- Kamaru Usman dominated Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 251 in the early hours of Sunday.
- Usman used foot stomps, grappling against the fence, and smothering tactics on the floor to force Masvidal to fight his fight – one which the Floridian was never going to win.
- Usman won a one-sided decision on the judges’ scorecards.
- The UFC president Dana White said later in the press room that Gilbert Burns, the fighter who was denied passage to “Fight Island” because of a positive coronavirus test, would get the net shot at Usman’s title.
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FIGHT ISLAND – Kamaru Usman dominated Jorge Masvidal in a UFC welterweight title fight Sunday in which the reigning champion relied on a number of skills that continued to work throughout the bout.
Though the win was not in an Octagon on a sandy beach, with the UFC president Dana White sitting on a throne surrounded by tiki torches, it was still broad daylight outside, it was still on “Fight Island,” and it was still an extraordinary moment in mixed martial arts history.
Usman was never even supposed to be fighting Masvidal, but Gilbert Burns, the No.1 contender in the 170-pound division.
A positive coronavirus test last weekend prevented Burns from travelling and UFC decision-makers had to scramble to find a replacement.
The company negotiated a new, multi-fight contract with Masvidal, who tested negative for the coronavirus Sunday, took a private jet to Abu Dhabi on Monday, but stopped at Rome for a pizze slice en route.
Usman, too, arrived on “Fight Island,” a quarantined area on Yas Island built to help the UFC hold international events during the coronavirus pandemic, from another continent only a week ago.
And from there, both athletes had to quarantine in separate hotel rooms to abide United Arab Emirates government guidelines regarding COVID-19. Then they had to make weight … during an ongoing pandemic.
It all made for an extraordinary build-up. These are extraordinary times, and these are extraordinary fights.
Masvidal began the fight throwing heavy kicks, with a whip which could be heard clearly from press row. But it was not long before Usman took advantage of the openings, caught a kick, and took the Floridian fighter to the floor.
When Masvidal was back to his feet he was once again throwing strikes with bad intentions, fighting in bursts rather than a steady marathon pace.
Whenever Usman had Masvidal on the fence, he’d lean on him, push into him, and then stamp on his feet just because.
He’d throw digs to the body from the inside, peppering Masvidal with shots, stamps to the feet, and then drive his knuckles into his thighs.
It was all designed to deplete whatever Masvidal had – his energy reserves, and his desire.
But whenever the fight was back in the middle of the Octagon, Masvidal was back throwing strikes, kicks and punches, with maximum conviction.
Towards the middle of the fight and beyond, a familiar theme would take hold. Masvidal could blow all the kisses he wanted at Usman, but it would not change the fact that he was vulnerable to single legs, second-best against the fence, and was out-worked in the clinch.
— ESPN (@espn) July 12, 2020
Masvidal had sporadic moments in the fifth but, really, the fight belonged to Usman and he did in the final round what had worked so well beforehand. More foot stomps, more inside game against the fence, and more smothering work on the mat.
There were great expectations surrounding Masvidal. He was, and remains, the “Baddest Mother F—–.” And he had a storming 2019 with victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz.
But this just shows how good Usman is. He forced Masvidal to fight his fight at his pace, stuck to his own game-plan, and kept doing over and over what worked.
In the press room after the bout, the UFC president Dana White said that Burns, the fighter denied passage to “Fight Island” because of a positive coronavirus test, would get the next shot at Usman’s title.
With scores of 50-45 (twice) and 49-46, Usman – 17 wins (seven knockouts, 1 submission, and 9 decisions) against just the one loss – ended Masvidal’s hot streak, making a second defence of his UFC welterweight championship.
On this form, it is hard to see how takes that belt from him.