Jorge Masvidal walked an unlikely path in combat sports, from unsanctioned brawls in the same steamy Miami boatyards that spawned Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson to the blazing limelight of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. His was a journey wrought with success, failure and everything in between.
Now 35 years of age and 48 fights into his professional career, Masvidal has positioned himself as the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds and the likely challenger for undisputed welterweight champion Kamaru Usman whenever the UFC resumes its schedule. The American Top Team export has rattled off three consecutive victories, all by finish against increasingly difficult opposition. Masvidal sports a 12-6 record in the UFC, his resume highlighted by wins over Darren Till, Donald Cerrone, Michael Chiesa, Tim Means and several other accomplished contemporaries.
In a career already full of defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. A Glimpse of the Future
One of Masvidal’s early-career conquests has aged quite well upon further review. “Gamebred” put away the previously unbeaten Joe Lauzon—both men were 20 years old at the time—with punches in the second round of the Absolute Fighting Championships 12 main event on April 30, 2005 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Lauzon, who accepted the fight on less than a week’s notice, succumbed to blows 3:57 into Round 2. Masvidal nearly ended it inside the first few minutes, as he delivered a powerful slam that left his counterpart teetering on the brink of unconsciousness. Referee Troy Waugh for reasons that remain unclear paused the action briefly to warn “Gamebred” and afford Lauzon time to recover. Masvidal spent the rest of the first round outscrambling and outgrappling the Brockton, Massachusetts, native on the mat. Once the middle stanza commenced, a winded Lauzon had little to offer. Masvidal assumed top position, cued up his ground-and-pound and prompted the stoppage with a volley of unanswered punches. Both men later made their way to the UFC.
2. Building Awareness
A 22-year-old Masvidal accelerated his ascent under the Bodog Fight banner on July 14, 2007, when he wiped out the highly regarded Yves Edwards with a head kick and follow-up punches 2:59 into the second round of their clash at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. Edwards—who was 30 at the time and had 44 pro bouts under his belt—controlled many of the initial exchanges with kicks to the leg and body, pinpoint jabs and effective counters. Masvidal disrupted his rhythm in the second round, where he executed a takedown, applied his ground-and-pound and opened a cut near the veteran’s right eye. Edwards grew increasingly aggressive once he returned to his feet. Masvidal resisted his advances, created the necessary space and fired a rear-leg head kick from the orthodox stance. His shin struck Edwards’ skull, sent him crashing to the canvas and left him defenseless against subsequent punches. Suddenly, the MMA became far more aware of the young, talented and charismatic Masvidal.
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3. Deadly Inversion
It can only be described as jaw-dropping. Toby Imada choked Masvidal unconscious with a standing inverted triangle in the third round of their Bellator MMA Season 1 lightweight tournament semifinal under the Bellator 5 banner on May 1, 2009 at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio. “Gamebred” was ahead on the scorecards heading to Round 3 and appeared ticketed for a tournament final against Eddie Alvarez. Imada had other plans. A wrestling exchange saw Masvidal attempt to slam the journeyman. However, he failed to control Imada’s legs while attempting to stand, allowing him to move to an upside-down rear waist lock. Imada also snaked his legs into a figure four around the Miami native’s neck. Masvidal showed no real signs of distress—until he toppled over unconscious 3:22 into the third round, his face having turned a grotesque shade of purple due to lack of blood flow.
4. Flight Plan
Masvidal at UFC 239 recorded the fastest knockout in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as he cut down former Bellator and One Championship titleholder Ben Askren with a flying knee in the first round of their featured welterweight pairing on July 6, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Masvidal sent the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and onetime Olympian into another dimension five seconds into Round 1. Askren shot for takedown right out of the gate and paid an unimaginably steep price. Masvidal took flight, beat him to the spot and connected with full force, the impact of the concussive blow echoing through a stunned arena. Askren fell to the ground stiff and unconscious before being met with a few follow-up punches from the ruthless Floridian.
5. Meet the BMF
Jagged elbows and scar tissue set the stage for a decisive but anticlimactic finish, as Masvidal was awarded a technical knockout against Nate Diaz in the UFC 244 headliner on Nov. 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York. The cageside physician called for the stoppage due to cuts in between the third and fourth rounds, much to the dismay of the two combatants and those in attendance. Understandably, neither Masvidal nor Diaz seemed satisfied with how the situation played out, though history figures to show “Gamebred” was the vastly superior fighter. He decided when and where to engage, taunted Diaz with wry smiles and tore into him with virtually every weapon in his arsenal. An elbow strike from the clinch opened the first cut, and by fight’s end, it stretched across almost the entire length of Diaz’s right eyebrow. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner also sported a horizontal gash below his eye on the same side—further evidence that his 15-minute clash with Masvidal had not gone as he had hoped. The victory brought with it the symbolic BMF title.
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