UFC 261 ‘Usman vs. Masvidal 2’ Play-by-Play, Results & Round Scoring

By Jay Pettry Apr 24, 2021
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Ariane Carnelossi vs. Na Liang

Round 1

This historic night topped off by a title tripleheader will begin in the lightest division in the company, as Carnelossi (12-2, 0-1 UFC) aims for her first UFC win against the debuting “Dragon Girl” Liang (15-4, 0-0 UFC). Whether Liang holds 13 wins or 15 on her ledger may be of some dispute, but she does bring a 100 percent finish rate into this contest, and referee James Folsom may have his work cut out for him early. There is no touch of gloves as the two fighters would prefer introduce one another with their fists, and with a huge pop from the crowd – remember, we are in Jacksonville, Fla., with a packed house -- we are now underway! The two women come out like a house on fire, going berserk with a wild striking flurry. Both women tag the other, and Liang is the one who gets the advantage of the position as she powers through and bullies the Brazilian to her canvas. Liang steps over to secure an arm-triangle choke as she sits in half guard, and Carnelossi kicks off and reverses the position. Liang drags her back down, but “Sorriso” powers up to her feet and tags Liang with a right hand. “Dragon Girl” does not let her off the hook, charging into a takedown attempt as she furiously throws hands. The strikes do enough to keep Carnelossi busy defending, so that Liang can hit a body lock takedown and throw the Brazilian on the canvas again. Carnelossi keeps her guard closed tight, and Liang lifts her up and slams her down hard. Carnelossi opens up and throws her legs up for an armbar, and although she cannot land it, she is able to sweep Liang and put her on her back. Liang threatens with an armbar of her own, and Carnelossi shrugs it off to start raining down strikes from on top. Liang catches an arm when Carnelossi is hammering her with shots, and she locks up an armbar. Carnelossi muscles her way through to break the grip, and Liang is able to turn her over and put the Brazilian on her back. Carnelossi rolls to her knees as she grabs a leg on Liang, and through sheer force of will, she lifts Liang in the air and slams her down. Liang rolls to her knees and gets clubbed in the side of the head, and Carnelossi circles around to take her back. Carnelossi attempts a rear-naked choke, but Liang wildly scrambles and bursts to her feet. Liang does not stay upright for long, as she nails Carnelossi with punches from on top. Carnelossi snags a triangle choke from her back, and she uses it to mount and put Liang on her back. Carnelossi lands serious strikes from above, and she clubs Liang repeatedly until the bell sounds. Liang survives, but she is extremely fatigued just five minutes in.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Carnelossi
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Carnelossi
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Carnelossi

Round 2

The pace is nowhere near as insane to start off the second frame, as Liang lands a few strikes from a distance. When Carnelossi counters, Liang flips her foot up and slaps Carnelossi in the face. Carnelossi grabs hold of her foe and looks to take the fight down, but Liang is able to put her down. Carnelossi keeps a hook in and is able to retain back control, and she takes the back and hunts for a choke. Liang twists and turns to break the grip, but she falls to her back as Carnelossi climbs into guard and starts with hammerfists. Carnelossi keeps smashing her growingly exhausted adversary with a barrage of hammerfists, and before long, Folsom intervenes as Liang is no longer able to intelligently defend herself. Although the stoppage might seem premature to some, the defeated Liang is gasping for air and completely thrashed after that torrid affair. If this performance is any indication, we will be in for quite a night.

The Official Result

Ariane Carnelossi def. Na Liang R2 1:28 via TKO (Punches)

Jeff Molina vs. Qileng Aori

Round 1

Up next at flyweight, two Octagon newcomers come to blows as Dana White’s Contender Series signee Molina (8-2, 0-0 UFC) greets Aori (18-7, 0-0 UFC) inside the cage. Overseeing this match is referee Josh Rutgers, and there is an offered but retracted touch of gloves to start things off. Aori comes out firing, with looping punches as Molina retreats. Aori swarms him with a couple hooks, and Molina counters with a left hand on the way in. The American keeps his distance on the outside, swatting away Aori’s reaching punches, but Aori dings him with an overhand right. Molina takes a body kick and comes up short with a right hand, and the two try for hooks that are blocked on either side. Molina chops down the lead leg as Aori stalks him down, and the Chinese fighter throws four punches that Molina ducks until Aori ducks down for a takedown attempt. Molina stuffs it and the fans are already booing the grappling exchange, so they start brawling wildly. Aori tags Molina with a right hand, and Molina lands back but takes the brunt of the exchange. Aori crashes in with an uppercut into a takedown attempt, and this time, he lifts Molina into the air to slam him down. In his foe’s guard, Aori lands a few punches and scrambles around to take Molina’s back when Molina rolls to his knees. Molina ignores this and stands back up, all while Aori is holding on to him from behind. Molina breaks the grip and Aori tags him with a knee that sends his mouthpiece flying. The two are tied up against the fence, with Molina attempting his own takedown as the two jockey for position. The action stalemates until they break, and Rutgers replaces the mouthpiece on the pause. Aori charges at him with a few wide punches, and “El Jefe” blocks the majority of them and comes back with a body kick. Molina tries to keep him at bay with right hands, and Aori ignores them, counters and bullies into the clinch. The horn sounds, and the two are chippy with one another.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Aori
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Aori
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Aori

