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UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2
#UFC261 MMA Betting Preview
For the first time in over a year, the fans are back in attendance, and the UFC has slated a banger of a card, with three title fights headlining the night, for UFC 261. All 26 fighters successfully made weight, and the 13 fight slate is good to go Saturday night. The main event features welterweight champion Kamaru Usman taking on #4 ranked Jorge Masvidal in a rematch that provides Masvidal a full fight camp of preparation compared to their first meeting last July from Fight Island. That fight had Masvidal making the trek over to Abu Dhabi on just days' notice, where he took Usman to the distance but ultimately lost via unanimous decision. With full preparation, and the fight hosted in his backyard this time around, questions will be answered, and we will soon find out if Masvidal is the guy to knock off the champion.
Leading up to the main event, we have two co-mains, as women's strawweight queen Weili Zhang looks to fend off challenger #1 ranked Rose Namajunas, and women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko looks to defend against the ever-dangerous #1 ranked Jessica Andrade.
READ MORE: Usman-Masvidal Rematch the Main Draw
- DATE: SATURDAY 04/24/21
- BROADCAST: PAY PER VIEW – Prelims: ESPN
- VENUE: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
- LOCATION: Jacksonville, Florida
- # of MATCHES: 13
MAIN CARD TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS
WELTERWEIGHT TITLE BOUT 170LBS: (C) KAMARU USMAN 18-1 VS #4 JORGE MASVIDAL 35-14
More importantly, Masvidal gets his full fight camp, another big payday with another shot against the champ. Six days or six weeks of preparation, it's the same result, in my opinion. In their first matchup, we saw Usman pick his spots, eventually taking the fight where he wanted. Masvidal was taken down five times and defended another 11 attempts. Those five takedowns resulted in over 16 minutes of control time. That coupled with 341 strike attempts by the champ compared to Masvidal's 157, making it almost a clean sweep after five rounds. In that first fight, Masvidal took the first round on one card, solely on his volume edge as he came out fast, looking to take control of the fight early on. The champ did what the champ does. He stayed composed and eventually settled in, just as we saw in his last fight against Gilbert Burns. Burns almost dropped Usman with a big shot, but Usman weathered the storm and turned the tide, resulting in a finish via TKO very early in the third round. At this stage of his career, Masvidal throws with intent and looks to land massive shots, hurting his opponent via bombs rather than volume. His path to victory is just that, while Usman will score with the more volume thrown, and have the grappling edge, and will take the fight there when necessary.
Prediction: Jorge Masvidal will join the “club” of fighters who receive a title shot coming off a loss. The one thing they all have in common? They lose, validating the fact they shouldn’t have received it in the first place. (Sonnen, Reyes, Cormier, Benavidez, Holloway, Aldo, Cruz, Romero to name a few, and next is Masvidal, Saturday night) Maybe he shocks the world, but highly likely, he doesn't. This is a money fight.
Bet: Kamaru Usman via DEC -125 (Confidence: A)
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT TITLE BOUT 115LBS: (C) WEILI ZHANG 21-1 VS #1 ROSE NAMAJUNAS 9-4
With the undercard sprinkled with fellow fighters from China, the build-up and viewership from there is all about Weili Zhang and seeing her defend her championship once again, which would make it 22 straight for the strawweight champ. If any title challenger on this card can get it done, it's Rose. She's definitely a live dog. Zhang is known for her in-your-face striking and will power you to the mat if in the clinch. I'm not too sure Zhang wants to take Rose to the mat here. Rose is very slick on the mat and can sneak a choke at any given moment. Considering this fight should take place mostly on the feet, Rose's boxing technique and power should stretch this one out and cause some issues for the champ. Zhang went right through Andrade, but in my opinion, she lost the fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, though she was awarded the split. In that fight, Zhang absorbed 196 strikes and was pushed to the limit against a fighter Rose beat twice. Rose has that technical boxing skillset yet only has one KO win. She really does possess some power behind those shots. This fight is a pick 'em, but dependent upon Rose's mindset come fight time. There are times it appears she has zero interest in being in the fight game at all, and other times where she’s motivated and fighting for something. I think the narrative this week backs the latter of the two scenarios.
