UFC 261 Report: Namajunas knocks out Zhang to win UFC Strawweight Championship

Originally published at UFC 261 Report: Namajunas knocks out Zhang to win UFC Strawweight Championship - POST Wrestling | WWE NXT AEW NJPW UFC Podcasts, News, Reviews

UFC 261 Report: Namajunas knocks out Zhang to win UFC Strawweight Championship. Usman and Shevchenko retain titles

UFC 261 took place on Saturday night, at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Notably, this was the first UFC event with a full crowd since UFC 248 in March of 2020. The UFC heavily promoted the return of full capacity crowds for this show, and the card featured three title fights for the occasion. In the main event, UFC Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman, faced Jorge Masvidal, a rematch of a fight that occurred in July of 2020. Usman was originally scheduled to face Gilbert Burns on that card, but after Burns was forced to withdraw from the fight, Masvidal stepped in on six days notice to face Usman. Usman won by unanimous decision, but given Masvidal’s star power and the circumstances of their previous meeting, the decision was made to run the fight back for this event. In the second title fight of the night, the UFC Strawweight Champion, Zhang Weili, looked to make her second defence of her title, this time against the division’s former champion, Rose Namajunas. The final title fight on this card was for the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship, where champion Valentina Shevchenko faced Jessica Andrade, who made the move up to flyweight last October.

The commentary team for this event consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. Performance bonuses were awarded to Kamaru Usman and Rose Namajunas. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Jeff Molina and Aoriqileng. The reported attendance for the event was 15,269, with a gate of $3.3 million.


*Ariane Carnelossi def. Na Liang by TKO at 1:28 of Round 2

*Jeff Molina def. Aoriqileng by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

*Kazula Vargas def. Rongzhu by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-26)

*Danaa Batgerel def. Kevin Natividad by TKO at 0:50 of Round 1

*Pat Sabatini def. Tristan Connelly by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

*Brendan Allen def. Karl Roberson by heel hook at 4:55 of Round 1

*Dwight Grant def. Stefan Sekulic by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

*Randy Brown def. Alex Oliveira by rear naked choke at 2:50 of Round 1

*Anthony Smith def. Jimmy Crute by TKO at 5:00 of Round 1

*Uriah Hall def. Chris Weidman by TKO at 0:17 of Round 1

*Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Andrade by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2 to retain the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship

*Rose Namajunas def. Zhang Weili by KO at 1:18 of Round 1 to win the UFC Strawweight Championship

*Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal by KO at 1:02 of Round 2 to retain the UFC Welterweight Championship


Liang hurt Carnelossi seconds into the fight with a straight right hand, and she worked her way to top position following a brief scramble. Carnelossi escaped to her feet, and they traded shots in the clinch. Liang brought Carnelossi back down with a bodylock, and began to work from her guard. Liang pursued an armbar, but she was unsuccessful, and Carnelossi attempted to transition to Liang’s back. At one point, Carnelossi had Liang in a mounted triangle, and she ended the round with some very strong ground and pound. Liang made it out of the round, but she had to be carried back to her stool.

Liang looked exhausted heading into the second round, and after one more minute of hectic grappling exchanges, she looked pretty much done. Carnelossi threw down a number of short ground and pound strikes from Liang’s guard, and the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Ariane Carnelossi by TKO at 1:28 of Round 2

The first round of this fight was very exciting, and the crowd was electric to kick off the night. It seemed as though Liang emptied her gas tank by the end of the first round, and I was somewhat surprised the fight wasn’t stopped when she had to be carried back to her corner. Carnelossi is now 1-1 in the UFC with this win, and this was her 10th career stoppage.


Aoriqileng pushed forward early, eventually pressing Molina against the cage. The crowd quickly began booing, and they broke apart, exchanging wild hooks before Aoriqileng completed his takedown. Molina worked his way back to the feet and pursued a takedown of his own, but his attempts were defended. 10-9 Aoriqileng.

Aoriqileng continued to pressure forward, and he landed a few solid right hands as he backed Molina up. Molina sat Aoriqileng down with a right hand of his own, but Aoriqileng picked himself right back up and increased his output as he looked to get Molina back. With seconds remaining in the round, Molina tagged Aoriqileng with a straight right hand that dropped him hard, but time ran out before he could capitalize on it. 19-19.

