Kamaru Usman retained his welterweight title with a smothering victory over short-notice challenger Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 on Sunday.
Usman (17-1) earned his 16th straight MMA victory and defended his belt for the second time with a cerebral, technical performance against the 35-year-old Masvidal (35-14), who gallantly accepted his first UFC title shot on six days’ notice when Gilbert Burns tested positive for the coronavirus.
Kamaru Usman retains his UFC welterweight championship with a win by unanimous decision over Jorge Masvidal 🏆 #UFC251
— ESPN (@espn) July 12, 2020
In a interview with ESPN, the Nigerian Nightmare said:
“(Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now.” He also added. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking the fight on short notice, but all these guys are preparing for one guy, and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to make a mental shift. I had a completely different game plan.”
Masvidal was eager for a knockout, and the former backyard brawler came out swinging in an exciting first round. But while Masvidal’s wind faded, Usman coolly took charge with wrestling takedowns, foot stomps and judicious strikes mixed with superior conditioning.
Two judges scored it 50-45 for Usman, and a third had it 49-46.
Some fans might have booed Usman’s strategy, but there were no fans inside the temporary arena. UFC 251 began well before dawn Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi to meet the time demands of the lucrative North American pay-per-view audience, and the sun rose as the card progressed.