Prediction: Zhang will pour on the volume, but her striking defense shouldn't match Rose's. Rose will land some big shots, and technically she can win some rounds. This is a closer fight in my opinion that the oddsmakers have it, and Rose has a shot here, but after seeing the damage she took in her win against Andrade in that split decision, and with five rounds to work for the champ, I tend to see Zhang pull away late.
Bet: I like Zhang, but the Rose line is very tempting. Game-time decision, dependent on the late steam.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT BOUT 125LBS: (C) VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO 20-3 VS #1 JESSICA ANDRADE 21-8
The line seems a little wide here with the danger Andrade can bring, though Shevchenko is the rightful fav here. Just not sure if it’s a 4:1 spot. That said, statistically, their grappling statistics should cancel each other out, making this one probably a striking affair come Saturday night. Andrade is making a move up in weight and will be the much smaller fighter, where she will look to close and bully the champ. Shevchenko is a master at controlling the distance and will match the aggressive approach we will see from Andrade, with her size and technical ability being visibly tough for Andrade to get past. I see this fight coming out similar to the Maia fight last November.
Prediction: Andrade will have her moments, but Shevchenko retains.
Bet: Shevchenko/Andrade OVER 2.5 rounds -170 (Confidence: B)
MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT 185LBS: #9 URIAH HALL 16-9 VS #11 CHRIS WEIDMAN 15-5
In September of 2010, Weidman knocked out Uriah Hall in the first round. Here we are, over a decade later, for the rematch. Weidman snuck a win against Omari Akhmedov last August, which got him back in the win column after going on a horrible 1-5 run over the last five years. Another win here for the former champ is imperative in validating he is back for another run, but Uriah Hall not only looks to avenge that first loss years ago but also looks to make it four straight wins on his end. Hall fought fairly safe in his last fight as he took on the legend Anderson Silva and eventually finished him with strikes in the fourth round. He'll have to do the same here to get the victory here, and he has a shot. Both Weidman and Hall’s chins aren’t quite what they used to be. Hall’s last three losses are via TKO, while Weidman’s last five are as well. Both fighters get hit more than they land historically, but offensively, Weidman only lands 43% of the time, which is comparable to Hall’s most recent opponents, whom he’s beat, outside of Anderson Silva (61%). Antonio Carlo Junior was able to take Hall down three times and still ended up losing due to the striking of Hall eventually taking over.
Prediction: Here’s what we typically see: Weidman winning the fight early and losing it late, or Hall losing the fight early and coming back to win late. If Weidman can take this one down and control it from the top, it's his fight. Hall has been susceptible to getting taken down but has proven he can get the fight back up over time. I don't think we will see the timidness from Hall we saw against the legend, Anderson Silva. I believe we will see the violent side of him, and although I can’t trust either of these two at this stage of their careers, I'll take the guy with 75% of his wins coming by way of knockout against the guy who's been knocked out in his last five defeats.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT 205LBS: #6 ANTHONY SMITH 34-16 VS #13 JIMMY CRUTE 12-1
Big step up for Jimmy Crute taking on Anthony Smith, who had like seven main events in a row. I like this fight for Crute, and he is a guy on the way up the rankings. While we've probably seen the best from Smith over the last few recent years, as he begins his transition to the announce table. (my guess) Smith is a slow starter and has been wired for five-round fights, so I'd have to probably say we see Crute get off to a fast start with his leg kicks and striking volume, coupled with his takedowns to fall back on if needed. Smith probably wouldn't hate to see it get to the mat anyhow, as he's about to take second on the all-time list for light heavyweights, as it relates to head strikes absorbed. Crute is very aggressive when on the mat, and as he averages over four takedowns per fight, this will fit well with Smith’s lackluster defense, where we’ve seen him only able to defend 51% of the time.