Molina picked himself up quickly following an early third round takedown from Aoriqileng. They continued to trade hard right hands, and this was becoming a very entertaining fight. Molina began to throw in combination, and I thought he was finding success at a much more constant rate in this round. Molina was beginning to piece Aoriqileng up on the feet late in the round, and he began to walk Aoriqileng down. They traded absolutely wildly to end the round, and Aoriqileng hurt Molina badly in their final exchange. This fight was crazy. 29-28 Molina for me, but I wouldn’t argue with a scorecard in favour of Aoriqileng either.

WINNER: Jeff Molina by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

This fight was fantastic. If there was anymore time left in either of the final two rounds, we probably would have seen a finish. The momentum changes throughout this fight were wild, and they got a well-deserved ovation from the crowd by the end of the fight. This was the UFC debut for both fighters.


Vargas was the more active fighter to begin the fight. Rongzhu began to throw his right hand a bit more as the fight progressed, but he just wasn’t putting out the level of activity he needed. Vargas was throwing in combinations and attacking the lead leg of Rongzhu. Whenever Rongzhu did commit, Vargas countered strongly. They stared each other down to end the round. 10-9 Vargas.

Rongzhu caught a kick from Vargas and took him down to begin the second round. He immediately got caught in a guillotine, and it looked tight, but Rongzhu ultimately escaped. Vargas attempted another one, but he was unsuccessful, and Rongzhu attempted to take his back. Vargas escaped quickly, got top position, and began to work from Rongzhu’s guard. Rongzhu worked his way back to his feet before the end of the round, but wasn’t able to do much before time expired. 20-18 Vargas.

Rongzhu’s cornermen apparently told him that he won the second round, and just needed to win the third, which seemed like poor advice. Rongzhu tagged Vargas with a heavy straight right hand, that Vargas just ate. Rongzhu looked his best throughout this round, but he didn’t fight with the urgency of a man who needed a finish. He ended the round with a strong takedown. 29-28 Vargas.

WINNER: Kazula Vargas by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-26)

The 30-26 scorecard was beyond puzzling. Regardless of the scorecards, the right fighter got his hand raised here. He was the more active fighter throughout the first two rounds, and I really don’t think there was much of a case for Rongzhu winning either of those rounds, despite what his corner told him. Vargas is now 1-2 in the UFC.


Natividad was putting heavy pressure on Batgerel immediately, and Batgerel dropped him hard with a left gook. Batgerel swarmed him with strikes on the ground, and the fight was quickly stopped.

WINNER: Danaa Batgerel by TKO at 0:50 of Round 1

Batgerel has some power in his hands, and the way he dropped Natividad was impressive. He was moving backwards while switching stances when the knockdown occurred, which is something that might make fighters more hesitant to rush him in the future. There were some audible boos from the crowd following the finish, which I can only attribute to the stoppage from Herb Dean, which definitely felt a bit awkward. Batgerel improved to 2-1 in the UFC with this win.


Sabatini landed a clean left hand to begin the fight. He landed another one that hurt Connelly badly, and he pulled Sabatini into his guard on his way down. Sabatini racked up a solid amount of control time form top position, and he moved to Connelly’s back with two minutes remaining in the round. He wasn’t able to secure a choke, but he kept this positon until time expired in the round. 10-9 Sabatini.

Sabatini took Connelly down a minute into the second round. He attempted a banana split submission at one point in the round, but was unsuccessful. Sabatini maintained dominant position however, and easily controlled the remainder of this round as well. 20-18 Sabatini.

Sabatini wasted no time in trying to take this fight back to the ground. Connelly defended his first takedown attempt, but found himself with his back to the cage. With just over two minutes remaining in the round, they broke apart. Connelly defended another takedown attempt, but he was largely unable to mount offence of his own throughout the round. He got a late takedown, but he was unable to finish the fight. 29-28 Sabatini.

WINNER: Pat Sabatini by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Connelly rebounded late in the fight, but it was too little, too late, after dropping the first two rounds decisively. Sabatini looked really good here, and I think this was the type of performance that will put him on the radar for prospects at 145lbs. This was Sabatini’s UFC debut.


