URIAH HALL VS. CHRIS WEIDMAN
More than a decade after their first meeting and a couple months removed from when they were initially set to run it back, veteran middleweights Uriah Hall and Chris Weidman will finally face off a second time in the final non-title fight of this weekend’s pay-per-view main card.
Hall comes into UFC 261 on arguably the best run of his UFC career, having earned three straight victories, capped by an emotional fourth-round stoppage victory over Anderson Silva last Halloween. The former Ultimate Fighter finalist has found a home at Fortis MMA in Dallas, and if he can continue his current run of success with a win over Weidman, the 36-year-old could put himself on the short list of potential title challengers in the 185-pound ranks heading into the second half of the year.
Weidman snapped a two-fight skid last summer with a unanimous decision victory over Omari Akhmedov following a one-off appearance at light heavyweight. The former middleweight titleholder is just 2-5 over his last seven fights dating back to his loss to Luke Rockhold, but believes his move to South Carolina will serve as a catalyst for a return to championship form.
This matchup comes together at the exact right time for each man, as this pairing represents the precise type of victory both Hall and Weidman need in order to solidify their place in the division and take another step forward in pursuit of title contention.
ANTHONY SMITH VS. JIMMY CRUTE
Saturday’s main card slate begins in the 205-pound weight class as former title challenger Anthony Smith squares off with Jimmy Crute in a fight that should be all-action from the outset.
The former title challenger Smith suffered consecutive losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic to begin his 2020 campaign, prompting some introspection from the thoughtful, 50-fight veteran. He returned to the Octagon in late November, registering a first-round submission win over Devin Clark, and looks to build on that momentum here by halting the rise of the Australian contender.
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A member of the Contender Series Class of ’18, Crute has earned four wins and four stoppages in five UFC starts thus far, rebounding from his first career loss in September 2019 with consecutive first-round finishes over Michal Oleksiejczuk and Modestas Bukauskas. Widely regarded as one of the top young talents on the UFC roster, the 25-year-old has a chance to catapult himself into the title conversation with a victory over Smith on Saturday.
Smith and Crute have 46 career victories between them, 40 of them coming by way of stoppage, while 14 of their combined 17 career setbacks have occurred inside the distance as well. Each is “must-see TV” on their own, and combined, they make for a killer start to what should be an explosive and exhilarating pay-per-view on Saturday night.