Round 2

The two flyweights engage right out of the gate, meeting one another in the center of the cage and throwing down. Aori backs his foe off with a few overhand rights, and he causes Molina to stumble. The Chinese fighter swirls around to take his back, but like the previous round, Molina does not pay attention to this and instead gets back to his feet with ease. The two trade single strikes one after the other, with Molina looking to counter with left hands while Aori loads up on heavy shots. Molina scores a body kick and starts to flick out his jab, and he gets clocked with a right hand when reaching out. Molina takes a kick to the body, and he tries to catch and counter but he comes up short. Molina goes back to his jabs, disrupting the movement but still eating big right hands from Aori. Molina returns fire with a solid one-two, and “The Mongolian Murderer” walks through it to score a heavy right hand. Molina is comfortable from his range with jabs, but Aori is still able to close the distance on him and land shots. A left to the body and right to the head come for Aori, and Molina gathers himself and blasts Aori with a right hand. Aori falls to the ground and springs right back up, so Molina goes after him with a head kick and falls over. Molina hops back up as well, and Aori comes at him throwing leather. Molina jabs out to try to break up a rampaging Aori, but Aori is shrugging them off and rushing forward and leaping in the air with a flying knee. Aori stalks his man down and starts targeting the body, while Molina slaps him once. Aori pours on the pressure as Molina is retreating, and Aori times a right hand that splits the guard. A one-two from Molina comes shortly thereafter, and Aori does not register he has been punched as he lands strikes right back that make Molina nod at him. Molina shoots in low for a takedown, and he is easily rebuffed and stood back up. On the 10-second clapper, Aori blitzes forward with a wild flurry, and Molina catches him with a straight right hand and puts Aori on his backside. Molina dives down to try to finish the job, but there is no time left in the round.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Molina
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Molina
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Molina

Round 3

The round begins with Aori continuing where he left off, marching his man down, but Molina is on his bike clipping Aori with strikes. Aori loads up on power punches, and Molina catches him with a knee to pause him for a moment. Aori swings wildly with punches, and when he ducks down, he hits a takedown that puts Molina down for a second. The American is able to scramble back up without issue, and the two pick up where they left off. Aori tags him with a right hand, and a left that follows also gets Molina’s attention. Molina sits down on an uppercut, and his jab lands often while Aori is relentlessly pursuing his target. Molina scores a right hand, and a left hand stuns Aori momentarily. Molina chains together a barrage of strikes to make Aori shell up, and he backs off to let Aori reset. Molina flicks out his jab to frustrate Aori, who is practically throwing nothing but power shots. Molina has started to time them; landing jabs and knees up the middle while Aori loads up often. “El Jefe” works the body a few times while Aori is starting to slow, but Aori’s chin is not in question as he absorbs strike after strike. Molina might have finally hurt his opponent with a few strikes, and a knee up the middle catches Aori flush. Molina tattoos his man with crisp combinations, and Aori swings single shots. Molina tees of on him and the tide has thoroughly turned, with Aori’s nose busted up and Molina now the advancing man. Molina continues to land whenever he wants, and a right hand swells up the eye of Aori. Molina eats a body kick to land four punches, and his combinations begin to lengthen as Aori flails wildly. Molina is feeling himself, and he sticks and moves as Aori swings and hits the air. Aori eats a right hand and Molina pays him back with one of his own. Molina scores a standing elbow, and he continues to score repeatedly as Aori is fading fast. With seconds to spare, Aori bites down on his mouthpiece for one final, blistering salvo of punches. "The Mongolian Murderer" hurts Molina, and Molina wobbles back to the fence as Aori is unloading on him. Molina is in the danger zone from a few right hands, and he tries to clinch up and drag Aori down to ride out the rest of the round. The two fall to the ground, and this wild fight is now over.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Molina (29-28 Molina)
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Molina (29-28 Molina)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-8 Molina (29-27 Molina)

The Official Result

Jeff Molina def. Qileng Aori via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

Rodrigo Vargas vs. Zhu Rong

Round 1

For the third time in a row, it’s China versus the world, as Vargas (11-4, 0-2 UFC) represents Mexico against the surging Chinese prospect Rong (17-3, 0-0 UFC). Two finishers will come to blows here, as both men have earned exactly one decision win across their respective careers, and referee Keith Peterson has eliminated all of the nonsense from the building. There is a sporting glove touch to check in the fight, and it’s on with the show. Vargas reaches out with a pair of punches, and Rong rolls with them and takes a left hand on the forehead. The Chinese newcomer shrugs at Vargas, so Vargas bears down on him with a few more strikes. Rong reaches out with his left hand to find his range, and Vargas kicks him in the chest. The Mexican fighter backs off and lands a body kick and a leg kick, and he whiffs when following with a left hand. Rong tries to pay him back for a strike, and Vargas ducks and motions at his opponent like “is that all you got?” Vargas lands a few more leg kicks, and Rong jabs him in the face in one. Vargas rips the body with a pair of punches, and he pulls back and lands a leg kick. “Kazula” barely misses an overhand left, and he catches Rong with a right hand. Rong finally scores with a strike, but Vargas does not let him celebrate his work as he lands a one-two of his own. Vargas chips at the lead leg a few more times as the crowd is growing frustrated at the relative inaction between the lightweights. Vargas gets off a right hand, and Rong shakes his finger at him signaling it did not hurt. Rong misses on a counter, and Vargas rushes in to attack. Vargas hacks at the calf with a kick, and Rong’s leg gives away on him for a moment. The Chinese newcomer scrambles back to his feet, and he lands a punch but takes four. Rong tags Vargas with a right hand, and he does not follow it wit anything and instead allows Vargas to land on him. “Kazula” stabs his toes to the body, and he once more comes down low with a calf kick that makes Rong backpedal. Rong backs away and waves Vargas towards him, putting his hands on his hips and showboating a little even though he had not landed much of note this round. Vargas does not bite on any of these traps, so Rong wades forward and scores a left hand. Vargas throws out a jab and a right hand, and he charges forward to follow this with a combination. The two throw wild strikes to the bell, and when it sounds, the two one another stare down until the corners pull them away.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Vargas
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Vargas
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Vargas