They traded heavy punches in the opening minute. Allen began to press forward, and he took Roberson down near the cage. He maintained top position until the final twenty seconds of the round, when Roberson rolled for a leg. Unfortunately for Roberson, it was Allen who locked in a heel hook, and Roberson was forced to submit.

WINNER: Brendan Allen by heel hook at 4:55 of Round 1

Rolling for a leglock on Allen was a risky move, and it didn’t pay off here for Roberson. Allen looked great throughout the short duration of this fight, looking sharp on the feet as well as on the ground. He is now 4-1 in the UFC, and this was the 10th submission victory of his career.


Grant seemed to be the slightly more active fighter throughout the round. He had the power advantage, and that kept Sekulic from getting overly aggressive. Still, his output was nothing remarkable either, and the first round was very much a feeling out process. Sekulic committed to a takedown and got Grant down momentarily towards the end of the round, which may have been the difference maker after an uneventful five minutes.

Grant began to let his hands go in the opening half of the second round, and he landed some heavy hooks on Sekulic. That flurry from grant was brief however, and the pace from the opening round took over the fight once more. Sekulic went for a takedown a bit earlier then he did in the first this time, but he wasn’t able to hold Grant down for long. Grant defended one last takedown attempt to end the second round. 19-19.

The corner of Dwight Grant told him that he needed a finish between rounds. Grant completed a takedown of his own a minute into the third round, but allowed Sekulic back to his feet. Sekulic proceeded to take Grant down against the cage, yet Grant was able to return to his feet quickly once again. Late in the round, Sekulic rocked Grant with a quick combination, and he locked in a tight guillotine choke. Grant was able to hold out until the round ended, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Sekulic.

WINNER: Dwight Grant by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Scorecards were all over the place for this one. I had the fight for Sekulic, but honestly, I thought the third round was the only one with a clear winner throughout the fight. This wasn’t an entertaining fight, but Grant needed to get back in the win column after being finished in the first round in his last fight, and he achieved the desired result here. Grant is now 3-2 in the UFC.


Brown kicked Oliveira low, and the fight was paused momentarily. When the action resumed, Oliveira began to really attack Brown’s lead leg, and he seemed compromised early, but Brown dropped Oliveira hard with a right hand, and he followed Oliveira to the ground. Oliveira attempted to pick himself up along the cage, but Brown went for a standing rear naked choke (singled armed), and he locked it in, forcing Oliveira to submit.

WINNER: Randy Brown by rear naked choke at 2:50 of Round 1

This was a very impressive finish. It’s not often you see a standing, one-armed, rear naked choke, but that was exactly what we saw here, and you could tell from Oliveira’s expression, it was tight. This was Brown’s biggest win yet, and a great way to rebound after his last loss to Vicente Luque. Brown improved to 7-4 in the UFC with this win.


The first minute of the fight was largely a feeling out process. There were loud anti-Jake Paul chants that the broadcast team ignored. Smith repeatedly landed his jab, and the effects were starting to show on Crute’s face. Crute was very active with his leg kicks. They exchanged strong shots, and then a leg kick from Smith dropped Crute. When Smith moved in following the knockdown, Crute managed to snag a takedown, and he managed to keep Smith down for the remainder of the round. When Crute got back to his feet, it was clear that he could not walk on that leg.

As Crute got off his stool to begin the second round, the doctor came in and stopped the fight due to Crute’s leg injury.

WINNER: Anthony Smith by TKO at 5:00 of Round 1

Crute wanted to continue, but the health of his leg was beyond compromised. This was a fun fight while it lasted, and I thought Smith looked great here, really working his jab. After a rough start in 2020, Anthony Smith has done a great job of building himself back up with a pair of first round stoppages over Crute and Devin Clark. Smith is now 3-2 since his Light Heavyweight title fight against Jon Jones in 2019.


This was a rematch of a fight that happened at Ring of Combat 31 in 2010, a fight that Weidman won by TKO in the first round.

Weidman began the fight with a leg kick, Hall checked it, and Weidman’s shin just snapped, Anderson Silva style. Just like Anderson, Chris stepped back onto the leg, and he crumbled down in pain.

