6 Fights You Want to See After UFC 261

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IApril 26, 2021

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Saturday's UFC 261 card, which went down in front of a full house in Jacksonville, Florida, was a blockbuster. Fans were quick to call it one of the best UFC cards ever. Recency bias definitely factored into those claims, but there's no denying it was a good one. A really, really good one.

The card was topped by a welterweight title rematch between champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Jorge Masvidal. Usman ended up winning via second-round knockout, cementing himself as one of the sport's pound-for-pound kings in the process.

The card also featured two other title fights, as Rose Namajunas knocked out Weili Zhang to win the strawweight title, and Valentina Shevchenko defended the flyweight strap with a TKO win over Jessica Andrade.

Throw in the many exciting fights on the event's undercard, and fans will have plenty to talk about for days to come. One of the recurring topics of conversation, as always, will be what's next for the stars of the card.

We've already told you what we think should be next for the likes of Usman, Namajunas and Shevchenko. Now we're giving you the floor.

Here are the fights you want to see after UFC 261.


Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington II

John Locher/Associated Press

After watching Usman pick up a second win over Masvidal, @bg2494 wants the champ to run it back with another former foe in Covington.

To refresh, Usman defeated Covington by knockout in the final round of a December 2019 Fight of the Year contender. Since then, Usman has picked up victories over Masvidal (twice) and Gilbert Burns, while Covington got back on track with a TKO victory over Tyron Woodley.

While readers often suggest fights that are well outside the realm of possibility—keep scrolling, and you'll see what we mean—this fight makes a ton of sense and is probably what we're going to get.

Speaking at the UFC 261 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Covington, who was in the building for the fights, is probably the next man in line for the champ.


Kamaru Usman vs. Justin Gaethje

Usman has been so dominant that it's getting difficult to identify credible challengers for him—so difficult that some readers are looking outside the welterweight division.

@PeanutBud is one of those readers. He's hoping to see Usman take on former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje, provided they both win their next two fights.

While any fight involving Gaethje is surefire entertainment, this matchup is extremely unlikely.

Not only is Gaethje unlikely to hike up to welterweight, but he and Usman are actually training partners under Trevor Wittman at Grudge Training Center in Colorado. A potential fight between them would fragment that gym, and given that it's not really necessary, it seems like a long shot.


Valentina Shevchenko vs. Rose Namajunas

Gary McCullough/Associated Press

Shevchenko and Namajunas both picked up dazzling stoppage wins on the UFC 261 main card. Shevchenko was up first, stopping former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade to retain the UFC flyweight title. Namajunas was up next and scored an impressive first-round knockout win over Weili Zhang to capture the strawweight strap.

In the wake of UFC 261, @chrismckenna15 wants to see these two champs face off.

We absolutely love this fight in theory, but unfortunately, Shevchenko and Namajunas have trained extensively together in the past and consider one another friends. They even shared a nice moment backstage after their wins.

As such, the likelihood of their meeting in the Octagon seems slim, especially considering both women have other options.


Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk II

Zhang is no longer the strawweight champion, but it will probably only take another win or two for her to get back into title contention.

Reader @joseum wants to see the former champ begin her journey back to title contention by running it back with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and we are here for it.

They first met in early 2020 with the strawweight title on the line. The bout, which Zhang won with a razor-close decision, went down as the best of the year, and really, one of the best fights ever. Period.

Given the nature of that fight, there have always been grounds for a rematch. Now that Zhang and Jedrzejczyk are both riding losses, it makes more sense than ever.

Book it.


Jorge Masvidal vs. Jake Paul

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

YouTube star-turned-professional boxer Jake Paul was in the building for UFC 261, and people were not happy about it. Not only was Twitter oozing with anti-Paul sentiment, but the entire arena erupted into "f--k Jake Paul" chants at several points throughout the night.

In fact, some people are so put off by Paul that they want to see him compete in the Octagon just to see him get knocked out.

Reader @soBEit is one of those people. He wants to see Paul take on Masvidal, but that seems extremely unlikely.

Not only is Paul unlikely to compete in the UFC—White has made it clear he has no interest in signing the YouTuber—but he and Masvidal are also quite friendly. In fact, Masvidal helped Paul prepare for his recent boxing match with Ben Askren, which he won by first-round knockout.

They'd definitely fight with the right amount of money on the table, but it's not going to happen.


Francis Ngannou vs. Jake Paul

You really don't like Paul, do you, @anthonymanila?

What's next? Jake Paul vs. a tiger? Jake Paul vs. the next asteroid that whizzes by Earth?

Listen, we get it. The fight game would probably be a better place if he wasn't a part of it. But here's the thing: Every time you speak his name, you're giving him what he wants. The fact that he had an entire arena chanting his name and vast swathes of Twitter typing it is proof he's succeeding on that mission.

The man is playing us all like fiddles, and if fans really want it to end, they shouldn't suggest he fight people like Masvidal and Ngannou. We should just stop talking about him, hard as it may be.