Round 2

There is a glove touch to begin the second round, and Vargas reaches out and lands a few times to kick it off. Rong fires back, and he catches a kick and puts Vargas on his back. Vargas snags hold of the neck with a guillotine choke, and Rong gives a thumbs-up while Vargas locks his legs around Rong’s waist. Vargas squeezes with all his might, and Rong is turning a shade of purple while unable to break the grip. Vargas has his grip under the chin, and Rong does not appear concerned and is not fighting the grip or doing anything besides pushing off Vargas’ knee. “Kazula” resets his choke but does not torque it as hard as before, as he might have gassed his arms a bit. Vargas bails on the choke, and he tries to stand up but Rong is holding on tight. Rong lifts the Mexican fighter in the air and slams him down, where Vargas snatches on to a guillotine choke again. This one is not nearly as tight, and Vargas does not fully commit to it. Rong keeps calm and carries on, where he pops his head out and follows Vargas when Vargas climbs to his knees. Rong lifts him up and puts him down, allowing Vargas to give up his back to free himself from the position. “Kazula” shimmies himself free to step into half guard, and he begins to drop down punches and elbows until Rong closes his guard. Vargas stacks him up and lands body shots, leading Rong to try to scoot his way to the cage wall. Vargas holds on tight and continues to grind until Rong hits a sweep and stands back up. Vargas is on him like Saran wrap, with the two pinned to the fence until Rong simply pushes him away. Rong stalks Vargas down, but it is Vargas that lands with a one-two. Rong lets loose a high kick that gets blocked, and he changes levels for a takedown that does not succeed before the round ends. Rong gets off a strike before the bell, and he motions to apologize for this.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Vargas
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Vargas
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Vargas

Round 3

The two lightweights touch hands to seal the cage behind them for the final round, and Vargas swings and misses with a few punches. Rong motions to Peterson that there was an eye poke, but it is not registered as the two continue trading. Vargas lands punches and slips the counter, as Rong reaches out with a left hand a few times. Vargas ducks down with a few punches, leading Rong to motion towards him but not throw anything. Both men pull back when they register the other is preparing a counter, so Vargas goes back to the leg kick that showed him success early. Vargas ducks out of the way of a pair of looping punches, and he touches the body with strikes. Rong snaps the head back with a one-two, and a left hand stops Vargas in his track for a second. “Kazula” shakes it off and continues throwing, appearing no worse for wear as he targets the body and head with alternating strikes. Vargas looks to sweep the leg, and he digs with a pair of hooks to the body. Rong cracks him with a right hand, and a left hand counter catches Vargas coming in. Vargas lands a power jab, and Rong brushes his shoulder as if he was Bobby Green. Rong nails Vargas with a right hand, dropping Vargas to a knee, but he does not follow up to finish the fight. Instead, he allows Vargas to get up and showboats a little. Vargas thanks him with a left hand to the jaw, and he sticks out a few jabs with his other hand for good measure. Rong barely misses a right hand, and when Vargas dodges, Rong mimes a matador gesture. Vargas scores a few times with strikes as Rong is trying to counter, as the Chinese newcomer times the jab to loose overhand rights. Vargas ducks and escapes, so Rong points to the ground to start brawling. Vargas backs off, lands a few, and gets stung with a pair of shots from Rong. Rong again is trying to incite a flurry of strikes, so Vargas shoots in low on a single instead. Rong stuffs it and makes him pay with a right hand, but Vargas eats it and jabs. Rong shoots in low for a takedown, and after a wild scramble, Rong winds up on top dropping down thudding elbows. The horn sounds, and Rong once more lands a strike after the bell. Vargas is not pleased, but Peterson intervenes before anything else comes from it.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Rong (29-28 Vargas)
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Rong (29-28 Vargas)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Rong (29-28 Vargas)

The Official Result

Rodrigo Vargas def. Zhu Rong via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)

Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Natividad

Round 1

Eastern and western hemisphere fighters meet again for the fourth time in a row, as Batgerel (8-2, 1-1 UFC) represents Mongolia against Arizona Combat Sports prospect Natividad (9-2, 0-1 UFC). Drawing the assignment is referee Herb Dean, and the two bantamweights touch gloves to begin their fight. Batgerel is in the driver’s seat in the early going, pawing out with left jabs as Natividad circles along the outside well out of range. Natividad swings and misses with a right hand, but a one-two catches Batgerel on the chin and makes the Mongolian take a funny step. Batgerel composes himself and reaches out a front kick and a stern right hook. As Natividad charges, “Storm” unleashes a hellacious left hand that crashes straight into Natividad’s chin. The legs disintegrate beneath Natividad, who falls forward in huge trouble. A quartet of swarming punches from Batgerel make Natividad topple over to his back, and a few follow-up hammerfists are all that are needed for Dean to halt the fight. What a performance for Batgerel, getting the job done in less than a minute.

