Kamaru Usman always tells his opponents he’s a problem and it turns out Jorge Masvidal didn’t have an answer after spending five rounds with him in the UFC 251 main event.
The reigning and defending welterweight champion bullied Masvidal for the better part of five rounds as he showcased a suffocating game plan and grappling dominance to ultimately earn a lopsided unanimous decision following a 25-minute battle.
The judges scored the fight 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 as Usman successful defends his title for the second time.
“’Gamebred’ is the biggest, baddest dude out there,” Usman said when paying homage to his opponent. “I had to switch gears and get ready for him on six days’ notice. “Gamebred” is tough and he showed it out there. He kept fighting and he didn’t quit.
“I’m just levels better. I have more tools in the toolbox. When I need to pull them out, I can pull them out and use them.
It was a battle of game plans early with Usman trying to slow Masvidal down with a strong clinch game as well as several takedown attempts. Masvidal countered by forcing him to work during every grappling exchange and then making him pay whenever they were separated on the feet.
At distance, Masvidal was able to connect with several quick combinations including a couple hard punches that absolutely caught Usman’s attention.
In return, Usman opted to shift the momentum by grinding Masvidal against the cage as he sought to maul him from inside the clinch. Usman wasn’t doing a ton of damage but he was forcing Masvidal to constantly defend the potential takedowns while getting peppered with short punches and elbows.
Late in the third round, Usman slammed Masvidal to the ground with a powerful body lock takedown as he began working from the top. The “BMF” champion was able to scramble free earlier in the fight but as the seconds ticked away into minutes, he was struggling to get back to his feet.
Even when Masvidal managed to get separation on the feet, his breathing was labored and Usman was able to get inside with relative ease. Eventually, Usman would find a way to take the fight back to the ground as he looked to suffocate Masvidal with top pressure combined with his ground and pound attack.
By the time the fifth round was coming to a close, Usman was comfortably ahead but he never stopped applying pressure while attempting to take the last breath from Masvidal’s lungs. When the fight ended, Usman and Masvidal put the bad blood behind them and embraced after a hard fought battle.
Usman has now won 12 straight fights in the division — a feat matched only by former champion Georges St-Pierre — while also notching a second straight title defense. Vacation was the only thing on Usman’s mind afterwards, although knows contenders like Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards are anxiously awaiting the chance to face him next.
“I’m at the top of the mountain,” Usman said. “I’m the champion. Everybody’s looking at me. There’s never going to be a shortage of contenders, guys trying to challenge for the title.”
As for Masvidal, the result didn’t go his way but he still took on the best welterweight in the world on six days’ notice and made it to the final bell. If he can return to the win column in the near future, it’s likely he’ll look to secure the rematch with a full training camp behind him before facing off with Usman again.