On Saturday, April 24th, the UFC will be live from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, for a massive PPV event UFC 261: Usman vs Masvidal.
The main event of the night is a welterweight title fight as champion Kamaru Usman defends his title in a rematch against Jorge Masvidal.
The co-featured bout is a women’s strawweight championship bout as Weili Zhang defends her title against former champ Rose Namajunas.
The third world title fight of the night is a women’s flyweight contest as Valentina Shevchenko defends her belt against former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade.
In total, there are five bouts scheduled for the main card with a start time of 10pm ET on PPV.
Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine the latest UFC 261 betting odds courtesy of the best UFC betting sites, identify any potential value, and score the TKO on these predictions via ground and pound.
The opening bout of the PPV portion for UFC 261 is a Top 13 light heavyweight clash between the veteran Anthony Smith (#6) and the rising Jimmy Crute (#13).
Anthony Smith last fought in November 2020 and defeated Devin Clark via 1st round submission. The win snapped a two fight losing streak with both losses coming last year in dominating fashion. Smith is 2-3 in his last five UFC fights.
31 of his 34 pro wins have come via stoppage with 18 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 2-3 when going the distance.
For Crute, this is the biggest fight of his pro career. A win over Smith can catapult him into the Top 10 of the light heavyweight division and an even bigger fight later this year.
Crute made his UFC debut in December 2018 after scoring a 1st round TKO win on DWCS in July 2018. He won his debut and put together a two fight win streak before suffering the first loss of his pro career via 1st round submission to Misha Cirkunov.
The 25 year old Australian would bounce back from that loss with two wins in 2020. He defeated Michal Oleksiejczuk via 1st round submission in February 2020 and followed that up with a 1st round KO victory over Modestas Bukauskas last October.
Nine of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-0 when going the distance.
Crute made the following comments about Smith and the upcoming fight:
“He’s tough as. He’s very durable and I think sometimes that leads him into bad positions because he knows he can take a beating and he will leave openings. If I can fight him differently and do the things I plan to do I will put him away. I haven’t shown everything I can do in my prior fights – my fight IQ, my angles, my defense – so once I get in there and he feels that he’s going to have to dig really deep to find something.”
I really like Crute in this matchup. I think that Smith’s best days are behind him. I see Smith as being a gatekeeper for the top of the division rather than a legitimate contender.
With that said, I believe Crute is going to find the stoppage in this contest largely due to his grappling. 13 of Smith’s 16 losses have come via stoppage.
Furthermore, these two have combined to go the distance in just eight of 63 total fights. So, take the fight ending inside the distance (-185), but to go Over 1.5 rounds (-170).
The best value is with Crute winning inside the distance at +115 odds.
Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute –Crute (-190)
Over 1.5 rounds (-170)
Fight ends inside the distance (-185)
Crute wins inside the distance (+115)
Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall
Chris Weidman (-115)
Uriah Hall (-105)
Over (-120)/Under (-110) 2.5 rounds
This contest features two Top 11 middleweights as the 11th ranked Chris Weidman takes on the 9th ranked Uriah Hall. The winner of this matchup will certainly rise further up into the Top 10 of the division.
This bout was originally scheduled for UFC 258 on February 13th, but it had to be rescheduled due to Weidman testing positive for covid. Additionally, this is a rematch as the two first fought in 2010 for ROC where Weideman won via 1st round TKO.
Uriah Hall is the slight underdog for this matchup. He’s 9-7 all-time inside the octagon, but enters this matchup on a three fight winning streak. Hall last competed in October 2020 where he beat Anderson Silva via 4th round TKO.
13 of his 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with 12 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-5 when going the distance and also has four TKO/KO losses.
Weidman last competed in August 2020 and had a dominating unanimous decision win over Omari Akhmedov. It was his first win in three years and snapped a two fight losing streak. He’s 11-5 overall inside the octagon.
10 of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 5-0 when going the distance. All five of his pro losses have come via TKO/KO.
I don’t see Weidman having to worry much about Hall’s knockout power in this contest. In fact, I believe we’re going to see Weidman score takedowns and have top control for most of the duration of this contest.
Online sports betting sites are finding it difficult to handicap the O/U for this matchup because it’s hard to predict how long this match will last.
With that in mind, I am leaning towards the fight ending inside the distance (-135) and Under 2.5 rounds (-110). From there, I like Weidman to pick up a big submission victory due to his grappling advantage.