The Official Result

Danaa Batgerel def. Kevin Natividad R1 0:50 via TKO (Punches)

Tristan Connelly vs. Pat Sabatini

Round 1

Beginning the ESPN preliminary portion of the card is a featherweight matchup as former welterweight Connelly (14-6, 1-0 UFC) contends with promising UFC newcomer Sabatini (13-3, 0-0 UFC) at featherweight. These two men both post submission rates over 60 percent, and grappling may be on full display before referee Josh Rutgers. There is a glove touch in front of these excited fans, and away we go. Connelly stalks the newcomer down and lands a few right hands, all while absorbing a leg kick. Sabatini circles around the outside and lands a few crisp punches, and Connelly walks through them to continue chasing. Sabatini ducks a punch and blasts Connelly in the face with a right hand, setting the Canadian down. Sabatini does not miss a beat, pushing his foe flat on his back while landing strikes. The American exerts heavy top pressure as the “USA” chant rings through the arena for the first time of the night. Sabatini holds tight in half guard, and when Connelly sits up, he slides his arm under Connelly’s neck. The newcomer elbows Connelly in the head when Connelly rolls to his side, and this also thwarts a potential sweep attempt for “Boondock.” Sabatini squeezes down with his full body weight as he looks to advance to either three-quarter mount or full mount, and he sets up an arm-triangle choke that forces Connelly to surrender his back. Sabatini gets his hooks in and snags a rear-naked choke, but Connelly fights off the grip. “Boondock” starts taking punches to the side of the head as Sabatini secures a body triangle, and he fishes for the choke every so often as he softens Connelly up. Connelly rolls towards the fence to try to break the body triangle, and Sabatini sneaks his arm under the neck for a second, only to get it pulled away. The seconds peel off the clock as Sabatini maintains back control, and he rides out the round in this position.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Sabatini
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Sabatini
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Sabatini

Round 2

The two touch gloves, and both kick early. Sabatini leaps in the air with a knee, and Connelly pushes it away and tries to land an overhand right. The newcomer goes back to his bike, but he scores a one-two as Connelly is advancing. In one explosive movement, Sabatini crashes forward and nails a double leg takedown that puts Connelly square on his back. The Canadian hacks with elbows from his back, and he sits up but Sabatini is not letting him up. Sabatini tries to readjust his position and pass guard by standing up, and he blocks an upkick to wade down into side control. The Pennsylvanian holds tight with his shoulder pressing on Connelly’s neck, and Connelly knees him in the side to little effect. Sabatini hops to three-quarter mount, but Connelly drags him back to half guard. Sabatini is fine with this, as he drops down punches while Connelly rolls. Connelly swirls through to his knees, and Sabatini threatens with a potential leglock to snag back control. Connelly falls to his back and Sabatini takes side control, until Connelly rolls through and gives up his back. Sabatini thanks him by taking his back, and Sabatini quickly locks up a body triangle again. Sabatini considers sliding into mount, until Connelly rolls to his knees to try to escape this disadvantageous position. “Boondock” topples to his back and into arm-triangle danger, and the two continue to scramble as Sabatini takes the back again. Connelly bucks free of the body kick, and Sabatini meets him by adjusting his hooks. Connelly elbows the thigh to try to spin around, and Sabatini snags the body triangle one last time before the round concludes.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Sabatini
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Sabatini
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-8 Sabatini

Round 3

The two featherweights clap hands to clock in the last round, and Connelly stalks Sabatini down in the early going. Connelly loads up on a right hand, and Sabatini latches on to him to clinch him up and threaten a takedown. Sabatini adjusts, grabs a single and nearly plants Connelly down. Connelly wings a right hand as Sabatini backpedals, and the Canadian comes up short with a head kick. The two clinch up in the center of the cage, twisting around and trading knees as they try to be the advancing party. Sabatini changes levels and is rebuffed to take the fight down, grasping a single to wrench the fight to the canvas. Connelly does not let this happen, so Sabatini starts to work the body in the clinch. Connelly grabs hold of a guillotine choke from a standing position, and Sabatini pays it no mind and continues to press his foe heavily on the wire. The two turn back and forth, and Rutgers calls for the fighters to work. Sabatini obliges him with a combination to the body and head. Connelly bites on a takedown attempt to get smacked in the head, and he appears frustrated as he chases Sabatini down. “Boondock” reaches out with a few jabs, and Sabatini counters with a left hand. Connelly cracks him with a right, leading Sabatini to touch his jaw to taunt him. Sabatini ducks down for a takedown, and it is stuffed and the two tangle against the cage. Connelly breaks free and eats a left hook on the chin, but he is no worse for wear. Connelly wings a right hook to respond, and Sabatini dips and gives him one back. Connelly presses him back to the fence, where he executes a trip takedown and gets to half guard. Sabatini sits up into a guillotine choke, and Connelly gives up on it as he tries to pass guard. Sabatini threatens with a leg lock off his back, forcing Connelly to stand up. Sabatini lands a few upkicks, and the horn sounds.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Connelly (29-28 Sabatini)
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Connelly (29-28 Sabatini)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Connelly (29-27 Sabatini)

