dropped three matches since coming to the UFC in 2015, both of which were to Amanda Nunes. In her second match with Nunes, she did so well that in the end it was a close split decision loss. She has brilliant takedowns, and loves to end fights from there with submissions (seven victories via submission). Even if she can not end the fight with a sub, she maintains top control so long that she easily wins decisions (seven victories). Oh you want to stand a punch? Shevchenko will put you to sleep with one punch.
Shade – Shevchenko: KO, first or second round
Byron – Shevchenko: Knockout in championship rounds. Five inches more reach, much stronger strikes, in her preferred weight class. Shevchenko may not even need to stretch to get this one done. Another side note: Give me the trilogy. I want to see if Nunes can become the three belt lioness or if Shevchenko can avenge her past.
Women’s Strawweight Championship Match 4: Zhang Weili (C) vs. Rose Namajunas
Style wise, this is the best matchup of the night. Dana better already have the Fight of the Night bonus checks writter up for these two.
Rose Namajunas is the best defensive fighter in the UFC right now, period. She has a 61% significant strike defensive rating, a 50% takedown defense, and only one KO loss in her career (Jessica Andrade). Rose loves to take the fight to the ground using her fantastic takedowns then ending the fight with grounded submissions. Again, even if she does not end you on the ground, she maintains ground control so long that she wins decisions. Give her an inch, and she will slither in and slip the rear naked choke in, giving you an early bed time.
Then, there’s the champion, “Magnum” Zhang Weili. You wanna wrestle? Eat a punch. You wanna clinch? Eat a punch. You wanna stand and fight? Eat a punch. Her stone hands have helped carry her along her current 21 fight win streak! She has only let four fights in her entire career go to decision, with the other seventeen ending much earlier (10 knockouts, seven submissions). She also boasts a 100% takedown defense, which lets her keep the fight where she likes it.
Shade – Zhang: KO in championship rounds
Byron – Zhang: KO in round one or two. Andrade does have a few inches of reach on Zhang, which concerns me, but she does not strike well and that is why I have to stick with Zhang. Zhang has great takedown defense, great speed, and great hands to end this fight before Andrade gets the advantage. If this fight goes to championship rounds, Andrade’s odds jump up immediately, but Weili ends it before it gets there.
Welterweight Championship Match 5: Kamaru Usman (C) vs. Jorge Masvidal
The main event of the first ever Fight Island pay-per-view will main event the first sold out arena in America in almost a year and a half. Dana knows what he is doing.
Jorge Masvidal took the first matchup against Usman in 2020 with only six days of preparation. He had to fly halfway across the globe, drop 20 pounds, go through endless COVID-19 testing and screenings, and then find time to prepare for the fight. He looked exhausted and unprepared, especially in rounds three on. He immediately begged Dana White for a fair rematch, and here we go.
The “Gamebred” and “BAMF” fighter out of Miami, Florida, Jorge Masvidal loves to throw hands and be violent in the octagon. His boxing background has given him great reflexes and even better hands, leading to sixteen victories via knockout. He has a 77% takedown defense, 65% striking defense, and has only been finished three times (two submissions, one knockout). He fights much lighter then Usman, which will give him a great speed advantage on his feet, but a slight wrestling and clinching disadvantage.
Oh, but he is not unbeatable, and you can ask the Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman, about that.
Usman is an absolute unit. 169.5 pounds of pure muscle, Usman can end you however he wants, whenever he wants. He has won the last 18 fights, with nine wins via knockout and nine via decision. He is the archetype of the future UFC champion: an extremely muscular wrestler with the ability to overpower opponents in the clinch. He has the ability to knock teeth out if he does not feel comfortable getting too close. He is looking to grab his fifth title defense and go for the rematch with Colby Covington.
Shade – Usman: Decision
Byron – Masvidal: Early round KO. If this match makes it out of the first round, I will be shocked. Masvidal will be much better prepared for the wrestling aspect of Usman’s game, and Usman will come in with a much different game plan. Both of their game plans should be to stand and fight, with Usman feigning the takedowns and the clinches to try and draw Masvidal into an unnecessary level change. I think a technical punching match favors Masvidal, who has the better striking and movement. I have been so vocal about this on Twitter for months, so you can check the receipts, but I am calling for a first round KO of Kamaru Usman.