The best betting value is clearly with the moneylines for each fighter.
Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall –Weidman (-115)
Under 2.5 rounds (-110)
Fight ends inside the distance (-135)
Weidman wins inside the distance (+325)
Weidman wins via submission (+700)
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko (-390)
Jessica Andrade (+320)
Over (-130)/Under (+100) 3.5 rounds
Andrade is the former strawweight champion after beating Namajunas for the title in May 2019 and then losing it to Weili Zhang in August 2019. Those two women will fight for the strawweight title in the co-main event of this PPV.
Andrade then lost in the rematch to Namajunas in July 2020 before beating Katlyn Chookagian via 1st round KO in October, which was her debut at flyweight.
The win, combined with her past success as a champion, catapulted Andrade to the #1 spot to challenge Shevchenko for the title. It was also partly due to Shevchenko clearing out most of the division prior to Andrade’s arrival.
Andrade is 12-6 overall inside the octagon. 15 of her 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of TKO/KO. She’s 6-3 when going the distance.
Video: #UFC261 ‘Countdown’ for Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade https://t.co/Wdxo7axMLI
Andrade acknowledges that Shevchenko has really scary striking and is very dangerous in that department. Yet, she believes that taking the champ down to the mat will give her the best opportunity to win this fight:
“If you score a good takedown and stabilize it on the floor, you can’t go wrong. We’re giving that a lot of focus. I believe that’s her weakness, the grappling. I keep telling people how strong I am and I’m aware of my potential when I hold people against the fence. I know what I can do, the different ways I can take someone down. I have lots of different takedowns.”
Shevchenko has won six straight fights since last losing. That defeat came at the hands of Amanda Nunes in September 2017 via split decision. Shevchenko’s only losses in the UFC were both against Nunes.
Valentin is 9-2 all-time inside the octagon. Her last bout came in November 2020 where she beat Jennifer Maia via unanimous decision. Maia had some success in taking the champ down to the mat, which Andrade believes she can duplicate.
13 of her 20 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. She’s 7-2 when going the distance. Her lone stoppage defeat was due to a forced retirement prior to joining the UFC.
Shevchenko made the following comments about her upcoming title defense against Andrade:
“But, what I can say for sure, for my every fight, every opponent, I’m getting ready very seriously with all my attention to be powerful, to be successful. And, this is what I did for this exact training camp, as well. So I’m ready for this fight, I’m ready to win this fight and keep my belt.”
Jessica Andrade will certainly be the toughest test for Shevchenko at flyweight. Andrade is tough, solid on the mat, heavy handed, and has big fight experience.
With that said, I still believe Shevchenko will win this contest. Her striking is on another level and there’s no flyweight that can hang with her. Valentina’s punches and kicks make her very hard to beat or to hang with in a striking contest.
This bout is scheduled to go five rounds and I believe it will go the distance (+105). That also means to take the Over 3.5 rounds (-130) as well. In fact, Over 3.5 rounds offers solid betting value.
Andrade has gone the distance in five of her last nine fights. Shevchenko has gone the distance in three of her last five bouts including her most recent contest which was against Maia in November 2020.
I’m taking Shevchenko to win this title fight via unanimous decision as she outstrikes Andrade by fighting from a distance and defending takedowns.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade –Shevchenko (-390)
Over 3.5 rounds (-130)
Fight goes the distance (+105)
Shevchenko wins via decision (+155)
Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas
Weili Zhang (-200)
Rose Namajunas (+170)
Over (-145)/Under (+125) 4.5 rounds
This is the one UFC 261 fight that I’m the most excited to see. It has the potential to be the best women’s fight of the year. It also has turned “controversial,” which adds more drama and emotions to an already charged bout.
Namajunas, who is Lithuanian, was recently asked about the documentary film “The Other Dream Team,” which was about the 1992 Lithuanian men’s basketball team that entered the Olympics as an independent country after the Soviet Union’s fall.
In her response to that question about the documentary, Namajunas said “it’s better dead than red.” Those words sparked backlash from fans on social media and many took them to be a direct attack against Weili Zhang.
Namajunas responded to the criticism with the following comments:
“If you’re confused about any of my opinions, you can watch the documentary and you could get a good idea as to what my family had to go through, the reason I’m in the United States today, the reason that I do mixed martial arts, all of that stuff.”
There were some responses from Zhang’s team over the “red” statement from Namajunas. Ultimately, Weili expressed that she hoped the two could be friends after this fight. That’s a sentiment that Rose agrees with as she says she loves Zhang and that it would be great to get to know her better.
