The stage was set for what was considered a highly-anticipated matchup at UFC 251. Two top welterweights with animosity towards one another fought under the most unique of circumstances. In the end, the champion reigned supreme.
On Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, Kamaru Usman was able to control Jorge Masvidal for multiple rounds. The former would end up retaining his UFC Welterweight Title via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in a fight that was confirmed just ten+ days before the card took place.
“He’s [Masvidal] the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman stated after the fight. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on a week’s notice. … I had to make a mental shift… I’m just at a level better. I have more tools in the toolbox.”
Masvidal (35-14) was a last-minute replacement for Gilbert Burns, who tested positive for COVID-19. While he had less than three days to cut 20 pounds, Masvidal was able to get it done. He also surprised many with how good he looked in the first round. Masvidal would hit elbows to the face of Usman (17-1) as the latter immediately took him down to the floor. While he might not have had a clear advantage, Masvidal outstruck Usman early 27-8. A clash of heads had Masvidal bleeding, but that did not stop a smiling “Gamebred” from landing jabs and lefts.
— UFC (@ufc) July 12, 2020
Following a solid performance to open things up, Masvidal wasn’t able to keep the momentum he had.
Usman, who did not control the ground or cage game in his fight with Colby Covington last time out, managed to hit multiple takedowns in the second. Masvidal was able to back out of them but Usman would punish him with shoulder strikes. He would grind Masvidal up against the cage many times to tire him out.
Round three saw Usman chase Masvidal, who was still smiling. Usman would stomp at the feet of Masvidal throughout the bout to make it easier for him to take him down. While Masvidal’s takedown defense was impressive, it was tiring him out to the point that Usman would not let him move on his own. A shot below the belt gave Masvidal a few minutes to compose himself. Usman would then pound away with a few elbows following a flipped takedown attempt.
Round four saw Usman land a huge kick to the chest of Masvidal. As Masvidal tried for a guillotine, Usman would still drag him down. In the middle of the round, Usman was landing 48 strikes compared to Masvidal’s 11. Usman would end up with 263 shots. Usman landed with a huge left hook and another as he had Masvidal up by the cage. Usman would continue to land body shots and elbows in the fifth as Masvidal tried to find some sort of momentum. He would hit a flying knee and a few rights before the two embraced.
— UFC (@ufc) July 12, 2020
In the end, the ground game was important, as Usman had over ten minutes of control time and five takedowns.
Masvidal, with a career that has gone on since 2003, ended a three-fight win streak. He is now 6-3 in nine fights dating back to 2016.
Usman has now won 16 in a row. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter Welterweight Tournament, Usman is now hoping to face either Burns or whoever decides to stand in his way.