Prediction: Crute is the rightful favorite and just has more ways to win in this matchup that favors the 25-year-old all day.
Bet: Jimmy Crute -190 (Confidence: A-)
PRELIMS TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT 170LBS: ALEX OLIVEIRA 22-9-1 VS RANDY BROWN 12-4
This should be a good scrap. These two were originally slated to face each other in February, but Brown withdrew as he got Covid. Brown has stated this fight week that Oliveira's back is against the wall, though both are coming off of losses, looking to get back on track. Brown's most recent fight was a very one-sided loss to Vicente Luque, where he was KO’d near the end of the second round. Oliveira’s loss was last October, against Shavkat Rakhmonov, where he lost via submission in the first round, in a fight where he was very distracted. This fight was hosted in Abu Dhabi, and Oliveira received news that his 2-month-old son was hospitalized. He ended up using all of his fight money to relocate him to a private hospital. Distractions now in the past, Oliveira makes his 19th walk to the octagon, and even though he has the fighting style Dana White loves to see, he’s lost four of his last six, with the majority of those being wars, where he's absorbed some damage, which eventually adds up. Oliveira loves to trade on the feet, and Brown will do just that, so I suspect if Brown starts to have the edge while striking, Oliveira will look to get this one down, and I believe he can.
Prediction: It's tough to trust a guy like Oliveira who at any minute can throw the game plan out the window and just scrap, but I just see more ways for him to win in this spot. Though Brown is the rightful favorite, I’m going to side with a re-energized Cowboy Oliveira who has 10 kids to feed with his seven baby mommas. If anyone is motivated by a win bonus, it's got to be the Brazilian Cowboy. He's also shooting for a fight with Robbie Lawler next. But he has to get the win here first.
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT 170LBS: DWIGHT GRANT 10-3 VS STEFAN SEKULIC 12-3
Grant is a great fighter but somewhat unpredictable. He lost a split to Zak Ottow, won one against Alan Jouban, and was recently knocked out against Daniel Rodriguez last August. Grant hasn't faced many grapplers like Sekulic, so it will be interesting to see what goes down here. Sekulic isn't a big puncher and only has three knockout wins. He's typically a grinder, closes the gap, and mixes offense up, just with limited violence, if that makes any sense. Sekulic’s path to victory here is to wear down Grant, while the majority of the time owning octagon control. Even though he’s seven or eight years younger, I just am not sure he can do that against a much more athletic fighter like Grant.
Prediction: Dwight Grant edges out the victory.
MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT 185LBS: KARL ROBERSON 9-3 VS BRENDAN ALLEN 15-4
Striker vs. grappler match up, and it appears they are giving Roberson another shot to make the 185lb limit. He's struggled in the past with the weight cut to middleweight, so we will see how this goes. Allen looks to stick himself to his opponent often and early, and though he fades along the way, he’s tough for anyone if they can get it to the mat. Roberson will look to keep this standing all day, but he has struggled with takedown defense and tends to panic when a submission is locked in. His three losses have all come by way of submission and all in the very first round. If Allen can avoid the strikes on the feet, he should be able to snag another submission win in a similar style as he did against Kevin Holland in 2019, where he eventually got the fight to the ground and sunk in a rear-naked choke.
Prediction: Although not overly confident, I’m siding with Brendan Allen here and possibly by submission.
FEATHERWEIGHT BOUT 145LBS: PATRICK SABATINI 13-3 VS TRISTAN CONNELLY 14-6
So Connelly fought Michel Pereira in his last fight at 170 and got the win. Here he drops down not one but two weight classes and faces Patrick Sabatini at 145. Sabatini is a solid fighter and has some good wins against some decent opponents. Both guys will grapple with the majority of their wins coming by way of submission. Connelly has been on a good run in his career, winning his last five, and has finished all of his wins except two. He's getting up there in age at 35 and is coming off a year layoff and a neck surgery. That doesn’t make me run to place a wager on him, but as we saw against Pereira, he’s a tough out and can sneak a win. Connelly opened around -125, and the line immediately flipped, placing him almost a 2:1 underdog.
Prediction: I expect a bunch of grappling and Sabatini having the edge in a close match. Pereira is primarily a flashy striker and avoids the mat, and this is where Connelly thrived in that upset. Sabatini will welcome the fight to the mat all day.
BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT 135LBS: DANAA BATGEREL 8-2 VS KEVIN NATIVIDAD 9-2
Batgirl looked great in his last fight knocking out Guido Cannetti inside of one round. On the flip side, Natividad was KO'd by Miles Johns last October, a guy not known for KO power. Both of Natividad’s losses are via KO against guys, not necessarily powerhouses by any means, so it makes you question his durability if he gets caught. Batgirl is a very aggressive guy on the feet, and if Natividad’s chin hangs in there, it could be a 29-28 type fight. End of the day, though, Batgerel will throw more volume and has proven his durable 10 fights into his professional career.
Prediction: Batgirl will look to force some exchanges on the feet, and if he can keep this one upright, avoiding the takedowns, it's his fight all day.
Bet: Danaa Batgerel -182 (Confidence: B), Batgerel/Natividad UNDER 2.5 rounds +140 (Confidence: C+)
LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT 155LBS: RODRIGO VARGAS 11-4 VS ZHU RONG 17-3
Is Zhu Rong really 21? His 17-3 with a 10 fight win streak, coming over for his first fight outside of China, though probably will be one of the better of the crew coming over for this card. He has some solid technical movement on the feet but has a habit of dropping his hands, sucking his opponents into wars, looking to counter. He has 11 KOs, including three of his last four fights ending in that fashion. His three losses have all come by way of submission, and Vargas hasn’t won via sub since 2016. Vargas’ back is against the wall here, after he’s dropped his two UFC fights, with his last being via that illegal knee against Brok Weaver. Weaver was on his way to losing that fight too.
Prediction: Rong should have a clear edge on the feet, and with his gas tank and ability to take a shot, he should be able to cruise here.
FLYWEIGHT BOUT 125LBS: QILENG AORI 18-6 VS JEFF MOLINA 8-2
Aori is one of the more proven fighters making the trek over from the WLF crew for this card, and he's coming in on a six-fight win streak, though some low-level opponents sprinkled in there. Not much footage on him, but he seems pretty flashy offensively but lacks some defense on the feet. He’ll look to be the faster on the feet and isn’t afraid to get into a war, though Molina will be game to trade as well. Molina has rattled off seven wins in a row himself, including his clear decision win over Jacob Silva last August in the DWCS. Molina trains with Glory MMA, who's been on a roll.
It should be a close fight, but I’m going to side with Molina here. Aori could surprise us, but with this being his first fight outside of China and the bright lights and fans back, it’s a tough spot.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT BOUT 115LBS: ARIANE CARNELOSSI 12-2 VS NA LIANG 15-4
Carnelossi is back after over a year layoff since her loss to Angela Hill, which was via doctor stoppage due to an elbow in the third round (She would have kept going if the dr. didn’t step in). The first two rounds were fairly close statistically, if that says anything against an opponent like Hill, especially for her being your UFC debut. Before that, Carnelossi was 12-1 and hadn’t lost since her professional debut back in 2014, against UFC prospect Amanda Ribas. She’s pretty aggressive yet not the most technical striker in the division, and I suspect she will stay the course and continue to move forward against Liang here while Liang looks to get this one down for a submission. Liang will have a seven-inch height and six-inch reach advantage, although she won’t leverage it on the feet and rather swoop in for a takedown. Liang has only one fight out of Asia, and she was finished against Bellator’s Juliana Velasquez.
Prediction: It's very possible Liang leverages her size and gets this one down for a submission, but Carnelossi’s strength and gas tank should outmatch her. Even if this one gets down to the mat (which it will), Carnelossi should have the ability to control from the top (black belt in BJJ), quite possibly leading to the TKO finish. It just seems like Carnelossi should have more ways to win at the end of the day.
- Usman/Shevchenko/Rong +108
- Add Crute +213
- Add Batgerel +384
THE GUPPY SPECIAL
Now, this is no "whale play," and actually, it's completely the opposite. This one is for pure entertainment purposes only. Many of you know that I've run the board a handful of times as I've thrown out predictions, and one of these week's we will hit one of these "guppies."
Use this play to round your balance off at your book, nothing serious, just entertainment purposes only.
This week's Guppy Special (odds from DraftKings):
Parlay pays +1449
FULL CARD PREDICTIONS
- KAMARA USMAN defeats JORGE MASVIDAL
- WEILI ZHANG defeats ROSE NAMAJUNAS
- VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO defeats JESSICA ANDRADE
- URIAH HALL defeats CHRIS WEIDMAN
- JIMMY CRUTE defeats ANTHONY SMITH
- ALEX OLIVEIRA defeats RANDY BROWN
- DWIGHT GRANT defeats STEFAN SEKULIC
- BRENDAN ALLEN defeats KARL ROBERSON
- PATRICK SABATINI defeats TRISTAN CONNELLY
- DANAA BATGEREL defeats KEVIN NATIVIDAD
- ZHU RONG defeats RODRIGO VARGAS
- JEFF MOLINA defeats QILENG AOR
- ARIANE CARNELOSSI defeats NA LIANG
UFC PREDICTION BET SUMMARY
- 2021 Fight card predictions overall: 84-62-3 (58%)
- 2021 Targeted matchups (wagers): 48-49-1 (49%)
DFS PLAYS & STRATEGIES
- Choose active fighters. Coupling an active fighter on his/her way to a unanimous decision will give you key points for your team. Just like any other DFS traditional sport, you want the active, offensive player that scores. Key metrics here are SLpM and TD AVG/15min.
- Play the heavyweights. The approximate overall finish rate in the UFC is 54%. Most weight divisions range from 40%-60%, while the heavyweights push a 75% finish rate. You will receive bonus points for finishes inside the distance.
- Try always to include the main event or title fights. Five-round fights mean more time to rack up points if you pick the right fighter. In some cases, even if you have the loser, the points can be more than a three-round winner.
- Don't get excited and rush a pick based on stats; consider sample size. Some fighters have limited fights compared to their opponents when looking at metrics. Stats could be exaggerated. Do your research. Watch for spots with debuting fighters as well. Always check the records of the opponents they faced on their way to the UFC. Always pull fight tape as well. You’d be surprised at what you will find.
- Review methods of victory. I supply the finish rates within this article, and as you dive in, you can compare method of victory to method of loss for the matchups. For example, you can find matchups where Fighter A has a high % of submission victories matched up with Fighter B, with a high % of submission losses.
As mentioned in the tip sheet above, here’s my MMA DFS Heat Chart for UFC 261. As you can see, the chart is ranked based on fight finish odds. Fight finishes are where the points are in MMA DFS. Take a glance at the stack, and we will break down the individual matchups below.
Two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents; watch your points rack up quickly. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for the card. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday.
UFC 261 DFS RECOMMENDATIONS
- Fighters that typically press the action, land takedowns, and/or high finish rates matched up against those that get finished, roster. (see my charts above)
- Fights projected to NOT go to a decision
- Andrade/Shevchenko -125
- Smith/Crute -145
- Weidman/Hall -130
- Allen/Roberson -225
- Vargas/Zhu -205
- Carnelossi/Liang -250
- Oliveira/Brown -120
- Grant/Sekulic -160
- The five-round main event is in play here. I really like Usman here again. His volume and grappling advantages against Masvidal should score well with the five rounds.
- Top-tier fighters to build around include: Zhu, Shevchenko, Usman
- Mid-tier fighter considerations are: Carnelossi, Crute, Batgerel
- Live dogs that could score: Oliveira, Namajunas, Weidman (takedowns score, if you fade Hall), Molina
Good luck, everyone. I hope to see some of you cashing after Saturday night! Follow me on Twitter @Y2CASEY