UFC fans lost their minds as the first event with a crowd in over a year ended with a stunning knockout that left one fighter seeing stars.
UFC 261 started on a violent note and things only got more brutal from there.
Rose Namajunas is once again the strawweight champion after crushing Zhang Weili in the co-main event, before Kamaru Usman defended his welterweight strap with a stunning KO of Jorge Masvidal.
Watch three title fights in UFC 261 including Usman v Masvidal 2 on Foxtel’s Main Event, this Sunday 25 April at 12pm AEST. ORDER NOW >
Usman flattens Masvidal with terrifying right hand
Kamaru Usman flattened Jorge Masvidal early in the second round of their highly-anticipated rematch with the right hand from hell to cement his status as one of the world’s premier fighters.
Usman dominated the first round then went for the jugular a minute into the second. A monstrous jab knocked Masvidal clean off his feet, then Usman jumped in with some hammerfists that forced the ref to intervene and call off the fight.
Masvidal hasn’t lost by KO/TKO since 2008 but that streak was ended in the most violent fashion imaginable by Usman, who silenced his cocky rival with his 14th straight win in the UFC.
It was a much shorter affair than their bout in July last year, when Usman won via unanimous decision, but the same result.
“You said you wanted violence, you’re welcome!” Usman said post-fight. “I know with my fundamentals I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now.
“No disrespect, thank you to my man Jorge. You elevated me. He made me go to the workshop and I had to sharpen all my tools to put on a performance like that.
“I told everybody I’m still getting better. The sky’s the limit for me for as long as I’m doing this.”
The fighters embraced after the fight, showing there was no bad blood between the pair, as Masvidal digested only the second stoppage defeat of his career, in his home state of Florida, no less.
“First time in my career in front of my people, my family, my friends — it hurts,” he said. “I’ve never been knocked out before in 50 pro fights.
“Usman showed me something that he didn’t show the first fight, I didn’t feel his power. That’s what happens when you get overconfident.”
MMA analyst and podcaster Luke Thomas said on Twitter “No one has ever done that to Jorge Masvidal” as the rest of the fight world raved about the incredible KO.
Combat sports reporter Kevin Iole tweeted: “What an UNBELIEVABLY perfect straight right to the chin by Usman.”
UFC reporter Ariel Helwani said it was Usman’s “greatest finish yet” while MMA star Aljamain Sterling wrote: “Greatest Welterweight of ALL TIME!! Jesus!! That right hand was a missile!!”
UFC fighter Brad Tavares said: “Wow @USMAN84kg just keeps getting better and better! Scary stuff!!!”
Rose ‘Thug’ Namajunas is double trouble
Rose Namajunas ended things in the first round with an incredible head kick to win the strawweight strap for the second time in her career.
The head kick dropped Zhang Weili and some ground and pound finished the job as the crowd went wild for the UFC’s favourite Thug.
Weili complained the referee stopped the fight early but there was nothing she could do to change the official’s mind.
“Oh my God. What a shocking finish. Zhang complaining but she was out,” Kevin Iole tweeted.
“Left kick hits Zhang by the ear. She goes down and her head banged off the canvas. Rose lands three hammer fists and ref stops it. No argument with that.”
Ariel Helwani said it “will be a contender for KO of the year”.
Rose burst into tears as she spoke to Joe Rogan for her post-fight interview in the Octagon.
“I did it again! God did it, but I just had to have faith in him, but that’s what got me through,” she said. “I am the best!
“I didn’t see her moving, I wasn’t sure if she was gonna come back from that. Just a couple of hammerfists and that’s how it went.”
UFC world freaks over shocking injury
There was widespread horror as Chris Weidman suffered a shocking broken leg just seconds into his fight with Uriah Hall.
Weidman landed a kick but his lower right leg snapped and turned to spaghetti. He was taken out on a stretcher as fight fans prayed he was OK.
“This is just horrific,” Luke Thomas tweeted.
Helwani said: “This is heartbreaking. I can’t believe this.
“This is absolutely horrific.
“Feel sick to my stomach. No one deserves this. This is a cruel, cruel sport.”
Jose Youngs called it “one of the most horrendous injuries I’ve ever seen” while former AFL star Dane Swan said it was “the nastiest s**t I’ve ever seen”.
Twitter was going wild with viewers repeating the phrase “oh my God”, unable to believe their eyes.
YouTuber causes chaos
At the first UFC event with crowds back since the pandemic brought the world to a halt, fans turned on YouTuber turned boxer Jake Paul when he arrived in Jacksonville. The crowd chanted “f*** Jake Paul”, clearly not impressed with his beatdown of MMA veteran Ben Askren last week.
UFC heavyweight Daniel Cormier, who was commentating cageside for ESPN, said during the broadcast he would “slap him (Paul) in the face” and confronted the 24-year-old as the crowd continued to chant.
“I pointed at him. I said, ‘Don’t play with me’. Because I’ll slap him in the face. I don’t play those games,” Cormier said.
Brutal beatings start blockbuster card
Ariane Carnelossi demolished Liang Na with a second-round finish in the first fight of the night in Florida, unleashing a heavy dose of ground and pound after securing top position following a takedown, leaving the referee no choice but to wave the contest off.
Danaa Batgerel took less than a minute to annihilate Kevin Natividad, swatting away an advance with a brutal left hook that dropped his opponent.
A disoriented Natividad tried to carry on but Batgerel wasn’t going to waste his chance, letting loose with a flurry of punches to end the fight in just 50 seconds.
Randy Brown sent the UFC world wild on the undercard as he submitted Alex Oliveira in the first round with a one-arm near naked choke, after landing a savage right hand flush on Oliveira’s chin.
Kamaru Usman defeated Jorge Masvidal via KO (R2, 1:02)
Rose Namajunas defeated Zhang Weili via KO (R1, 1:18)
Valentina Shevchenko defeated Jessica Andrade via TKO (R2, 2:19)
Uriah Hall defeated Chris Weidman via TKO (injury, R1, 0:17)
Anthony Smith defeated Jim Crute via TKO
Randy Brown defeated Alex Oliveira via submission (R1, 2:50)
Dwight Grant defeated Stefan Sekulic via split decision (29-28 x 2, 28-29)
Brendan Allen defeated Karl Roberson via submission (heel hook, R1, 4:55)
Pat Sabatini defeated Tristan Connelly via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x 2)
Danaa Batgerel defeated Kevin Natividad via TKO (R1, 0:50)
Kazula Vargas defeated Rong Zhu via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28 x 2)
Jeffrey Molina defeated Aori Qileng via unanimous decision (29-28 x 2, 29-27)
Ariane Carnelossi defeated Liang Na via TKO (R2, 1:28)