UFC 261

6 Under The Radar Storylines – UFC 261

The UFC is back on pay-per-view this Saturday with UFC 261, and it will be in front of a sold-out crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, for the first time in over a year. Oh, and they are bringing a huge card. There are three title fights, including Karamu Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal II, Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas, and Valentina Shevchenko. However, if you look past the three title fights, there are some under-the-radar storylines.

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Weidman II

The hardcore fans will definitely know that this is the second fight between Weidman vs. Hall, but if you didn’t know… it’s a rematch, 11 years in the making. In 2010, on the regional scene, Weidman and Hall fought each other at Ring of Combat 31. Hall was on a four-fight win streak with four finishes, while Weidman was going into his third MMA fight with two first-round finishes. Weidman would knock out Hall in the first round and win the ROC Middleweight Championship.

Both men need this win to get closer to a fight with champion Israel Adesanya. A loss would be very detrimental.

The Return of Tristan Connelly

Remember in 2019 when Michel Pereira danced his way to the ring and then flipped a few times before his fight started? And then was flipping off the cage during his fight and then gassed? Well, the guy who pulled the huge upset and beat him was Connelly, who also took the fight on five days’ notice up and a weight class. Connelly hasn’t fought since his victory because of the pandemic and neck surgery. He is also dropping all the way down to featherweight for the first time in his career at the age of 35. Fascinating stuff. The guy he is fighting is…

Pat Sabatini’s UFC debut

Sabatini’s long awaiting UFC debut is finally here, and he’s fighting Connelly. Sabatini could have easily been in the UFC by now but, for some reason, has fallen through the cracks. If it weren’t for a freak arm injury against James Gonzalez last February, Sabatini would be on a six-fight win streak. Sabatini comes from CFFC and has fought nothing but stiff competition. He even has a first-round submission win over Tony Gravely, who just earned a Performance of the Night knockout last weekend.

Four Chinese Fighters

Zhang defends her title in the co-main event, but she has three other fighters from her country on the prelims, and they are all making their UFC debut. Na Liang makes her debut and is riding a four-fight winning streak with four finishes. She faces Ariane Carnelossi, who is looking for her first UFC win. Qileng Aori makes his debut riding a six-fight win streak with four finishes. He also has the wildest nickname on the card “Mongolian Murderer.” Zhu Rong might be THE fighter to watch this weekend. He makes his debut on a ten-fight win streak with nine finishes. He also has been very active, fighting three times in 2020 and already once in 2021.

Brendan Allen vs. Karl Roberson

Since this fight was booked, I’ve had it on my radar. Both men are Dana White’s Contender Series alumni, Roberson – season one, and Allen – season three. Both men are coming off disappointing losses, and both men are looking to make a statement. The interesting thing about Allen and Roberson is that the only losses on their resumes are to very good competition. A win for either fighter will put them right back into the middleweight prospect conversation and a step closer to the top 15. Expect a fight of the night contender.

Three Knockout Artists Are Back

Instead of making three different paragraphs about Randy Brown, Dwight Grant, and Danaa Batgerel, I’ll lump them together. These guys are knockout artists and are all favored in their matchups. Brown is coming off a loss to Vicente Luque, but if you remember, he was doing very well until he got caught. He fights long-time UFC veteran Alex Oliveira in the featured prelim. It is featured because one of them is going to sleep, and I would bet it might be Oliveira. Grant returns from a battle with COVID that knocked him off UFC 256 last December. He was in one of the best rounds of 2020 when he fought Daniel Rodriguez. Early in that fight, he clipped Rodriguez and almost finished him. In fact, the referee probably should have; nevertheless, Rodriguez would come back and finish Grant. Just know this, Grant’s nickname is the ‘Body Snatcher,’ and he didn’t pick it because he snatches bodies non-violently. Finally, Batgerel is coming off a first-round knockout of Guido Cannetti at UFC 248. He was supposed to fight Kyler Phillips last October but has to withdraw. Batgerel is 1-1 in the UFC but brings it every time. He fights Kevin Natividad, who will not back down.

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