Last night on March 15th, just around a year since Covid really hit the United States, Dana White announced on social media that UFC 261 will be held in Jacksonville, Florida, with fans allowed at full capacity. For more information on this announcement, check out my co-writers post here. But alongside with this announcement, White announced that the card will be headlined by the UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, versus his rival, Jorge Masvidal. In a way it’s poetic that nearly a year to the day later, fans will be allowed back at UFC events, does the rematch between these Usman and Masvidal make sense?
Don’t get me wrong, the first fight between Masvidal and Usman was definitely the fight to make, as Masvidal had strung together two solid top five wins and a finish over Nate Diaz. But since his title fight with Usman in July, Masvidal has been inactive while Usman defended his belt for the third time in February. Masvidal has disputed this loss, saying that it would be a different fight if he had a full training camp, but it’s hard to imagine a different outcome when all but one judge scored every single round for the champion.
Following the defeat of Gilbert Burns and the controversial no contest between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammed, it seemed like a good time for the top five welterweights to establish a contender amongst themselves while the champion waited for a challenge. There are currently only two welterweights in the top five coming off of recent victories, these being Colby Covington and Stephen Thompson. Masvidal’s last victory was in 2019 and his most recent loss besides Usman was to Thompson in 2018. In my opinion, Covington has a much stronger claim for a title fight than Masvidal as he gave Usman his most challenging fight in the UFC and recently flatlined the former champion, Tyron Woodley. Edwards, Thompson, and Covington all are coming off of dominant victories so it seems slightly unfair to them to reward Jorge the shot when he cannot say the same.
So where should the rest of the top five go from here? Outside of Masvidal Usman 2, no fight is currently booked. I think a fight between Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson makes a lot of sense to sort out some issues. But what about Gilbert Burns? Even though Usman finished him in February he still had an impressive performance early in the fight, and it appears there’s no one who wants to fight him. And what about Colby? He said earlier this week that the only fights that interest him are Usman or Masvidal. There’s a lot of unanswered questions that I have about what will happen in the welterweight division, but I hope that they can all be resolved soon.
Welterweight has always been one of my favorite weight classes to follow in the UFC and I hope that money fights over top contenders isn’t permanent. I’m still excited for this card as Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against Jessica Andradre, as well as Zhang Weili vs Rose Namajunas. Let me know what fights you’re excited for and what you would like to see happen in the welterweight top five. Thanks for reading!
Till next time