The Official Result

Pat Sabatini def. Tristan Connelly via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Brendan Allen vs. Karl Roberson

Round 1

An all-action middleweight contest is next, as two thrillers that prefer to finish their foes lock horns, when Allen (15-4, 3-1 UFC) looks to pacify “Baby K” Roberson (9-3, 4-3 UFC). The Octagon ranger for this battle is referee Dan Miragliotta, and the two decide to touch gloves before trying to take the other’s head off. Allen quickly lets loose a head kick as soon as he retracts the touch, and Roberson is barely able to block it in time. Both men start trading, and both hurt the other with massive shots. Roberson gets off a body kick, and a left hand just misses the target as Allen dances out of the way to score a right. Allen fires off several kicks to the body and legs, and he clips “Baby K” with a right and a left chained into a head kick. “All In” uses his forward momentum to clinch up, where he hits a trip and puts Roberson on his back emphatically. Allen has some damage on the corner of his right eye, but he does not appear bothered by it as he crushes Roberson down in half guard. Roberson is stuck with his neck against the fence, and Allen reaches a little too far to pursue a straight armbar or kimura. Allen nearly falls off, but he readjusts himself and steps into mount, with the so-called “Dagestani handcuff” trapping Roberson’s legs while he can wail on Roberson’s face. Allen tries to pull Roberson’s legs out as he steps over toe the side, and Roberson bursts to his feet only to quickly be thrown back down to the ground. Allen in half guard squeezes with his shoulder, and Roberson can do little but hold on tight to stop the offense from coming. Allen smothers with his top pressure even though he does not land anything of note, but he does grind his elbow on Roberson’s face. “Baby K” bucks like a bronco into a leglock from his back, and Allen defends in the 50/50 guard with his own heel hook attempt at the same time. Roberson is suddenly in big trouble, as Allen hooks the ankle underneath his armpit. “All In” torques it with seconds to spare, and Roberson grimaces in pain and taps out so his knee and ankle do not get shredded. That is now submission number nine for Allen, who elicits this rare and elusive ankle-based tapout in impressive fashion.

The Official Result

Brendan Allen def. Karl Roberson R1 4:55 via Submission (Ankle Lock)

Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulic

Round 1

Moving next to the welterweight division, two men in Grant (10-3, 2-2 UFC) and Sekulic (12-3, 0-1 UFC) will both look to bounce back from tough losses. Grant’s last defeat came in 2020, while Sekulic has not competed since 2018 due to USADA issues, and it’s anyone’s guess if cage corrosion will rear its ugly head. Referee James Folsom will bear witness to this contest, and there is no glove touch to be had. Grant slaps away a reaching Sekulic early on, and he rushes in with a right hand as the Serbian backpedals fast. Grant sticks out his left hand repeatedly, swiping with a hook as Sekulic tries to find his range. Sekulic lands at the end of a low kick, and Grant corks back his right hand and cannot quite reach his man. Sekulic comes up well shy of his intended target with a head kick, as Grant watches it soar by. Grant scores a leg kick, and follows it with another and a right hand. Grant sits down on a pair of punches to the body and head, and Sekulic is able to dance out of the way. Grant sticks him in the body with a single strike, and he reaches out with his left hand but is far off. Sekulic slaps him with a body kick, and Grant does not let him get away with it as he fires off a leg kick quickly. Grant’s right hand bounces off the chest, and Sekulic leaps forward at him with a flying knee that grazes off the target. Grant throws so hard with two punches, he nearly falls over, but gathers himself on the way back. The striking stalemate continues as neither land with any regularity, and Sekulic hops forward with a single kick to the knee. Grant swats with left hands, and a high kick of his is barely blocked in time. Sekulic changes levels for a single, and he peels the leg out beneath his foe and slowly drags Grant to the canvas. Grant climbs to a knee, and he gets back up. With Sekulic attempting a double, the horn sounds.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Grant
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Grant
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Grant

