The fans were back. Three champions took the stage. UFC 261 was a historic night and it delivered in a big way, with several very exciting fights and multiple fighters picking up some very big wins. The main card got off to a very strange start but it was the three big title fights that really got the fans on their feet in the end.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the night and break down the three fights we looked at in our UFC 261 preview.

Prelim Highlights

The night opened up with a wild back-and-forth fight between Ariane Carnelossi and Liang Na. Carnelossi got dropped in with a right hand in the opening seconds of the fight but bounced back up. The two traded some big shots and shared some wild scrambles on the ground, with each fighter getting top position and putting their opponent in danger on multiple occasions. It was a crazy fight, but early in the second round, Carnelossi got top position one more time and managed to put Na away. It was a big win in a fantastic opening bout.

Danaa Batgerel also scored a very impressive victory when it took him just 50 seconds to put away Kevin Natividad. A well-place left hook and some strong ground and pound earned Batgerel the quick victory. He wasn’t the only one to score a first-round win though, as Brendan Allen managed to grab the rare heel hook submission win with just five seconds left in the first.

The final prelim of the night was another incredibly entertaining back-and-forth fight between Alex Oliveira and Randy Brown. Oliveira hurt Brown early with some very effective calf kicks but Brown clipped him with a right hand that dropped him and took the top position quickly. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he managed to secure the victory with a one-armed rear naked choke, a submission that even longtime commentator Joe Rogan said he can’t recall ever seeing. It was a very impressive victory for Brown.

Main Card Highlights

The main card kicked off with former title challenger Anthony Smith and young rising star Jimmy Crute. These two traded some big shots but it was Smith who landed a big kick to the back of Crute’s knee that completely shut down his left leg. Crute managed to get a takedown and hold Smith on the ground for the rest of the round, but after the horn he stumbled his way back to his corner. When the doctor checked him out between rounds, a fired up Crute tried his best to keep the fight going but after he stumbled one more time, the doctor called the fight. It was one of the most bizarre finishes in UFC history and a big win for Smith.

It was an incredibly unfortunate night for former middleweight champ Chris Weidman, who, just 17 seconds into his fight with Uriah Hall, had a kick checked, resulting in a gruesome leg injury. Ironically, it was very reminiscent of the leg injury suffered by Anderson Silva in his fight against Chris Weidman years ago. After the fight, Hall showed nothing but class, wishing the best for Weidman and his family and promising him a rematch whenever he’s able to recover, regardless of their ranks.

Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Andrade

In the first of three title fights, the dominant champion Shevchenko took on the challenger Andrade. It didn’t take long for Shevchenko to prove once again that she is one of the greatest female fighters of all time. If Andrade was going to have any advantage in this fight, it was going to be in the grappling game. Shevchenko quickly removed that thought, taking her opponent down five times in the first round. In the second, she stuffed multiple takedown attempts from an opponent who is known for scoring them in the exact way she was attempting here. Shortly after, Shevchenko scored another takedown, moved to another dominant position and put Andrade away. In her post-fight interview, she told future opponents to stop looking for a weakness in her game because there isn’t one. At this point, it’s very hard to argue that point.

My pick: Shevchenko via 4th round knockout

Result: Shevchenko via 2nd round knockout

Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili

One of the most exciting bouts on paper was the Women’s Strawweight championship bout between former champ Namajunas and the incredibly talented current champion Weili. Given the fighting styles of these two, we know we were in for a very fun show. Namajunas used constant movement to keep Weili from really getting into her groove here and just over a minute in, she managed to land a huge head kick and drop the champ. After pouncing and landing a couple of hammer fists the ref called the fight, awarding the title back to Rose. Zhang contested the stoppage afterwards but it was clear she was out. An emotional Namajunas shared a great moment with Rogan in the octagon afterward as she proclaimed that she is the best. This historic performance resulted in Rose being the first woman in UFC history to recapture a championship.

My pick: Namajunas via decision

Result: Namajunas via 1st round knockout

Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal

There was some bad blood in this main event as Usman and Masvidal have been trading trash talk since their first bout last year. That trash talk carried into the octagon as the two continued to jaw at each other all through the introductions and even into the fight. It was Usman’s grappling that was on display in the first round, scoring a takedown and controlling most of the first five minutes. In the second though, the two traded some shots on the feet and the dominant champion landed one of the most violent right hands ever seen in the octagon, putting the challenger out instantly. Everyone thought if Usman was going to dominate this fight, it would be with the grappling. In the end though, he proved that he continues to get better in every aspect of the sport, which is a scary prospect for the rest of the welterweight division.

My pick: Usman via decision

Result: Usman via 2nd round knockout

The UFC will return to ESPN+ on Saturday, May 1 for UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka. Be sure to check back for a preview of the event.

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