Usman, Namajunas secure KO title fight wins as UFC welcomes back fans
The UFC welcomed back American fans for their first live event in over a year on Saturday night and three of its greatest fighters — Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko — rose to the occasion with stunning knockouts at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Nigerian-American welterweight champion Usman knocked American challenger Jorge Masvidal out cold with a thunderous straight right to the chin at 1.02 of the second round in the main event and warned those gathered –- and other fighters — “I’m still getting better.”
“I told everybody… I am pound for pound the best fighter on the planet right now.”
This time he got straight to the point with a punch that saw Masvidal crumpled to a knockout for the first time in a career that has now taken in 50 fights.
The 28-year-old American strawweight challenger seized back the title with a stunning head-kick knockout of Zhang Weili with just 1 minute and 18 seconds gone of the first round, bringing to an end to the Chinese fighter’s 21-fight winning streak in a flash of pure, poised skill.
“I did it again. I didn’t see her move and I wasn’t sure if she could come back from that. So just a couple of hammer fists and it was out.”
Namajunas was a blur of movement and had the 30-year-old Zhang looking for a low kick when she went high. And it was all over.
There were five takedowns by the champion in the first round, and one early in the second that gave her top position, and she pounded away to take the TKO with 3.12 on the clock.
“I like to surprise people,” she said afterwards, in the understatement of the night.
Saturday’s fight card inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena welcomed American fans to a live UFC event for the first time since Las Vegas last March.
There were an estimated 15,000 people gathered Saturday despite the US’ continued struggles with Covid-19. Local officials had in the hours before the event reported 7,411 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, and 53 deaths.
Zhang dismissed the notion that she might have taken the words to heart – or had even taken them seriously – and Namajunas attempted to clear the matter up shortly after victory.
“I love all people, all cultures and everybody in the world.”