Round 2

The welterweights come out of their corners where they left off, with inaccurate strikes that are not close enough to their opponents. Grant pops his foe with a left hand, and he pushes the pace with a leg kick as Sekulic bounces off the fence. Grant reaches out with a right hand that lands on the forehead, and he jumps forward with a left that gets blocked. Sekulic throws a few front kick, leading Grant to throw one back harder as the crowd grows reckless. Sekulic shoots in for a takedown, and Grant tosses him to the side and lands a big right hand. Sekulic survives the attack, and Grant chases after him and lands bombs. Sekulic rolls through some of the strikes, absorbs others, and crashes forward with a flying knee that Grant sees coming. The two reset, and a slow one-two from Grant is parried. Grant chips at the lead calf, and he tries and fails to plant his right hand on Sekulic’s chin a few times. Grant’s high kick gets blocked, and he swipes with a right hook to the torso that grazes the mark. Grant puts a lot into a pair of punches that hit air, and Sekulic comes back at him and barely connects with his own combination. The Serbian punches his way into a takedown attempt, where he scoops Grant up and plants him on his back. With Sekulic in half guard in the open cage, he pushes his shoulder down on Grant’s neck for an arm-in arm-triangle choke. Grant simply decides he has had enough of this, and he tosses Sekulic off of him as if he were Derrick Lewis. “The Body Snatcher” tries to get off a few right hands, and Sekulic is able to get out of harm’s way in time. The striking accuracy of these two men is likely extremely low in this match, as they come up short on a few more strikes. Sekulic tries to put the fight back down to the ground, but he only manages to get Grant against the fence before the horn blares.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic

Round 3

Grant begins the final frame with a head kick, and it is easily blocked. When Sekulic commits to his own, Grant tries to nail him with an overhand right but he just misses. A head kick from Grant misses the mark, and a swiping left hand is parried. Grant times an advancing Sekulic into his own takedown, where he puts Sekulic on his backside. Sekulic defends with a can opener off of his back, and Grant powers through it, lands a few punches and backs away to let Sekulic stand back up. Sekulic gets off a stomp kick to the knee, and Grant come sup short with a few strikes. Sekulic scores a single punch, and Grant’s looping shots are telegraphed and easily defended. Sekulic hacks at the American’s calf before striding forward into a double leg takedown. Sekulic completes the takedown, but Grant returns to his knees and muscles his way to his feet. A heavy one-two from Sekulic pounds off Grant’s chin, and Grant eats it like a steak and stares at him. The pace has waned significantly – it was already low in the previous rounds – and the two have largely resorted to single- or two-punch combinations. Grant gets off at the end of a right hand that splits the guard, and Sekulic staggers back. “The Body Snatcher” elects to back away before plodding forward, and his punches are upwards of a foot off the mark. Grant clocks Sekulic with a right hand, and the Serbian fighter marches through it and walks Grant down. Sekulic rails Grant with a one-two, and Grant’s eyes roll back in his head for a second as he barely keeps his balance. Sekulic crashes forward into a takedown, where he ties up a guillotine choke and pulls guard to his back. Grant holds on tight, grits his teeth and rides out the submission attempt to the bell. This may be a close fight, the first two rounds could arguably go either way.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic (29-28 Sekulic)
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic (29-28 Sekulic)
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Sekulic (29-28 Sekulic)

The Official Result

Dwight Grant def. Stefan Sekulic via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Alex Oliveira vs. Randy Brown

Round 1

Headlining the prelims is what should be a thriller of a welterweight clash in a class battle of Brazil vs. Jamaica. “Cowboy” Oliveira (22-9-1, 2 NC; 11-7, 1 NC UFC) and “Rude Boy” Brown (12-4, 6-4 UFC) were both stopped in their last outings, so something’s gotta give as they look to get back in the win columns. Referee Dan Miragliotta will be hanging on tight, although there is a respectful glove touch as they are fired up to get down to business. Brown lands a leg kick and paws out with a few jabs, before reaching with a front kick that soars past Oliveira’s face. Brown keeps him at bay with a leg kick, but Oliveira responds with one that is much heavier. Oliveira snaps out another heavy low kick, and he darts forward with a few looping hooks that come up short. Brown lands a kick to the groin when they both kick at the same time, and the crowd is not amused. Oliveira does not need long to recover, and he kicks the leg a few times. Brown hits the ground as his leg is hurt, so he leaps in the air with a flying knee. Brown drills Oliveira with a right hand, forcing the Brazilian to take a funny step back. Brown dodges a flying knee and blasts Oliveira with another big right hand, sending “Cowboy” crashing to the canvas. “Rude Boy” leaps on top and pounds on Oliveira with nasty punches to try to finish the fight, and he slowly advances to nearly take mount before electing to consider a back take. Oliveira scampers back to his feet, but Brown has a tight hold of him around the side with one hook in. Brown snatches on to a one-arm rear-naked choke, and it is shockingly tight. Oliveira is in a bad, bad way as the choke is cutting off the air and blood flow while Brown has it hooked on to his shoulder. Oliveira holds the other wrist, but Brown does not need it as “Cowboy” falls to the ground. Brown frees his hand, but Oliveira is tapping before the choke is firmly grasped. A one-armed rear-naked choke is an incredibly rare feat, but one that Brown has achieved in the first round with style points. There is a bit of animosity between the two fighters after the stoppage, and Brown tells Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview that he will explain it all on his personal Twitch page later.