With all of that out of the way, we can get back to what’s going to happen inside the octagon.
Namajunas is 7-3 in the UFC and has gone 4-1 in her last five fights which included a title run at the belt that Zhang currently holds.
Six of her nine pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of submission. She’s 3-2 when going the distance.
Zhang has won 21 straight fights since losing her pro debut in November 2013. That winning streak includes going 5-0 in the UFC since debuting in August 2018.
Her last two wins have come against Andrade and Jedrzejczyk with the latter one coming in March 2020 and was the best women’s fight of the year. Zhang won via split decision in an epic battle.
17 of her 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with 10 by way of TKO/KO. She’s 4-1 when going the distance.
Zhang has never been stopped in her pro career and I don’t see it happening this weekend despite how great Namajunas is. I believe this bout will go the full 25 minutes with the potential of becoming an instant classic.
For Zhang, three of her five UFC fights including two of the last three bouts have gone to a decision. Namajunas has also gone the distance in two of her last three bouts.
Take the Over 4.5 rounds (-145) and for the fight to go the distance (-140). Once with the judges, I believe Zhang will win the fight via decision. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another split decision victory like in her last title defense.
Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas –Zhang (-200)
Over 4.5 rounds (-145)
Fight goes the distance (-140)
Zhang wins via decision (+165)
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
Kamaru Usman (-420)
Jorge Masvidal (+335)
Over (-190)/Under (+165) 4.5 rounds
This main event fight is for the welterweight championship and a rematch from their first bout which took place on Fight Island in July 2020. Masvidal took that fight on a week’s notice.
“Gamebred” lost that bout via unanimous decision in what was a really boring fight after the 1st round. Usman just held a tired Masvidal against the cage for 20 minutes and landed a few shots. It was enough to win the fight.
Jorge Masvidal (@GamebredFighter) claims Kamaru Usman is “one of the softest hitters” he’s ever fought 😬 #UFC261#MMA https://t.co/I3HeSU9V4J
Masvidal has been very critical about Usman for that contest and overall. That criticism continued during fight week as Jorge made the following comments about Kamaru:
“It’s not even about the skill. It’s about the will of the person, the dog in the person. There’s a lot of other fighters that I probably wouldn’t fight on six days notice because I’m like ‘Man, those guys are mean. If I’m not in shape and I’m a little bit tired, they’re gonna try to break my nose. They’re gonna try to hurt me. Usman’s not that guy. He’s never been. He’s a f—ing coward.”
Usman is riding a 17 fight win streak into this title bout including going 13-0 inside the UFC. His most recent wins were against Gilbert Burns, Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley. That’s a very impressive stretch.
Kamaru last fought in February and easily beat Burns via TKO in the 3rd round. It was the 8th TKO/KO win of his career and the 9th stoppage victory. Usman is 9-0 when going the distance.
Usman made the following comments about the upcoming world title fight:
“Going 25 (minutes), that’s up to him. That’s if he did his homework properly and he came as prepared as he possibly could, then he might be able to drag this thing on for 25. But I’m at the point where I’m having fun and come April 24, I’m looking to have fun again as I did Feb. 13.”
This bout is favored to go the full 25 minutes (-180) and Over 4.5 rounds (-190). I completely agree with the oddsmakers on these two UFC wagers.
Masvidal has gone the distance in 28 of his 49 pro fights. Usman has gone the distance in nine of his 13 UFC fights. Furthermore, the two went the distance in their first matchup which took place last July and that was with a tired Masvidal due to a big weight cut in a short amount of time.
As for the winner, I see history repeating itself in this fight. Usman’s wrestling is too much for Masvidal to handle. I believe Jorge can survive being on the mat, but he will lose points with the judges and eventually lose via decision just like in the first fight.
The best value offered on UFC betting apps is with Usman winning via decision (-130) considering how many times the two men have gone the distance and due to Usman’s dominant run in the UFC.
Once again, I believe the only welterweight that has a legitimate shot of beating Usman is Colby Covington. And, just recently, UFC President Dana White said that Covington would get a title shot against Usman if Kamaru wins.
However, it’s believed that if Masvidal wins then the UFC will run back a trilogy fight with Usman.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal –Usman (-420)
Over 4.5 rounds (-190)
Fight goes the distance (-180)
Usman wins via decision (-130)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …