UFC 261: Three reasons to watch.
UFC 261 is a monumental card for several reasons. Three big title fights adorn the main card, but they will not be fighting in silence or on Fight Island. Instead, these men and women will compete in front of a sold-out crowd for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced all sports and much of social life to a halt for the last year. UFC President Dana White is taking his victory lap to celebrate “being first,” but it will be a sight to behold with fight fans back to cheer on their favorite athletes, and jeer any of those that they despise.
There are a lot of storylines to pick from heading into UFC 261. Those may catch the most attention and get people to watch, but these are three additional reasons why fans should enjoy tuning in to Saturday’s Pay-Per-View showcase.
Does Jimmy Crute break through?
There comes a moment in combat sports where the young competitors overtake the older men and women throughout their divisions. It has happened in every division but seems to take a bit longer in the heavyweight and light heavyweight groups. Jimmy Crute is looking to buck that trend when he takes on Anthony Smith in a featured light heavyweight contest.
At 25-years old, Crute boasts a 12-1 professional record. That record includes a 4-1 tenure in the Octagon, not including his victorious appearance on the Dana White Contender Series back in 2018. Sitting at number 13 in the division, this bout is a perfect opportunity for him to push his way up in the division.
To do so, he must defeat number six ranked, Smith. Smith seems to be a point in his career where critics and fans alike are preparing to count him out because he is hit a rough patch. He is 2-3 in his last five, dating back to his loss against Jon Jones at UFC 235. While losing is one thing, it is the way he is looked in those losses that have brought out questions about his continued viability in the UFC. He is coming off a stoppage win over Devin Clark and Smith is out to prove that he is still a top name at 205-pounds, which makes this an interesting test for Crute.
Valentina Shevchenko continued quest to clean out flyweight
Valentina Shevchenko is on a voyage to clean out the flyweight division. If she is ever going to get back to a title shot against Amanda Nunes at bantamweight, she must make it clear that there is not a woman at 125-pounds that can hang with her. Jessica Andrade is poised to prove whether she is up for the challenge or not.
Andrade brings destructive power in both hands. While she may not be the most technical, she makes it clear that if she lands flush there is a chance that her opponent goes to sleep. Shevchenko has not faced an opponent as aggressive and dangerous as Andrade at this point in her run. If Valentina can pick up another convincing win, especially of the stoppage variety, over Andrade she takes another step closer to forcing the UFC’s hand at a potential third fight against Nunes.
Chris Weidman vs Uriah Hall: The rematch in reverse
Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall fought for the first time more than a decade ago in the regional organization known as Ring of Combat. Weidman finished Hall off in the first round and went on a run that saw him become the UFC middleweight champion. Hall eventually found his way into the UFC but struggled at first. It seemed like he was an individual with all the tools to stand out, but something kept him from breaking through.
Now, it is 2021 and Hall is on the upswing while Weidman looks like he may be nearing the end of his career. If Hall can win this rematch, it will be one of his most important wins in the Octagon, giving him four-straight. He is well outside the top names for a title shot at middleweight, but it is an important time to set himself apart by finding a way to get revenge against Weidman at UFC 261.
UFC 261 takes place on Saturday, April 24, 2021, live from the VyStar Arena in Jacksonville, FL. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.