Thanks to the visionary leadership of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – the man most likely to save America – UFC 261 delivered a series of enthralling match-ups staged in front of a live audience. The happy attendees cheered, booed, and devoured the action like a sport-starved audience might be expected. Face masks were mercifully few and far between fresh air was also on the menu.
Three belts were on the line at UFC 361 and all championship bouts were quickly decided by KO or TKO. Valentina Shevchenko demolished challenger Jessica Andrade, Rose Namajunas became a two-time champ when she scored a first round KO of Zhang Weili, and Kamaru Usman laid BMF Jorge Masvidal cold on the canvas within 10 minutes.
When attempting to determine the likely victor of a combat sport, many factors must be considered. What will separate well-matched contestants – enthusiasm, experience, resilience, willpower, heart, fighting spirit, training methods, or athletic prowess. While such factors play a part, the most reliably determining factor is technical striking ability. Fighting is a science made up of angles, mathematics, and other boring textbook-sounding stuff, and fighters that can drag this material from the pages of books into the ring normally prevail.
The human body is capable of generating bone-shattering force when properly employed. A left jab adds power to a subsequent right leg kick and a straight right punch. All power is derived from footwork and balance. A hugely muscled brawler can be dispatched by a weedy teenager when the youngster understands the technical aspects of unarmed combat. This is the nature of the fight game.
The right hand punch thrown by Usman to KO Masvidal was executed using perfect technique. It was a short straight blow that found the opponent’s jaw like a guided missile. The rock-solid Masvidal who has not been knocked out since June 2008 was out before he hit the ground. Masvidal was expected to have a striking advantage over the wrestler Usman, making the KO even more impressive.
The Rose Namajunas head kick that ended her bout was similarly perfect. The blow looked to be heading into the thigh of Weili but reared to catch her flush on the jaw. She too collapsed to the canvas and the fight was over. Namajunas was at a distinct power disadvantage in this bout but the human jaw is not designed to absorb such force. An effective head kick must be disguised and loop over an opponent’s shoulder to find its mark, and Namajunas executed the technique flawlessly. Weili offered no defense to the strike and was completely unable to continue.
The third title bout was not settled by a single decisive blow, but by all round technical dominance. Shevchenko was never threatened by Andrade. The fight was concluded on the mat with Andrade unable to defend herself from a barrage of downward elbows. Shevchenko is perhaps the most technically proficient striker on the UFC roster, and her dominance has all but cleaned out her division.
So that was UFC 261, a study in technical striking delivered to an audience unafraid of WHO scare campaigns and enjoying their freedoms.
Jackson Byrne – Combat Sports Editor