UFC 261 fans will pack Jacksonville Arena after tickets sold out in hours for the first capacity crowd in more than a year. Two themes emerge for spectators interested in watching and betting fight night’s return to normalcy on Saturday, April 24.
First, let methods-of-victory props address the betting madness because the moneyline favorites are prohibitive in three world-title fights.
Secondly, let that crowd roar. A live audience of about 15,000 is anticipated, snapping a COVID-19 stretch of 13 months without fans in attendance. The UFC 261 tickets sold out in hours, despite a warning on tickets of possible ‘death’ and ‘permanent damage’.
“For many of these fighters, it’s the first time they have been in front of a live crowd in what seems like ages,” DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations Johnny Avello told TheLines.com. “There is going to be a reaction to that type of energy. Some of the fighters are really going to feed off of it. Some could be affected in a negative way. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.”
This is the first UFC event before a crowd of this magnitude since the pandemic’s outbreak last March and UFC intends to make this a 2021 spectacle.
How to Watch UFC 261
• Saturday, April 24, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida
• Main card: 10 p.m. ET, PPV
• Prelims: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+
• Early prelims: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN
UFC 261 Main Card
Bouts may change. DraftKings Sportsbook odds as of Sunday, April 18th (no odds on some preliminary bouts yet):
Welterweight Title: Kamara Usman (C) -400 vs #4 Jorge Masvidal +300
Women’s Strawweight Title: Weili Zhang (C) -195 vs #1 Rose Namajunes +155
Rest of Main Card
Women’s Flyweight Title: Valentina Shevchenko (C) -400 vs #1 Jessica Andrade +300
Middleweight Bout: #9 Uriah Hall -115 vs #11 Chris Weidman -108
Light Heavyweight Bout: #13 Jimmy Crute -200 vs #6 Anthony Smith +155
UFC 261 Preliminary Card
Welterweight Bout: Brandon Allen -134 vs Karl Roberson -108
Welterweight Bout: Alex Oliveira vs Randy Brown
Welterweight Bout: Dwight Grant vs Stefan Sekulic
Featherweight Bout: Patrick Sabatini vs Tristan Connelly
UFC 261 FanDuel Method of Victory Odds
UFC 261 betting breakdown
Pre-fight wagering differs from recent cards, in which bettors on both sides waited for odds to drift into buying territory before they pounced. In this one, there’s no pounce. Betting lines remain lopsided for the three main fights, as champions Usman, Zhang and Shevchenko are considered superior to their challengers.
In the main event, Masvidal backers won’t spread too much money on props. They will bang the moneyline bet, making the props secondary. It’s the opposite for Usman bettors. They will have to consider methods of victory, which FanDuel has posted for a number of fights.
Kamara Usman vs Jorge Masvidal
Usman-Masvidal is a rematch of Usman’s lopsided decision victory last year.
Few UFC rematches produce the same result in two separate fights. That philosophy will coax some prop betting on a stoppage here. The fight style may determine the outcome of that bet. Usman used effective wrestling techniques, scoring several takedowns and controlling the flow of the first fight against Masvidal.
The burden to change is on Masvidal, who must gamble from the striking position and try to avoid ground fighting.
Masvidal hasn’t fought since their first encounter. Usman comes off a third-round stoppage victory against Gilbert Burns in February. Is Masvidal going on fumes? He has lost three of his last six fights, while Usman has not lost. Usman is the UFC’s second top pound-for-pound fighter behind Jon Jones.
Masvidal was given this second opportunity because the first fight with Usman drew a reported 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, which was impressive. Masvidal also took that challenge on six days notice, dropped about 20 pounds to make weight and flew to Dubai to essentially save an event that had fallen apart. That gave him the platform from which to seek, and obtain, this rematch.
Masvidal said that a full camp would make the difference in a second fight. He has one now, but so far, the board says that won’t matter.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade
Shevchenko (#2) and Zhang (#3) are the UFC’s most talented fighters this side of Amanda Nunes in the women’s pound-for-pound rankings. Shevchenko defends her title against Andrade, who scored an eyebrow-raising one-round TKO over a solid Katlyn Chookagian in her last bout in October.
Shevchenko by points is a good price relative to the prohibitive moneyline betting odds. Four of Andrade’s last five fights have ended inside the distance. It’s a good background to bet into on the power line. A K0/TK0 from either fighter is +155 in the ‘How Fight Will End’ prop at FanDuel.
Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunes
Zhang has taken a significant, perhaps necessary layoff after a classic and brutal split decision triumph over Joanna Jedrzejczyk last March. It is considered one of the most violent and greatest women’s championship bouts ever.
Zhang has been a machine, notching 21 straight victories since 2013. In the UFC, Zhang has offered a mixed bag of three triumphs by decision and two wins inside the distance.
Namajunes comes off a stoppage loss and split-decision victory over Andrade. She’s an aggressive fighter.
Uriah Hall vs Chris Weidman
There’s a lot for bettors to tap into in for the Hall-Weidman fight. First, it’s moneyline friendly. Take -112 on either side at DraftKings and simply hope for a victory. Fair price and a normal degree of difficulty.
But there’s also deeper angle. Hall has been streaky. He has won three in a row, including a four-round stoppage victory over Anderson Silva last October. The streak followed a 3-fight losing skid in 2015-16.
Weidman was 13-0, now he’s 15-5. What happened in all five losses? He was stopped.
Method props were not up one week before the fight but take a good look when they do. A K0/TK0 for Hall or the fight to end in a stoppage are fertile areas to wager into. As the fight gets closer, look for promos and odds boosts from the books too. They provide difference-making value.