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After an interesting opening stanza, Kamaru Usman imposed his will against Jorge Masvidal for the better part of four rounds in the UFC 251 headliner.
What resulted was a steady diet of clinch work, pressure, takedowns and a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph. While it wasn’t the most fan-friendly effort, Usman was rarely threatened once Masvidal, who accepted the fight on six days’ notice, emptied his gas tank in a fast-paced opening stanza.
With the win, Usman tied Georges St. Pierre for the most consecutive victories in UFC welterweight history with 12. “The Nigerian Nightmare” is well aware that dominance brings criticism, and he pointed to another kindred spirit in the combat sports realm during Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
“There was a time where people started hating Floyd Mayweather because he was so dominant,” Usman said. “Floyd’s defense was so good, and he was just so good at what he did. We can agree on that. He was so good at what he did where everyone was like, ‘No, that’s boring. He’s not fighting.’ Why? Because people want to see a bar fight?”
Saturday night in Abu Dhabi was a stark contrast to Usman’s first title defense, when he slugged it out with Colby Covington before earning a fifth-round TKO at UFC 245 this past December. That performance was something of an outlier, as Usman is generally able to utilize his wrestling to dictate the location of his fights – an ideal approach against a dangerous striker like Masvidal.
“We’re risking our lives in there,” Usman said. “What is the point of training every day, and then going in there and slugging it out, taking punches? You train to be able to make someone miss, to control someone in a certain way. That’s what training is for, so you’re not just going in there and taking punishment at will. I do that better than anybody.”
Masvidal entered UFC 251 on the heels of a breakout 2019 campaign that included stoppages of Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. The Miami native is well established as a dangerous veteran, and Usman responded to naysayers by pointing out that he was active for the entire 25 minutes.
“Maybe they need to get in there and fight Jorge Masvidal for 25 minutes and then say something,” Usman said. “Whoever is saying that can say whatever they want. I went out and kept working. I worked for 25 minutes. Even when we were up against the cage standing, I worked for 25 minutes. I gave him opportunities to get off the cage, but he was content standing there and I kept working.
“So whoever is saying that, come share the Octagon with Jorge Masvidal for 25 minutes, then we’ll see what you’ve got to say.”
While Usman and Masvidal engaged in the typical pre-fight banter – including a confrontation on media row during Super Bowl week – the two welterweight stars squashed their beef in the cage following the UFC 251 main event. Usman even admitted that he wouldn’t mind running it back against “Gamebred” somewhere down the road.
“It’s just mutual respect,” Usman said. “It’s hard not to respect a man when you spend 25 minutes in that Octagon punching each other in the face. Yeah, it’s just mutual respect. We both feel that we’ll do it again. Absolutely. I would like more time to prepare for a guy like that and really be able to dominate in the way that I want to – picking my spots and try to get that finish standing.”
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