On July 11, Kamaru Usman squared off against Jorge Masvidal in a fight for the welterweight division title. Capping off a completely STACKED card that had three title fights and two highly anticipated bouts, as well as some interesting prelim matchups, the Usman/Masvidal fight was criticized as being boring compared to Holloway v Volkanovski, or Namajunas vs Andrade, both being properly hyped rematches
But a deeper look at the fight reveals just how dominant of a fighter Usman is. With a background based in wrestling, complemented by boxing and BJJ, Usman controls where the fight takes place, and grinds opponents down
Controlling the fight
Kamaru Usman is an extremely intelligent and hardworking fighter. This combination has propelled him to a 17-1 professional MMA record, undefeated in the UFC, and hasn’t lost since 2013
Usman is so dominant, he has NEVER been taken down in the UFC. Not a single time. He has spent over 99% of his time on the ground in a dominant position.
The aptly nicknamed Nigerian Nightmare often controls the center of the octagon, and forces his opponent to the edges, where he traps them in between the fence and himself. Once he gets them cornered, he’ll engage in the clinch and punish them with body and leg blows or take them down and ground and pound or attempt submissions
Usman likes to pin his 170 lbs of pure muscle against his opponent, and tire them out. If you’ve never done a grappling sport, this is incredibly exhausting. When you have a professional athlete actively fighting your every move and stopping every escape you try, it is both mentally and physically draining
When you lose fights in this fashion, it’s dominant. It debilitates your mental belief and resilience and forces you to dig into your deepest recesses just to keep the fight going and try and get back on your feet.
Masvidal is one of the best strikers in the world currently. He is a showman a la Connor McGregor and looks to keep the fight as a standup bout, opponents trading blows hoping for a knockout
Usman disrupted this rhythm totally
Masvidal won the first round by forcing Usman to respect his distance and then punishing him with punches to the body and occasionally head, and leg kicks. Usman attempted to close the distance and put Masvidal on the ground, but was thwarted with shown knees or evades every time
After that it was the Nigerian Nightmare’s fight
Kamaru sought positioning, taking the center of the octagon, using his intelligence to bait Masvidal to where he wanted him. Usman would then wait for a Masvidal attack to fight back and force the fight to the edges, where he could pin him against the fence
Jorge was fantastic at staying on his feet here, particularly early on, but Usman punished him with striking nonetheless. Stomping his feet, kneeing his thighs and causing charlie horses, shoulders and elbows to the head, hooks to the body, he wore him down and drew early blood
After a punishing second and third rounds, Usman was able to put Masvidal on the floor with consistent ease. From there the victory was a walk, he just needed to avoid being knocked out
He did just that, and Kamaru Usman successfully defended his title once again
Despite Usman’s complete and utter dominance, a lot of the language was centered around the champ being boring, or only winning because of short notice
Kamaru “Snoozeman,” he was often being labeled
Masvidal fans suggested Usman would lose if they each had six months to train and prepare
After the Colby Covington fight, Usman’s first defense, the excuses came rushing to the forefront. “The refs cheated Colby,” “Colby was tremendous against an overrated fighter.” These were the sorts of reviews being pushed by a lot of the fan base following Kamaru vs Colby
Yes, Colby Covington did put in a good show, but he still got knocked out in the final round. He managed to push the champ to the 5th round, as Masvidal did as well, but lost as time ran down
The criticisms first started after Woodley’s fight, where Usman first one the welterweight title
They said Woodley was distracted, focused on his rap career instead of his fighting, and too busy planning for the future.
In reality, Usman is just dominant.
Kamaru Usman is the #5 pound for pound fighter in the world
He controls where the fight takes place, whether it’s at the center of the octagon or along the cage. Whether it’s on the ground, in the clinch, or standup
He baits his opponent into disadvantageous positions just so he can launch a takedown and get him exactly where he wants him. He’s a tremendously intelligent fighter, and no one in the UFC has shown an answer so far
His grocery list of defeated opponents is not lacking in big names either. Leon Edwards, Demian Maia, Rafael Dos Anjos, Tyrone Woodley, Colby Covington, and now Jorge Masvidal can all boast about losing to the Nigerian Nightmare
It’s not as if Masvidal is lack for beating wrestlers. His most famous win was the fastest knockout in history against Ben Askren, a renowned and extremely talented wrestler.
Kamaru Usman proves time and time again, he’s worthy of the distinction of fifth best fighter in the world, and it’s time we start putting some respect on his name