UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal Preview, Tips & Prediction

UFC 261
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UFC 261 Preview: Usman looks to finish off Masvidal

Over 14 months of pandemic era, crowd less UFC events will finally come to an end this weekend as Kamaru Usman defends his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal in Jacksonville, Florida in a rematch of last summer’s UFC 251 main event in Abu Dhabi.

Usman won that fight via unanimous decision in dominant fashion, but will things play out the same way this time? We take a look at the UFC 261 odds and our preview and tips for the main event.

UFC 261 Prediction

skybet betting tip

USMAN TO LAND 6+ TAKEDOWNS @ 15/8

How does Usman win the fight?

There isn’t too much to say about Usman’s approach other than it would be unwise for the Nigerian-American to deviate from the same plan that saw him take the win the first time around.

His front-foot pressure, high-paced, cage wrestling, clinch-heavy style is perfectly set up to expose Masvidal’s weaknesses and concerning propensities. Providing he follows the same game plan, it’s hard to see the outcome changing.

The main caveat - which is still largely speculative - is that Usman might be changing as a fighter, and not necessarily for the better. Usman has teamed up with a legendary coach, Trevor Wittman, who largely coaches patient out fighters, such as Rose Namajunas and the evolved, present-day Justin Gaethje.

There were signs against Gilbert Burns, and within much of his discourse following the first Masvidal fight, that Usman is beginning to lean towards adopting this patient, striking-heavy measured approach that is largely antithetical to the 'boring' style he’s known for. Much of this is likely in order to alter his public perception, or perhaps just the evolution of him as a fighter at 33 years old, as he outstruck Burns and TKO'd him in round two, which was the main worry for him heading into the fight, as the Brazilian was looked at as the superior striker.

Simply put, he doesn’t have the defensive responsibility or the layered striking acumen to pull this off against higher quality opposition like Masvidal. Saturday will reveal much more about this theory, but for now, Usman by decision at 8/11 is still very much where the attention is and it's certainly our tip for this fight.

Usman v Masvidal Prediction

skybet betting tip

USMAN TO WIN ON POINTS @ 8/11

How does Masvidal win the fight?

As one-sided as the first fight ended playing out, there are a few building blocks that Masvidal can use to formulate an intriguing approach coming into Saturday’s rematch. We can start with the obvious (and the most discussed) aspect: Masvidal’s conditioning.

Taking the first fight on such short notice placed a clear cap on how well he could physically perform on Fight Island last year, which could be seen in his overzealous attempts to land an early finish, knowing he couldn’t sustain a five-round pace.

You would expect Masvidal to be far stronger from a cardiovascular standpoint this time around which even in the absence of an adapted game plan, would be conducive to a stronger showing. If it wasn’t obvious pre-fight, it should certainly be obvious to him now that he cannot win with his back against the fence.

Throughout his career, the Miami native has had a tendency to zone out, for lack of a better term, and concede ground to an opponent without being given a clear reason to do so. Whether or not this trait is mentally or physically induced is unknown, but it’s been a consistent feature of a very long career.

Masvidal is a good defensive wrestler and is notoriously difficult to hold down and Usman had more trouble imposing his wrestling game on Masvidal than he did with any other opponent, but his lack of intensity in the later rounds of their first fight found him constantly stuck in neutral spaces with Usman on top of him.

While he wasn’t being beaten up, per se, Masvidal wasn’t able to initiate any meaningful offence either. The way he wins on Saturday is by using his jab and his footwork to ensure as many extended exchanges in open space as possible and, at all costs, keep his back off the fence.

Unfortunately for him, keeping his back off the fence against a committed pressure fighter would be explicitly against the norm for "Gamebred", despite him having the requisite tools to do so. His best route to victory here is via KO, which you can find as big as 4/1.

Usman v Masvidal Odds

skybet betting tip

MASVIDAL TO WIN VIA PUNCHES @ 9/2

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