UFC 261 returns to normal practice this weekend, as the Jacksonville Arena will host its first UFC main event since May of last year.

The Florida state will see a card for the ages with three titles fights weighed in, locked in and ready and to fight. Kamaru Usman (C), Jorge Masvidal, Zhang Weili (C), Rose Namajunas, Valentina Shevchenko (C) and Jessica Andrade all have equal chance of leaving Jacksonville wearing UFC gold, but as in most fights, it goes one of two ways.

1 – Usman defeats Masvidal:

‘Marty’ Usman has a real chip on his shoulder each and every time he enters the octagon. It’s never about respect, or disrespect for that matter, but about proving who really is the best Welterweight in the world.

Having already grinded out a decision win over Masvidal in their last matchup, Usman has no issue with doing it yet again. But what happens if he gets a second over ‘Gamebred’?

The natural reaction after a title defence is simply to gauge who is next in line for a shot at the champion. It is always about looking down. This time, however, the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ surely must look up – not in rankings, but in weight.

The middleweight division will be conquered with a win for Usman on Saturday night and two belts will start to sound much better than one.

Despite his Nigerian links with current Middleweight champion, Isreal Adesanya, Usman’s real competition at 170 pounds comes and goes with the demise of Masvidal – it is time to test yourself against bigger, better opposition.

A top ranked opponent in Jared Cannonier or Derek Brunson would prove even further that ‘Marty from Nebraska’ is now Kamarudeen of Auchi, Nigeria – a born pound for pound great.

2 – Masvidal defeats Usman:

‘Gamebred’ has been around this sport too long to just accept loss, especially with the potential of a trilogy fight with the current Welterweight king.

If ‘Street Jesus’ is able to get his hand raised on Saturday, he takes the belt and calls the shots – but the trilogy is the only thing on his mind.

As a man who has never fought for greatness, the UFC strap is a bonus, but a violent trilogy is a concept Masvidal has lived for since the days of Kimbo Slice’s back garden.

A Masvidal win, however spectacular or tactical it is, gives both corners a rightful opportunity to snatch all of the glory in the third and deciding fight.

3 – Weili defeats Namajunas:

Zhang Weili came into the Women’s Strawweight division and simply took everything.

What seemed to be an unstoppable fighter engaged in a five-round war with Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk and came out once again unstopped with the belt around her waist.

If it is business as usual in Jacksonville, will dispatch her opponent in former champ, Namajunas and the Zhang reign continues.

Jedrzejczyk recently announced her intent to return to the cage after an extended layoff and the timing (and opponent) could not be more perfect.

If Weili gets past Namajunas, another potential trilogy begins to brew between two perfect dance partners in Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

4 – Namajunas defeats Weili:

Rose Namajunas, however, will never be written off in a title fighter where she is the immediate underdog.

Anyone who does has never witnessed her flash knockout of the very same Joanna Jedrzejczyk back in 2017, but her recent uncertainty of continuing in the sport has overshadowed her most recent revenge on Brazil’s Andrade.

It is hard to see a world where Namajunas could accomplish anymore if she figures out the impossible puzzle of Weili, but not queen reigns forever and Namajunas relishes a puzzle.

A win over the Chinese champion would be the biggest and best of her career, meaning it could well be the last.

There is no telling what her intentions are following the conclusion of the fight, but a ride off into the sunset with one last UFC Strawweight belt sounds like a fairytale ending to a torrent Rose Namajunas Story.

5 – Shevchenko vs Andrade:

There is one outcome and one outcome only from this championship bout.

Valentina Shevchenko rules the Women’s Flyweight division and will continue to do so, but with one name on her mind – Amanda Nunes.

‘Bullet’ was handed her last professional loss back in 2017, in a questionable decision with best female fighter on the planet and has since won six in a row, with a seventh soon to be added in Andrade.

As much as Shevchenko suits the 125 pound build, a trip up to to 135 for one more crack at Nunes is all she has left to prove in the sport.

Nunes is without a booked fight and will definitely be watching on Saturday, whether that bed from her home or cage-side. Once again, another trilogy begins to brew in the making.

Styles make fights – Andrade will be picked apart from the outside for 25 minutes and will go home empty handed – Shevchenko owes the fans of this sport one more viewing of the best women in the sport settling any debates once and for all.

The fight card begins at 10:45pm on Saturday 24th April.

Featured Image: Andrius Petrucenia – WikiMedia Commons

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