Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman says he believes there's too big of a gap between himself and the rest of the division for any potential challengers to close in. He's also aware Jorge Masvidal disagrees, which is why he granted the fourth-ranked contender a rematch that will highlight a loaded UFC 261 card in Jacksonville on Saturday. Their bout tops the docket from Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena, and the main UFC 261 fight card is set for 10 p.m. ET. Last July, Usman defeated Masvidal in a five-round decision in a bout both combatants took on short notice. Masvidal has repeatedly claimed the outcome would be different with more time to prepare, and Usman says he agreed to the rematch simply to prove "Gamebred" wrong.
Usman is a -400 favorite (risk $400 to win $100), while Masvidal is a +320 underdog in the latest Usman vs. Masvidal odds from William Hill Sportsbook. In the co-main event, women's strawweight champion Zhang Weili (-185) will defend her title against top-ranked contender Rose Namajunas (+165). Before locking in any picks of your own for Usman vs. Masvidal 2 or the rest of the UFC 261 card, make sure you see the MMA predictions from SportsLine insider Ian Parker.
A former fighter who's been in the industry for 15 years, Parker has managed some of the world's best, including former UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman, Costas Philippou and Gian Villante. Parker trained alongside UFC Hall of Famer Matt Serra. Now, Parker breaks down fights and makes betting picks for the Voice of the UFC, Jon Anik.
Parker is coming off a mind-boggling 2020 season. On the Anik & Florian Podcast, Parker went an astounding 58-14, returning $9,465 to $100 bettors who followed him. He hit 11 of his 17 underdog picks and 19 of 30 main events. Overall, Parker nailed an astonishing 81 percent of his plays.
Parker already has proven his mettle to SportsLine members, as he went 4-1 at UFC 259 to give his followers a profitable card. His winners included telling SportsLine members to back former champion Dominick Cruz (+120) against Casey Kenney (-140) in the featured preliminary bout. Moreover, Parker is 8-1 on Bellator picks since joining SportsLine for a profit of nearly $700. Anyone who has followed Parker already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC 261 in sight, Parker has studied the MMA odds and matchups from every angle and released his top picks. You can only see them here.
UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal preview
Parker knows the main event presents a defining moment in the careers of both fighters. This is particularly the case for Masvidal (35-14), who could be looking at his last title shot should he come up short in Saturday's rematch.
Long a favorite of MMA fans, Masvidal rose to international fame in 2019 with a remarkable run that included a knockout of Darren Till as well as his infamous five-second, flying-knee knockout of Ben Askren.
His lone appearance last year came on a week's notice against Usman as a short-notice replacement for Gilbert Burns. Masvidal endured a massive weight cut and, despite having a few notable moments, was mostly dominated by the elusive champion.
Usman (18-1), whose only professional MMA defeat came nearly eight years ago, hopes another dominant victory will generate the widespread respect he covets. He already has defeated every fighter in the top five of the welterweight division with the exception of Stephen Thompson.
The champion has repeatedly said he took a rematch with Masvidal to remove all doubt as to who is the superior fighter, a counter to the challenger's assertion that the outcome might have been different with a full training camp. You can only see Parker's coveted Usman vs. Masvidal 2 picks here.
Top UFC 261 predictions
We'll share one of Parker's UFC 261 picks here: He is backing Chris Weidman (-105) to get his hand raised against Uriah Hall (-115) in a rematch of veteran middleweight contenders.
This is a rematch that dates back to September 2010, when both fighters were part of the Ring of Combat promotion. Weidman won by first-round stoppage and went on to a decorated career that saw him become the UFC middleweight champion at the expense of legend Anderson Silva. Hall also emerged as a UFC contender, but never escalated high enough to compete for a title.
Both fighters are making late-career surges, and the winner will have a leg up on joining the conversation for a title shot. The No. 11-ranked Weidman (15-5) won his last fight, but his durability has been brought into question because of stoppage losses in five of his last seven fights.
Conversely, the ninth-ranked Hall (16-9) comes in on a three-fight win streak, with two coming inside the distance. He stopped Silva in the fourth round of their October clash.
"If the former champ wants to make it two in a row, he will have to push the pace on Hall and get the fight to the ground as soon as possible," Parker told SportsLine.
How to make UFC 261 picks
Parker also has strong picks for Usman vs. Masvidal 2 and other fights on the UFC 261 card. He's also backing a fighter who "has the ability to take strikes and deliver them twice as hard" to get a convincing win. Those selections are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Usman vs. Masvidal 2? And which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed UFC 261 picks, all from the ultimate insider who's up nearly $9,500 on MMA picks in the past year, and find out.
UFC 261 odds
Kamaru Usman (-400) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+320)
Zhang Weili (-185) vs. Rose Namajunas (+165)
Valentina Shevchenko (-400) vs. Jessica Andrade (+320)
Uriah Hall (-115) vs. Chris Weidman (-105)
Jim Crute (-190) vs. Anthony Smith (+170)
Randy Brown (-155) vs. Alex Oliveira (+135)
Dwight Grant (-250) vs. Stefan Sekulic (+210)
Brendan Allen (-130) vs. Karl Roberson (+110)
Patrick Sabatini (-220) vs. Tristan Connelly (+190)
Danaa Batgerel (-145) vs. Kevin Natividad (+125)
Zhu Rong (-250) vs. Rodrigo Vargas (+210)
Jeff Molina (-110) vs. Qileng Aori (-110)
Ariane Carnelossi (-180) vs. Na Liang (+160)
Johnny Munoz (-275) vs. Jamey Simmons (+235)