WINNER: Uriah Hall by TKO at 0:17 of Round 1

Weidman was stretchered out of the arena. This was a horrific injury to watch, and I can only send my well wishes to Chris towards his recovery. This has only happened a few times throughout the history of the UFC, and the odds of Weidman being involved in two fights that ended in this fashion seem insane. Hall was all class in his post-fight interview, and stated that if Weidman recovers and resumes his career, he would be open to a trilogy fight in the future. Uriah Hall is now on a four-fight win streak, his longest win streak since he began his career at 4-0.


They touched gloves to begin the fight. Shevchenko got Andrade down about a minute into the round, but Andrade quickly made it back to her feet. Shevchenko connected with a sharp connection, and they began to fight in the clinch. Shevchenko got Andrade down again and she climbed onto Andrade’s back, in search of the rear naked choke. Andrade escaped and made it back to her feet, but couldn’t create much separation. Shevchenko recorded her fifth takedown of the round, and she ended the round in side control.

Shevchenko took Andrade down yet again, less then a minute into the second round. Andrade worked her way up and went for a takedown of her own, but Shevchenko defended the attempt, and brought Andrade right back down. Shevchenko moved into the crucifix position, and began to rain down right hands and elbows. She cut Andrade open, and just kept pouring on the elbows until the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Valentina Shevchenko by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2 to retain the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship

This was pure domination from Valentina Shevchenko. She was able to take Andrade down at will, and the second the opportunity to finish the fight presented itself, she ended it. It’s not often you see Andrade get beat on the ground, but she had no answers for Shevchenko’s wrestling throughout this fight. Shevchenko is now 7-0 since moving down to flyweight, and this marked her fifth title defence. There aren’t many exciting options left for her at flyweight, but I imagine the winner of Joanne Calderwood/Lauren Murphy will be next in line. Make no mistake, the winner of that fight will be an astronomical underdog, but that’s just the situation at flyweight when you have a champion as dominant as Valentina Shevchenko.


Just over a minute into the round, Namajunas landed a perfect head kick, and Zhang went down hard. Namajunas followed her to the ground with a pair of right hands, and the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Rose Namajunas by KO at 1:18 of Round 1 to win the UFC Strawweight Championship

Wow. Much like at UFC 217 against Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Rose Namajunas pulled off an incredible first round knockout to win the UFC Strawweight Championship. Notably, Namajunas became the first two-\time UFC Strawweight Champion with this win. There’s not much to break down in a fight with such a quick finish, but this was a beautiful knockout for Namajunas, who has tremendous power at 115lbs. It’s tough to say what the direction will be for Namajunas, Zhang, and the rest of the strawweight division coming out of this fight, but strawweight remains one of the most exciting and unpredictable divisions in the UFC, and I’m looking forward to whatever’s next.


Usman and Masvidal fought for the welterweight championship in July of 2020. Usman won that fight by unanimous decision.

Usman and Masvidal did not touch gloves to begin the fight. Usman tagged Masvidal with a big right hand that Masvidal acknowledged. Usman was active with his jab, and he took Masvidal down halfway through the round. They exchanged elbows, and Masvidal attempted to pick himself up against the cage. He was successful, and they separated with a minute remaining. Usman landed a pair of strong shots, but he was also winging on these wild looping hooks. Masvidal landed a knee late in the round. 10-9 Usman.

Not long into the second round, Usman landed a huge right hand that knocked Masvidal out cold. He followed it up with a few hammerfists, and the fight was over.

WINNER: Kamaru Usman by KO at 1:02 of Round 2 to retain the UFC Welterweight Championship

In my opinion, Kamaru Usman is the best fighter in the world today, and tonight he added a highlight reel knockout against one of the most popular fighters in the world. Masvidal has always been one of the most durable fighters in the sport, but that right hand Usman landed was deadly. He has improved so much as a striker, and it’s very tough to imagine someone beating him right now. Dana White has stated Colby Covington is likely to challenge for the title next, and while he was finished by Usman the last time they fought, that fight is bound to generate some interest. Usman is now 14-0 in the UFC, which is the second longest win streak in UFC history behind Anderson Silva (who won 16 in a row).

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