Key takeaways from UFC 261: Don't forget leg day

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Danny Howard

April 26th, 2021

UFC 261 had beating, breaks, and fascinating fights. What’s left in the aftermath is a revived ex-champion, a potential for a historic set of fights, and Kamaru Usman vs... Conor McGregor?

Here is what we learned from UFC 261.

Don’t forget leg day

There was not one, but two leg injuries that cut matters short on the main card. In the opening bout, Anthony Smith revitalized his career when a leg kick to the heavily favored Jimmy Crute led to a doctor stoppage.

In the next fight, Chris Weidman would suffer a gruesome leg break after Uriah Hall checked a kick, leaving ringside observers in shock and viewers around the world frantically checking YouTube for a replay.

Smith back in the mix

Smith had the look of a shot fighter ahead of his upset win over Crute, but the strength of this win should keep him in the hunt for a meaningful fight down the line. He’s had a long career and picked up a lot of miles, but there’s still enough left in the tank to keep him near the top of the light heavyweight rankings for now.

While his ceiling is still low, Smith can serve as a high-level gatekeeper and give the unworthy one hell of a fight. If he can string up enough big wins an unexpected title shot might just materialize.

Usman settles the score

Jorge Masvidal complained his way into another title shot, but left the octagon looking like he’d been hit by two trucks as Kamaru Usman laid him out.

As popular as Masvidal is, Usman left no doubt as to who the better fighter is. While Usman ponders his next move, Conor McGregor called for a shot at Usman if he can get past Dustin Poirier in their trilogy bout.

The strawweight round-robin

In the night’s biggest upset, Rose Namajunas hit a head kick so precise that left Zhang Weili out on her feet. A few short seconds later, Namajunas would score the stoppage over the baddest fighter in her division.

There will no doubt be a rematch, but it would not be surprising one bit if we see continued pairings between Weili, Namajunas, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk over the next few months. Any such pairings would result in a fantastic fight.

Jake Paul baiting another MMA foe

Jake Paul made his presence felt in front of a hostile UFC audience who booed him vigorously, then got involved in a scuffle with UFC legend Daniel Cormier.

Paul and Cormier have been jawing at each other since Paul’s first round KO win over Ben Askren in their boxing match, and Paul clearly tried to instigate Cormier for a fight down the line. Fair enough, but Dana White has made it clear that he’ll take legal action against Paul if he continues to poach UFC talent under contract.

Unless Paul wants to try his luck in the cage, he needs to take on a boxer for a change.