Two Title Fights Announced for UFC 261

Weili Zhang and Valentina Shevchenko will both defend their titles at the event.

By Savannah Moore

The UFC 261 Main Card is shaping up to be one of the best events of the year. Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas will face each other for the UFC Strawweight Championship, and the UFC Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against former Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade. 

Flyweight Champion, Valentina Shevchenko (SOURCE: Alexandre Schneider, Zuffa LLC) 

Jessica Andrade moved up from 115 lbs to 125 lbs last October, and quickly made her presence felt in the Flyweight division by knocking out former #1 contender Katlyn Chookagin in the first round. Andrade faces a taller task in Valentina Shevchenko; the champion is in the middle of a six fight win streak, and is quickly establishing herself as one of the best fighters in the world. Shechenko is currently ranked as the #2 UFC women’s pound-for-pound fighter.

Jessica Andrade punches former number one contender Katlyn Chookagain. (SOURCE: Josh Hedges/ Zuffa LLC)

One of the most anticipated fights of the night will be Weili Zhang’s second title defence. Her first was last year, a split decision victory over the former strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Their bout was one of the best fights of 2020, and was awarded Fight of the Night at UFC 248. Zhang is now 5-0 in her UFC career and has won 21 straight MMA fights dating back to 2013. A victory next month could cement her as a truly dominant champion.

Across the octagon from Zhang will be former champion Rose Namajunas. Namajunas’ Strawweight Championship victory in 2017 was straight out of a fairy tale. Despite being known for her submission prowess and entering the fight as a +330 underdog, Rose knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first round. Handing Jedrzejczyk her first UFC loss. Rose was only able to successfully defend her title once before she was brutally knocked out by Jessica Andrade at UFC 237. Namajunas redeemed herself at UFC 251 last July when she defeated Andrade by split decision, making her the clear #1 contender to Zhang.

Announcement of Zhang vs Namajunas for UFC 261 (SOURCE: UFC)

If both champions were to retain their titles, it could potentially lay the groundwork for a superfight between the two sometime in the near future. UFC President Dana White has expressed interest in booking the fight as well. One person who doesn’t seem too interested at the moment is the current Flyweight Champion, Schevchenko.  She has already stated that she is anticipating a Namajunas victory, but for those of us who aren’t so sure, this fight is one you won’t want to miss.

UFC 261 will take place on April 24th at 11 pm EST. The event will be held in Jacksonville, Florida and will allow a full crowd of 11,000. This fight will be the first UFC event in front of a crowd since March of 2020, and it’s shaping up to be worth the wait.

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