UFC 261 turned out to be one hell of a card. Plenty will be written in the next few days about the dominance of Valentina Shevchenko, the resurgence of Rose Namajunas, and the continual improvement of Kamaru Usman.
But what it all boils down to, in one oversimplified euphemism: UFC 261 was freakin’ brilliant.
The card roared out of the gate, and we do mean roared, with Ariane Carnelossi and Na Liang in an exciting strawweight showdown ending in a TKO finish for Carnelossi. The early prelims delivered, and if there was a lull mid-card, it picked right back up again with finishes from Brendan Allen (heel hook) and Randy Brown (a TKO of Cowboy Oliveira).
So who’s taking home the bonus money?
Kamaru Usman’s knockout of Jorge Masvidal earned one of two Performance of the Night bonuses on Saturday. Usman stunned Masvidal with a right hand, snapping his head to the side and sending him crashing to the canvas. Usman followed up with hammerfists, but at that point, he was hammering a training dummy. “Gamebred” was out cold for the first time in his career.
The other Performance of the Night bonus at UFC 261 went to Rose Namajunas, who shocked everyone, especially Weili Zhang, with a head kick that sent the champ down. Follow-up strikes sealed the deal, and “Thug Rose” made history — becoming the first female two-time champion (single division) in UFC history.
While the champions took home the Performance awards, Fight of the Night went to a pair of preliminary card fighters. Jeff Molina and Qileng Aori duked it out for a full fifteen minutes. While China’s Aori found early success, Molina’s boxing in the later rounds really got going. Molina began picking Aori apart, en route to a unanimous decision win on the scorecards.
For the first time in recent memory, there’s a gate and attendance figure to report for a UFC event — because fans were back in the building. 15,259 attended UFC 261 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, resulting in a 3.32 million dollar gate. That’s an arena record, per UFC officials.
All four bonus-winning fighters will pocket an extra $50,000 for their efforts.