UFC 261 Odds, Picks & Predictions: Zhang vs. Namajunas
(1u) Fight to Go the Distance - No @ +100 (to Return 2 Units)
Co-Main Event – UFC Strawweight (115lbs) Championship Bout – Approx. Start Time: Midnight EST.
- 17 of Weili Zhang’s 22 pro-fights have ended inside the distance.
- 11 of Rose Namajunas’ 16 bouts (including those on The Ultimate Fighter) have failed to go the distance (per Tapology.com).
This is a phenomenal fight, and although I lean towards Weili Zhang getting her hand raised, I much prefer betting the under, in what could turn into an all-out war.
Weili Zhang typically likes to fight on the front foot, applying a pressure-heavy style, one where she looks to swarm her opponent and land on them with an array of strikes to various parts of the body. She is exceptionally strong in the clinch, and although she isn’t the most technically sound grappler, her power and physique is enough to deny her opponent’s takedowns and weigh heavy on top, should she look to take the fight to the mat herself. She doesn’t yield ridiculous knockout power, but she does throw impactful strikes at an absurd rate, which can bring about the end to fights all the same.
Namajunas is a much more technical and evasive striker. She looks to use her speed and movement to stick and move out of the way of her opponent’s offense. She didn’t always have this capability, but ever since her incredible upset victory over Joanna Jędrzejczyk in their first fight, it’s been hard to deny how good of a striker she actually is. One thing that I will take away from Namajunas, however, is that she seems susceptible to being hit and wearing damage more so than she once was, which isn’t ideal when coming up against someone who isn’t afraid to swing wildly in the pocket, such as Zhang. Namajunas’ ground game is of course, her strongest attribute, and with 8 of her 12 career wins (including her TUF bouts) coming by way of submission, it’s evident that she will look to utilize it whenever she can.
I see this one being an action-packed fight from the opening bell. Zhang will look to apply pressure to Namajunas, and although I could see Namajunas having some early success with her elusivity, I think it’s only a matter of time before we see both women colliding in the center of the cage. From there, I could easily see Zhang dishing out the more damaging blows, which could result in Namajunas succumbing to the damage for a TKO win for Zhang, similarly to how Jessica Andrade nearly forced a finish in their rematch. Should the fight end up on the mat with Zhang on top, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Namajunas reverse positions, despite Zhang’s heavy top control. That would then allow Namajunas to actively chase for submissions whilst Zhang is fighting to get back to her feet.
Ultimately, wherever the fight takes place, I see plenty of room for a finish, with Zhang most likely to produce one whilst the fight is standing, and Namajunas being the more dangerous on the ground. At even-money, I’m not in love with the “Fight to Go the Distance - No” prop, but I definitely see some value there as this one should produce plenty of potential fight-ending moments.
(1u) Over 3.5 Rounds @ -133 (to Return 1.75 Units)
Main Card – UFC Women’s Flyweight (125lbs) Championship Bout – Approx. Start Time: 11:15 p.m. EST.
- Only 4 of Valentina Shevchenko’s 11 UFC fights have finished inside the distance.
- Despite being the UFC’s most violent female fighter, Jessica Andrade has still been to a decision in 4 of his last 9 fights.
It’s incredible to me that Valentina Shevchenko (pictured below) has garnered the reputation of being a “killer” (meaning devastating finisher). She’s fighting in one of the UFC’s least stacked divisions, against women who aren’t even close to her level, and she’s still going to decisions 50% of the time. Sure, she landed that devastating head kick KO on Jessica Eye, but that was nearly 2 years ago now, and she’s done very little since to punctuate that she’s capable of stopping lessor fighters.
Jessica Andrade will arguably be Shevchenko’s toughest test since moving down to flyweight. She’s aggressive, boasts both strong striking and grappling, and she’s as tough as a $2 steak. Sometimes her over aggressive fighting style can be detrimental, as seen when she was stopped by Weili Zhang inside of a minute, but it appears to me that she took a lot away from that fight, and I believe that’ll serve her well against other top-level fighters.
I see this fight going very similarly to when Andrade fought against Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the strawweight title back in 2017 (pictured below). Joanna fought successfully off her back foot for the duration of the fight, out-manoeuvring Andrade and beating her to the punch throughout. Shevchenko should provide these same problems to Andrade, but likely with more efficiency due to her larger frame and marginally longer reach. Andrade could look to her grappling to reduce the technical disparity on the feet, which might run the risk of fatiguing herself, but it could pay dividends if she’s able to keep Shevchenko on her back for long periods, similarly to what Jennifer Maia did for a whole round of their fight.
All in all, I struggle to see how Andrade is going to get close enough to utilize her power advantage against Shevchenko, and I also don’t see Shevchenko catching Andrade with any huge counter shots, as we’ve only really seen her do it against Jessica Eye. On the mat, things could get interesting, as Shevchenko is a strong top-side grappler, but against Andrade, I think she’ll be significantly more reluctant to hang around on the ground, than against any of her recent opposition. With this in mind, I expect a lot of stalling from Shevchenko whilst she’s on top, and some quick get ups from Shevchenko if she’s on the receiving end of a takedown.
There is of course a chance that either fighter could catch the other with something on the feet, or on the ground, but given that Shevchenko has only ever been stopped due to a cut stoppage in her career, and that Shevchenko isn’t a perennial finisher, I simply like taking this fight to go over 3.5 rounds.
Scroll down to view event details, odds & Christian’s full card predictions.
Event: UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas / Weili vs. Namajunas / Zhang vs. Rose / UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2 / #UFC261
Location & Venue: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Date: Saturday, April 24th, 2021
Start time: Main Card: 10 p.m. EST, Prelims 8 p.m. EST, Early Prelims 6 p.m. EST
Where to watch UFC 261: Main Card on PPV, Prelims on ESPN/ESPN+, Early Prelims on ESPN+
UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas Full Fight Card Predictions:
UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas Main Event Prediction:
Welterweight (170lbs): Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal – Usman via Decision
UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas Main Card Predictions:
(W) Strawweight (115lbs): Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas – Zhang via KO/TKO
(W) Flyweight (125lbs): Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jéssica Andrade – Shevchenko via Decision
Middleweight (185lbs): Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman – Weidman via Decision
Light Heavyweight (205lbs): Anthony Smith vs. Jimmy Crute – Crute via Decision
UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas Prelim Card Predictions:
Welterweight (170lbs): Randy Brown vs. Alex Oliveira – Brown via Submission
Welterweight (170lbs): Dwight Grant vs. Stefan Sekulić – Grant via KO/TKO
Middleweight (185lbs): Brendan Allen vs. Karl Roberson – Allen via Submission
Featherweight (145lbs): Tristan Connelly vs. Pat Sabatini – Sabatini via Decision
UFC 261: Zhang vs. Namajunas Early Prelim Card Predictions:
Bantamweight (135lbs): Danaa Batgerel vs. Kevin Natividad – Batgerel via KO/TKO
Lightweight (155lbs): Zhu Rong vs. Rodrigo Vargas – Rong via Decision
Flyweight (125lbs): Jeff Molina vs. Qileng Aori – Molina via Decision
(W) Strawweight (115lbs): Ariane Carnelossi vs. Na Liang – Carnelossi via Decision
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights subject to change.