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In contract to the loaded main card, there is not much to the UFC 261 prelims on Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Nevertheless, they should still result in a fun time. A welterweight tilt between Alex Oliveira and Randy Brown rightfully holds featured prelim status and represents one of the clear highlights of the undercard, along with a middleweight scrap between Karl Roberson and Brendan Allen. Beyond those two affairs, we find an assortment of veterans and prospects that favors excitement over immediate relevance, including the debut of three Chinese newcomers in the first three fights.
Now to the preview for the UFC 261 “Usman vs. Masvidal” prelims:
WelterweightsNR | Randy Brown (12-4, 6-4 UFC) vs. NR | Alex Oliveira (22-9-1, 11-7 UFC)
ODDS: Brown (-150), Oliveira (+130)
Two talented but inconsistent fighters clash in the featured prelim. Oliveira was a bit hard to pin down as a prospect at first, as the Brazilian “Cowboy” hopped between the lightweight and welterweight divisions and flashed a bunch of different tools, none of which seemed reliably effective over a series of fights. Eventually, Oliveira settled in as a full-time welterweight and a bit of a formless bully. He could horse around most of his opponents through sheer strength but struggled against those with an equally strong or more technical grappling game. Sometimes, all it took to defeat Oliveira was an ability to stick around. The Brazilian’s losses that have not come to stronger grapplers have come to opponents like Mike Perry and Nicolas Dalby, who could just rely on their durability to keep pressing forward and make him uncomfortable. The 2020 campaign saw Oliveira renew some hope with strong performances against Max Griffin and Peter Sobotta, but a quick submission loss to newcomer Shavkat Rakhmonov in October mostly undid those gains. He looks to rebound here. Brown was one of the first fighters to come to the UFC via Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight” series and fits the boss’ typical interests. Brown has a long frame and was much more of a raw, high-upside talent than any sort of proven prospect. As a result, “Rude Boy” has had a UFC career full of flashes and frustrations. Brown’s June 2019 win over Bryan Barberena looked like it could be the moment where his grab bag of skills eventually clicked into place. Brown spent the fight as an effective range striker who was continually able to pick apart Barberena from distance before dropping the hammer for a third-round knockout. However, Brown has not really built on that performance. He mostly got outwrestled by Warlley Alves before clamping down on a surprising fight-ending triangle choke, then proved mostly ineffective against Vicente Luque’s consistent pressure. Brown shows enough tools, even in his losses, that there is the sense that he can have a breakthrough performance at any moment, but it is difficult to have enough faith in him to pick him against Oliveira. If Brown comes into this fight in top form, there is a chance that his reach makes Oliveira uncomfortable and puts the “Cowboy” into a shell, but it seems just as likely that the Brazilian can use brute force to get into the clinch and throw around the former Ring of Combat champion. Defensive wrestling has always been a weakness for Brown. This should be a mess, but the pick is for Oliveira to take the decision.
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