Two weeks ago
Apr 19, 2021

UFC 261 preview: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal betting preview and odds

Usman and Masvidal stats

Usman vs. Masvidal predictions: Where is the value?

Usman and Masvidal's fighting styles analysed

UFC 261 preview: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

In the most high-profile of the three title bouts taking place at UFC 261, Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal are set to face off in a rematch to decide the Welterweight Championship. Can ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ successfully maintain his unbeaten UFC record, or will ‘Gamebred’ exact revenge for his defeat at UFC 251? Read on to inform your Usman vs. Masvidal predictions.

Event: UFC 261

Date: April 24, 2021

Venue: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena (Florida, US)

Usman vs. Masvidal: Tale of the tape

Kamaru ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman

Fighter

Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal

33

Age

36

183 cm

Height

180 cm

77 kg

Weight

77 kg

193 cm

Reach

188 cm

12-0-0

UFC record

13-7-0

18-1-0

Overall MMA record

35-14-0

54%

Striking accuracy

48%

Champion

UFC ranking

#4

This is one of three title bouts taking place at UFC 261, which is planned to be the first UFC event staged with a capacity crowd since UFC 248 in March last year. In the other two belt deciders, Zhang Weili will defend the Women’s Strawweight title against Rose Namajunas after Jessica Andrade challenges Valentina Shevchenko for the Women’s Flyweight Championship.

As mentioned, this fight will be a rematch between Usman and Masvidal. The pair first fought at UFC 251 in July last year, when Usman earned a unanimous decision victory after the bout lasted the distance. On that occasion Usman largely controlled proceedings, turning in 94 significant strikes to Masvidal’s 66 as well as five takedowns without reply.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will be eyeing up a 13th straight UFC and 18th consecutive MMA win.

That was the second of three fights to date at which Usman has defended the Welterweight Championship, and he has since repeated the feat with a third-round TKO victory against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in February. His undefeated UFC record now stands at 12 bouts, during which he has picked up three Performance of the Night and one Fight of the Night award, and he will be also entering this bout seeking an 18th successive MMA victory.

Conversely, Masvidal’s defeat was the last time he stepped into the octagon and was the latest entry in a string of inconsistent results comprised of six wins in his last 10 fights. Despite this, he is still ranked #4 in the highly competitive Welterweight division and boasts the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history with his five-second flying knee KO against Ben Askren at UFC 239.

Amidst a reignited rivalry, Usman has claimed that his motivation is reasserting his dominance over Masvidal, stating: “What I’m really after is being able to break the guy to the point that when they wake up in the morning and they have to think about me, they just know ‘That guy is better than me.’”

Meanwhile, Masvidal is not only eyeing up winning this bout, but also a second rematch, declaring: “When I win the rematch we definitely will go for the trilogy. I will not go down in history 1-1 with this individual. It’s just not going to happen.”

Analysing the Usman vs. Masvidal odds

Usman is the favourite at 1.245*, which translates to just under a 77% probability of victory. Meanwhile, Masvidal is priced at 4.150*, equating to an approximate 23% chance. For context, when the pair first fought, Usman closed as favourite at 1.362, while Masvidal closed as the underdog at 3.367.

Usman has been priced at somewhat shorter than the average closing odds for his last five bouts of 1.646 and indeed, the market implies that Masvidal possesses a weaker chance of victory than any of Usman’s last five opponents (including Masvidal’s first attempt to beat Usman himself).

Ahead of his last five bouts (all of which he won), Usman closed as the favourite for four and was the underdog for his victory against Tyron Woodley. His odds tend to narrowly shorten when he is the favourite, suggesting that those confident he will successively defend the Welterweight Championship may access slightly better value by placing their bets sooner rather than later.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Masvidal has been priced higher than both his rolling five-bout closing odds of 2.678 and his individual odds ahead of each of those five fights. He is fairly accustomed to being the underdog, entering four of these bouts with that market-assigned label (winning two) and defeating Nate Diaz on the one occasion he was favourite.

Masvidal’s odds have recently witnessed significant movements, lengthening ahead of all but one of his last five fights by an average margin of 0.29. This indicates that if you fancy ‘Gamebred’ to pull off an upset, it could be within your interests to hold off on any bets until nearer April 24.

Usman vs. Masvidal: Fighting styles analysed

Usman is revered and feared for being one of the most effective fighters across the entirety of UFC at grinding out victories over the distance. Of his last 10 wins, seven were settled by decision and on each occasion it was unanimous, illustrating his versatile yet unwavering aptitude for controlling bouts.

Each of Masvidal's last 10 MMA defeats were via decision.

Indeed, his stats point to an underlying ability to adapt his approach as the situation dictates. He launches just 51% of his attacks from a standing position (compared to 70% for Masvidal) while posting impressive numbers for both significant strikes landed per minute (4.66) and takedowns per 15 minutes (3.22).

At first glance this might indicate an attack-led approach, but Usman is equally capable of relying upon strong defensive attributes when required. Aside from his intimidating 100% takedown defence rate, he defends 59% of significant strikes and absorbs just 2.33 per minute – exactly half the number he lands.

As a result, Usman’s strategy can be simply defined as attempting to balance attack and defence in a bid to land more strikes and ensure a points victory. As mentioned, he did so in his first bout against Masvidal, but also notably achieved this feat in each of his last 10 bouts. This entails a severe warning that if he is afforded too much license to dictate proceedings, his opponent is granted limited opportunities to fight back.

On top of that, Masvidal will need to be wary of both Usman’s superior striking accuracy (54% to 48%) and reach (193 cm to 188 cm) to avoid a situation in which he has to work harder to cause his opponent damage on the night.

While Masvidal’s 35 MMA victories to date are almost evenly split between knockouts and decision wins, his transition into a more aggressive and direct combatant during the latter stages of his career means that all but one of his last seven featured a knockout. While he cannot match Usman for significant strikes landed per minute (4.20), he targets a greater proportion of attacks at his opponent’s head (64% to 61%) and also achieves more submissions (0.36 to 0.14).

Masvidal can sport above average punching ability, and his recent tendency is to launch a flurry of fists from the outset. Only one of his last five KO wins progressed beyond the second round, indicating that if his opponent finds themselves in his clutches early on, he does not require ample time to cause them significant damage.

He is also palpably less concerned with defence and has suffered just one knockout in his MMA career despite absorbing 3.00 significant strikes per minute. However, Masvidal’s commitment to a thoroughly attacking approach does mean that it is fairly straightforward for any opponent with decent defensive skills to fend off his punches and craft victories over the distance. This partially explains why each of his last 10 defeats were via decision.

All of this indicates that the fight is likely to be comprised of Masvidal attempting to earn an early knockout, while Usman responds to his attacks on the counter in a bid to land more strikes. For the former’s approach to be successful, he will require one of the finest attacking performances of his career or an uncharacteristically sloppy display from Usman.

Usman vs. Masvidal: Where is the value?

In-depth analysis is not required to assert why Usman is the comfortable favourite for this clash. Indeed, he is a defending champion sporting a thoroughly impressive winning streak, and has not only previously exhibited his ability to defeat a broad range of opponents utilising different styles, but also Masvidal himself.

There is nothing significant to suggest that Usman will deviate from his habitual approach, and he will likely enter the fight content to let Masvidal attack on the front foot while eyeing up opportunities to strike him on the counter. With this in mind, the prospect of the bout lasting the duration and a decision victory for Usman is instantly worth considering.

If you do favour Masvidal, it is difficult to look beyond a swift knockout as a promising route to victory. Masvidal securing the belt within the opening couple of rounds seems the obvious value bet on this front.

Odds subject to change

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