UFC 261 is simply loaded with action, and at the top of the card, you’ll find three title fights to choose from. Our UFC 261 betting picks are going to be specifically for that trio of fights, in which the champion is a sizable favorite in each match. Two have become even bigger favorites since our UFC 261 betting preview.
This will also be the first pay-per-view event to host a full crowd. VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida is the venue, and it can hold up to 15,000 fans, so that’ll be an interesting wrinkle for this card. The last UFC event to host a full crowd was UFC 248 in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All odds courtesy of Bovada.
Kamaru Usman (-400) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+300)
Usman (18-1) dominated the first meeting with Masvidal (35-14) at UFC 251 in July 2020, winning by unanimous decision. However, it must be mentioned that Masvidal took the fight on a week’s notice after Gilbert Burns pulled out due to COVID-19. He also had to quarantine in Las Vegas, Nevada before flying to Abu Dhabi for the match, so factor that in as well. But Usman had to prepare for a different opponent, and he didn’t take many chances, scoring a couple takedowns and grinding down Masvidal in the clinch.
Usman has shown he can strike, but his wrestling is what should net him a win in the rematch. Masvidal has solid takedown defense, stuffing 77% of his opponents’ attempts. However, Usman is relentless and in the championship rounds, he should be able to use his wrestling to neutralize Masvidal, who needs to win this early, likely by knockout. It’s possible, but Usman is the welterweight champion for a reason, and he showed great resilience in recovering from a knockdown against Burns at UFC 258 in February.
UFC 261 Betting Pick: Usman (-400)
Zhang Welli (-210) vs. Rose Namajunas (+170)
Weili (21-1) is the reigning women’s strawweight champion, taking on Namajunas (9-4), a former strawweight champion. As I mentioned in the UFC 261 betting preview, ring rust might be the biggest factor in this fight. Weili hasn’t fought since her epic win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk at the aforementioned UFC 248 card in March 2020, taking a split decision in what was the consensus Fight of the Year in 2020. Namajunas has been off since July 2020, when she won a split decision over Jessica Andrade, who took the belt from Namajunas in May 2019, but then lost it to Weili in August 2019. We just don’t know how these fighters look after being off for so long. However, it hasn’t stopped sports betting books from making Weili a bigger favorite as she was at -190, but now sits at -210.
But if you’re just looking at fighters, Weili is the better fighter. She is a strong, technical striker who is better on the ground than you think. Namajunas’ best shot is to try and get this to the mat, because while she is a good striker, Weili is better and stronger. Weili might have more incentive after Namajunas’ anti-communist comments. Namajunas, who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but has roots in Lithuania, might have made this personal for Weili , who is from China. It doesn’t look good for Namajunas.
UFC 261 Betting Pick: Weili
Valentina Shevchenko (-500) vs. Jessica Andrade (+350)
Shevchenko (20-3) is second in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings behind bantamweight and featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, who has beaten Shevchenko twice at bantamweight (135 pounds). Andrade (21-8) is the former strawweight champion who defeated Katlyn Chookagian with a body shot in her flyweight debut in October 2020.
Shevchenko was at -400, but her MMA betting odds have risen to -500 and really, they might be able to be higher. Shevchenko is really good at keeping distance, and while Andrade is strong, she has to be able to get inside of Shevchenko and she could eat a lot of shots to do so. That wears on you after a while. Shevchenko should win this easily and retain her women’s flyweight belt, it’s a matter of how she does it.