The UFC’s first event with a full crowd in house was a smashing success, thanks to the three fighters who left Jacksonville, Fla., with championship gold.
Loading up with a heavy straight right, Kamaru Usman smashed Jorge Masvidal in the second round of their welterweight title rematch in the UFC 261 headliner on Saturday night at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The knockout victory came at 1:02 of the frame.
Usman (19-1, 10 finishes) became the first man to finish Masvidal (35-15, 18 finishes) with strikes in nearly 13 years.
“He made me go to the workshop and I had to sharpen up my tools and come out here and put on a performance like that,” Usman said in the octagon after the victory, his fourth consecutive title defense and 18th win in a row overall. “I told everybody that I’m still getting better. I’m still getting better.”
An overhand right from Usman got through a minute into the fight to score early. Midway through, the champ secured a takedown at the center of the cage, scoring with a big elbow but also taking some shots from Masvidal working off his back. Once back to standing, Usman scored well with his hands, but Masvidal started to find some real success late.
The second round barely got going before Usman, who’s strikes were effective if not always as technically sound on Saturday, connected on a picture-perfect right that sent sweat flying from Masvidal’s head.
“Coach kept yelling at me, ‘Hey, stay with the fundamentals. Stay with the fundamentals,’ and that’s it.” Usman said.
The two other title fights, featuring the UFC’s two lightest women’s weight classes, ended early and emphatically.
In the co-headliner, Rose Namajunas reclaimed the strawweight title with a first-round KO of Zhang Weili. Namajunas (10-4, seven finishes), who lost her title two years ago to Jessica Andrade, dropped China’s first UFC champion with a well-placed left high kick. It left the champ clearly out despite her protests moments later and in the octagon during the post-fight interview. The end officially came for Zhang (21-2, 17 finishes) at 1:18 into the bout.
Before Namajunas’ victory, flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko continued her dominance at 125 pounds with a mauling of Andrade (21-9, 15 finishes), who was attempting to become the UFC’s second woman to win titles in two divisions.
The native of Kyrgyzstan punished the Brazilian challenger both on her feet and with her grappling, never letting Andrade get any offense going. The end came in the second frame as Shevchenko (21-3, 14 finishes) rained down elbows from a mounted crucifix before the fight was halted at 3:19 of the round.
Preceding the championship bouts, Long Island’s Chris Weidman suffered a gruesome leg injury while landing a leg kick on Uriah Hall. The bout was stopped, with Queens native Hall (17-9, 14 finishes) awarded a TKO victory at 17 seconds of the first round. Weidman (15-6, 10 finishes) was carried out of the octagon on a stretcher.
Such injuries suffered by the person kicking are rare in MMA, although Weidman was on the other side of the most recent one in the UFC. On Dec. 28, 2013, his middleweight title rematch against former champ Anderson Silva was halted when the Brazilian legend fractured his left fibula and tibia delivering a leg kick.
The fight before also was stopped due to a leg injury, as Anthony Smith (35-16, 32 finishes) picked up a TKO over Jimmy Crute (12-2, nine finishes) after the first round to kick off the pay-per-view portion of the card.