In the words of legendary NASCAR broadcaster Mike Joy, “Have you ever???”
UFC 261 had just about every outcome possible you could get in a mixed martial arts event. To add on to the event’s craziness, it was the first time the UFC welcomed a full-capacity crowd in the United States since March 2020, and the crowd certainly was alive Saturday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The five main-card fights all ended in finishes, which led to the shortest main card in UFC history with 19 minutes and 56 second of Octagon time. You have to go back to UFC 92 in 2008, which was the previous record-holder at 30 minutes and 39 seconds of Octagon time. It is the 20th main card where every fight ended with a finish and first since UFC 189 in 2015.
The main card began with a light-heavyweight bout between Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute. Crute looked to continue his rise to the top of the division, while Smith looked to stay within the top 10. However, late in the first round, Smith landed a perfectly-timed leg kick and it led to Crute’s leg going numb. Crute had trouble standing and he finished the round on top of Smith. Crute tried to get feeling back in his leg, but the doctor stopped it due to Crute not being able to stay on his feet. Smith earned the victory to win his second fight in a row after dropping three of four.
If you have legs, you probably didn’t want to be in an Octagon in Jacksonville as one of the most gruesome injuries you will see in sports occurred in the second fight as Chris Weidman’s right leg snapped in half after his kick was checked by Uriah Hall. The moment was eerily similar as the same thing happened to Anderson Silva in December 2013 when Weidman checked a kick.
Hall received the TKO win, starting the pay-per-view with two leg-injury TKO’s.
With a somber mood over the Weidman injury, the show still went on as the three title fights were all that remained.
First up was Valentina Shevchenko looking to continue her dominant reign over the flyweight division as she took on the strong Jessica Andrade. As strong as Andrade is, Shevchenko was 10 times stronger as she took down the smaller Andrade with ease. Shevchenko went on to one of her most dominant title performances ever as she got Andrade in a mounted crucifix during the second round and began pounding Andrade with vicious elbow after vicious elbow to retain the flyweight belt.
The co-main event was a shocker for the ages as Rose Namajunas took the world by storm once again. Just like her strawweight title win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in November 2017, she landed a devastating head kick to the champion at the time, Zhang Weili, in the first round to regain the belt. Namajunas became the first women in UFC history to win a belt after losing it.
Then, there was the main event for the welterweight title between bitter rivals in Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.
All the animosity and trash talk was set aside as it was time for the two to throw down for the second time.
The first round was controlled by Usman, but it was arguably Masvidal’s most competitive round with the champion.
However, all doubt in Usman was shattered in the second round as he smoked Masvidal with a devastating right hand to, once again, defend the welterweight title.
In what was one of the more surprising moments of the evening, the two actually embraced and showed mutual respect after the fight.
Not only was the main card filled with thrills, but the prelims had some bangers as well. A three-round war between flyweights Jeff Molina and Aoriqileng earned Fight of the Night honors. Meanwhile, Danaa Batgerel, Brendan Allen and Randy Brown all earned finishes.
A night with a multitude of finishes and shocking moments in front of tens of thousands of fans is exactly the kind of night that makes MMA so entertaining. While you never want to see terrible injuries happen and fights end out of fighters’ control, these are the nights that make the UFC what it is.