Following a remarkable night of fights at UFC 261 in which all three champions on the card were at the top of their game, the recipients of the evening’s $50,000 bonus awards were announced.
Despite all the main card fireworks, it was actually a preliminary card bout that earned ‘Fight of The Night’ honors, as Jeff Molina battled his way to a unanimous decision win over Qileng Aori.
Along the way, Molina broke the record for the most significant strikes in a flyweight fight, racking up 189 in total, while also dropping Aori twice, but his opponent managed to dig deep and take the fight to the scorecards.
Meanwhile, the two ‘Performance Of The Night’ awards practically picked themselves, and of course included main event winner Kamaru Usman, who dominated Jorge Masvidal with wrestling the first time they fought, but this time showed off his incredibly well-rounded skills by KO’ing him on the feet.
The punch that led to Masvidal’s demise was picture-perfect, with Usman throwing everything into a straight right that landed flush to the face, sending a spray of sweat into the air as ‘Gamebred’ appeared to lose consciousness on his way down, only to groggily wake up as he crashed onto the canvas, at which point hammerfists sealed the knockout stoppage.
The icing on the cake for Usman was that this is the first time in his entire career that Masvidal had been KO’d, and completely shuts down any need to ever see these two stars fight again.
The other performance bonus was rightly handed to co-main event winner Rose Namajunas, whose KO stoppage of strawweight champion Zhang Weili was every bit as good as Usman’s, and perhaps moreso given that on paper this figured to be an extremely closely contested bout.
Instead, Namajunas sealed the deal in jaw-dropping fashion just 78 seconds into the opening round as she landed a perfectly executed lead leg head kick that dropped her hard.
Weili tried to rise up, only to be KO’d by a few follow-up hammerfists on the mat for another exceptional highlight reel finish on the UFC’s first card in front of a full arena of fans in over a year.