The Official Result

Randy Brown def. Alex Oliveira R1 2:50 via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke)

Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute

Round 1

Who’s ready for some main card action? In the heaviest fight on the card, former title challenger Smith (34-16, 9-6 UFC) will look to stave off brutish finisher “The Brute” Crute (12-1, 4-1 UFC) in the light heavyweight category. There will be no nonsense in this main card opener, as referee Keith Peterson is in charge, and the top-15 205ers do not touch gloves before coming out swinging. Smith keeps a wide, low stance in the early going, and Crute fires off a low kick but is short of the mark. Crute paws out a few left hands as Smith keeps a wide berth, and there is a stalemate as neither want to commit to much. When Smith lazily reaches out with a kick, Crute boots him in the body. The Aussie then goes low with a kick, and Smith jabs him to back him off. Crute again targets the lead leg, and the crowd is chanting its distaste for YouTuber Jake Paul. Smith ignores this and keeps to his jab, shocking Crute and making “The Brute” take an odd step back. Crute goes back to the leg kick, and the two trade sharp jabs. Both men trade kicks, and Smith’s jab is doing some damage early. Crute catches a kick to land a low kick at the inside of his leg, and he just misses with a head kick shortly after. The two continue to jab out at the other, and Crute’s leg kick is having an appreciable effect. Smith’s jab is a piston as Crute’s nose begins to redden, and he stings Crute with an overhand right. Crute’s leg kick is similarly an effective weapon, and he mixes it up with a body kick before going back down low. Smith’s jab sticks Crute in the face, and he leaves a leg kick out long enough for Crute to charge at him. A lethal Smith leg kick tweaks Crute’s knee, and the Aussie is hurt but he charges in for a desperation takedown. Smith takes punches to the face as he is on his knees against the fence, and he gets dragged back down when crawling back up. Crute’s leg is barely functional, but he manages to hit another takedown on the center of the cage. Smith threatens with a triangle to the bell, and when Crute stands up, his left leg is done. His foot folds up on him and he cannot stand or put weight on it, and he still tries to tough it out and show the doctor he can continue. The ankle rolls again as he steps back, and this injury is reminiscent of Michael Chandler losing his Bellator lightweight belt to Brent Primus. The fight is called off by the doctor, as Crute cannot continue fighting, and he is upset but barely able to stay on his feet.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Smith
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Crute
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Smith

The Official Result

Anthony Smith def. Jimmy Crute R1 5:00 via TKO (Doctor Stoppage)

Chris Weidman vs. Uriah Hall

Round 1

A rematch over a decade in the making is the final non-title fight on the card tonight, as Weidman (15-5, 11-5 UFC) and Hall (16-9, 9-7 UFC) run back a fight that the former champ won back in 2010. The two middleweights will settle their business in front of referee Herb Dean, and there is still a sign of respect between them as they touch gloves. Weidman reaches out with a few jabs from afar, and he slams a leg kick home that stings Hall. Weidman steps back and crashes to the ground in pain as his leg is shattered, snapping in half just like Anderson Silva’s did on him in 2013! The former champ screams out and this fight is most certainly over as Dean intervenes, as Hall does not celebrate as he sits on his knees with respect for his fallen opponent. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Weidman is stretchered out of the Octagon, tears streaming from his face, and Hall and the MMA community as a whole hopes that he can make a full recovery from this brutal injury.

The Official Result

Uriah Hall def. Chris Weidman R1 0:17 via TKO (Leg Injury)

UFC Flyweight Title Fight:
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade

Round 1

The first of three title fights is up now, with this one in the 125-pound division. Shevchenko (20-3, 9-2 UFC) will try to make her fifth title defense against former strawweight queen Andrade (21-8, 12-6 UFC). Many questions will be answered in this flyweight title fight, and referee Dan Miragliotta will have the best seat in the house as the two touch gloves. Andrade opens with a sweeping leg kick that comes up short, thankfully not replicating the result from the last bout. Shevchenko fires off a head kick that is easily blocked, and Andrade charges at her targeting the body. Andrade again comes up short with a leg kick, and she takes a crisp one-two on the chin. “Bate Estaca” rips the body with a kick, and she targets the lead leg before Shevchenko grabs her and takes her down. The Brazilian powers her way back to her feet, and the champ hits a quick mat return. Once more, Andrade climbs to her feet, where Shevchenko is content to knee her thigh a few times. Andrade scores a few elbows from behind her back, but she gets bullied back down to the floor. When she crawls back up, she barely blocks a head kick that zooms at her. Three punches cleanly land on the chin, and Shevchenko absorbs a few body shots and pushes her foe into the fence. Andrade continues targeting the midsection in the clinch, and she succumbs to a trip takedown as Shevchenko puts her flat on her back. Andrade rolls to the side, and in the process, gives up her back. Shevchenko latches on to a rear-naked choke, and the challenger gets to her knees and survives the choke. Shevchenko grinds her on the fence and knees her in the head a few times, and a frustrated Andrade is stuck while Shevchenko has a side seat belt position keeping her pinned to the wire. Andrade punches the body as she absorbs knees to the thigh, until Shevchenko tosses her on the ground again. “Bullet” slices over to side control like a hot knife through butter, where she holds on to the top position until the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Shevchenko
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Shevchenko
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Shevchenko

Round 2

Andrade reaches out a few times with punches, and the two start brawling in the beginning stages of the round. Shevchenko is tired of the striking, and she hits a loud takedown and slams Andrade hard on her back. In half guard, Shevchenko knees the side and batters the body with punches, and Andrade looks like a deer in headlights at this point. Andrade bucks but cannot get the Kyrgyzstani champion off of her, until she does manage to muscle her way back up. Andrade tries to pick the champ up in the air, but her power is not working as Shevchenko keeps her balance and stays upright. Instead, Shevchenko reverses her and spins her around to throw her on the ground, where she is already in side control. Shevchenko sets up a crucifix position, and she begins to slam her fist on Andrade’s face again and again. The strikes have cut up Andrade, as Shevchenko spams elbows en masse. The elbows add up fast, as she brutalizes the Brazilian with a barrage of blows. Miragliotta has seen enough as Shevchenko pours it on, and some might consider it a merciful, early stoppage. Either way, this is a spectacular win over a former champion, and Shevchenko further widens her gap from the remainder of the pack.

