Fans are back in the arena this weekend for the return of UFC. The fight promotion is back where things began at the onset of the pandemic with UFC 261 set to commence from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Jorge Masvidal sit atop a loaded fight card. Plus, Weili Zhang looks to defend her strawweight title against former champ Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko puts her flyweight title on the line against Jessica Andrade.
The main event is a rematch nearly a year in the making. Masvidal stepped on up short notice at UFC 251 after Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 just a week before the fight was to take place. Masvidal was not in training camp, but still took on the task of flying across the globe to Abu Dhabi and cutting over 20 pounds to make the main event happen. Usman would grind out his opponent to score a wide decision win as he neutralized the heavy hands of Masvidal. Now, "Gamebred" with a full camp and time for preparation gets his chance at redemption and to finally hoist UFC gold.
Those trio of titleholders will enter Saturday night as massive favorites to retain their championships. And with good reason. Usman, Zhang and Shevchenko are a combined 44-0 in their last 44 appearances. So while there's always a chance for an upset, oddsmakers are banking on those three exiting the arena with their belts in tow once again.
But even though those are the most likely results doesn't mean that they will actually happen. That's why it's called gambling, after all. And that's why we're here right now. William Hill Sportsbook has you covered with every angle of UFC 261 to get in on the action. We're going to give you a few options to consider with this card from our favorite moneyline play, prop play and parlay play. Let's take a closer look at those picks now.
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Best moneyline pick
Uriah Hall +115 vs. Chris Weidman
It is surprising to see Weidman jump to the favorite in this fight after it sat at an even -110 for both fighters for quite a while. Weidman was once a great fighter and seemed as though he'd rule over the middleweight division for a long time. Then came the knockout loss to Luke Rockhold that cost him the title -- and four more knockouts followed. Weidman is now on a 2-5 run and his chin has not held up well to clean shots.
Hall has turned in some disappointing performances in his UFC career and beating Weidman would give Hall just the second four-fight winning streak of his career -- the first coming in the first four fights of his pro career. Still, what Hall does best is now Weidman's biggest weakness. Hall is a great striker and a knockout artist, having finished 12 of his 16 career wins.
The 2010 Ring of Combat fight between the two that Weidman won by TKO is no longer a relevant piece of data, but Weidman's chin and Hall's striking are. You can also spice this bet up by taking Hall by KO at +210 instead of the straight moneyline if you don't mind a bit of extra risk.
Best prop pick
Weili Zhang via decision +160
Zhang certainly has the ability to finish a fight, and Rose Namajunas has been finished in the past. That said, it seems unlikely that this fight sees a stoppage. Namajunas' one knockout loss came on a rare slam KO by Jessica Andrade. That's not a result you can expect to be duplicated in any fight, let alone this one. Namajunas has a submission loss on her record, but Zhang isn't likely to be fishing for a submission.
Zhang is a favorite for a reason, and the expectation is for her to come out of the fight still women's strawweight champion. With it being unlikely that she knocks out the durable and talented Namajunas, the most likely outcome for the fight is Zhang winning the decision. The +160 line reflects implied odds of slightly under 40%. That seems like an edge for the bettor who plays the champ to win on the scorecards.
Best parlay pick
An all champions ticket +127 (Usman -400, Zhang -200, Shevchenko -470)
The champions are all comfortable favorites heading into the event. That means we have the ability to put together a low-risk ticket of moneyline plays around all three champions retaining their titles. The three-leg parlay doesn't give you the eye-popping odds of a lot of parlays, but there are certainly ways to ramp things up.
Adding Randy Brown over Alex Oliveira at -150 to make a four-leg parlay increases the odds to +271 while still feeling relatively safe. Another option for a relatively safe fourth leg would be Jimmy Crute (-200) over Anthony Smith, which takes your parlay to +234.
If you're feeling particularly frisky, you could also remove the Zhang moneyline pick and replace it with the prop bet above of Zhang by decision, which takes your three-leg parlay to +285, though it's a safer choice to add Brown or Crute for slightly lower odds but without the threat of a prop tanking the whole ticket.
William Hill is also offering a boosted line on all three champions plus Uriah Hall at +400, up from roughly +356, which is an intriguing play for those looking to spice things up even further.
Who will win Usman vs. Masvidal, and which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks for UFC 261, all from the ultimate insider who's up almost $9,500 on MMA picks in the past year.