The Official Result

Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Andrade R2 3:19 via TKO (Elbows)

UFC Strawweight Title Fight:
Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas

Round 1

Title fight number two comes in strawweight, as Zhang (21-1, 5-0 UFC) looks to keep her 21-fight win streak intact against ex-champ Namajunas (9-4, 7-3 UFC). Neither woman go the distance often, so referee Keith Peterson will have his work cut out for him even though there will be no nonsense whatsoever. There is no glove touch, and it’s on with the show. Zhang starts off with a leg kick as Namajunas jabs out a few times. The Chinese champ chips away at the lead leg again, and she catches the challenger at the end of a jab and another kick. Namajunas circles and strafes back and forth, landing a single jab, but Zhang scores another inside leg kick. Out of absolutely nowhere, Namajunas fires off a left head kick that catches Zhang flush on the chin and sends her careening to the ground! Zhang is out! In case there is any question, Namajunas dives in to finish the job with a few follow-up punches, and Peterson stops the fight. Zhang tries to pop up and protest, but she is out on her feet! We have a new strawweight champion, and her name is Rose Namajunas. Chinese fighters go 0-4 tonight, and none can be more emphatic than that tremendous head kick knockout. Tears in her eyes, the two-time women’s strawweight queen proclaims, “I’m the best.” She is tonight.

The Official Result

Rose Namajunas def. Weili Zhang R1 1:18 via KO (Head Kick) 

UFC Welterweight Title Fight:
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

Round 1

In no time at all, we have reached the main event of UFC 261. This welterweight championship affair is a rematch of a 2020 meeting, as Usman (18-1, 13-0 UFC) largely dominated “Gamebred” Masvidal (35-14, 12-7 UFC) en route to decision win at UFC 251. Usman has defended his title since then, while Masvidal has not competed; referee Herb Dean is on top of the action in this headliner. There is no interest in touching gloves, as there is bad blood simmering between the two. The two meet in the center of the cage, and Usman sticks out a sharp jab. Masvidal lands a leg kick, and it is partly checked, so he aims one on the inside. Masvidal sits down on another leg kick, and he fakes a knee up the middle. Usman delivers a jab to the body, and the two trade heavy hands. Usman scores a big right hand, and Masvidal just smiles at him. Masvidal gets off a straight left to the chest, and he rolls when a big right hand soars his direction. The champ lands jabs to the body and head without fear of reprisal, and he steps back when Masvidal reaches out at him with a front kick. The two trade jabs, and a flying knee from Masvidal leads to a lightning-quick takedown for Usman. Usman in his foe’s guard drops down several left hands that land questionably close to behind the ear, so he aims them better and lands them. Masvidal slashes with a few elbows from his back, doing this successfully until Usman nails him with one of his own. Several backwards-angled elbows land in the side of Usman’s head, allowing Masvidal to scoot his way to the fence and back to his knees. Usman ignores punches to the side of his head so that he can scoop up the legs, and he drags the challenger back down to the ground. Masvidal bursts to his feet, and Usman thanks him with a few sharp jabs. Masvidal scores a leg kick, and Usman returns fire with an overhand right that hurts Masvidal. “Gamebred” tells him to bring it on, and Usman obliges with wide punches that are well off-balance. Masvidal tries to counter as Usman’s strikes go wide, and he chops down the wrestler’s lead leg a few times from a safe distance. Four punches and a flying knee nearly split the guard for Masvidal, and Usman lands a few jabs to the break. The two welterweights jaw at one another until they are separated by their corners.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Usman
Scottie Smith scores the round: 10-9 Usman
Tristen Critchfield scores the round: 10-9 Usman

Round 2

The second round begins with a leg kick from Masvidal, who circles away and scores a few more. Usman fakes his way in with a takedown, and Masvidal does not bite and instead sits down on a few more heavy leg kicks. Masvidal stings Usman with a right hand, and Usman laughs it off and blasts his opponent in the face with a right hand. Masvidal is rocked but still upright, and Usman unloads with a bomb of a right hand that detonates on the chin of “Gamebred.” Masvidal goes down in a heap, and Dean thinks to intervene but lets Usman finish his business. “The Nigerian Nightmare” sends Masvidal into dreamland with a quintet of hammerfists that completely disable him. When Masvidal comes to, he does not appear to know where he is or what happened. In a night of wild action, knocking Jorge Masvidal out cold just might have taken the cake. UFC 261 may very well go down as the event of the year, but at the very least, it should be in consideration for the greatest one in 2021 so far. Usman, in his post-fight interview, claims his spot to be the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, as he celebrates with his family.

The Official Result

Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal R2 1:02 via KO (Punch)
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