MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 251, a five-round UFC welterweight title bout between champion Kamaru Usman and top contender Jorge Masvidal. The event takes place on Saturday, July 11 at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Kamaru Usman (-325)
Usman (16-1) is the UFC welterweight champion. The 33-year-old Nigerian is currently riding a 15-fight win streak, including a perfect 11-0 mark in the UFC, with wins over the likes of Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos, and Demian Maia. Usman has been unstoppable so far in the UFC as he’s been able to dominate nearly all of his opponents. His wrestling game is his bread-and-butter, but he’s also displayed improved striking, making him an incredibly-dangerous opponent for anyone in the division. Usman’s conditioning is top-notch and he is able to go a hard 25 minutes while also displaying a stout chin. Usman is a very well-rounded fighter and has been a model champion in the vein of Georges St. Pierre since he won the belt. A win over Masvidal here should launch him into the top-five of the pound-for-pound rankings.
Jorge Masvidal (+265)
Masvidal (35-13) is the No. 3 ranked welterweight in the UFC. The 35-year-old American is a 17-year-veteran of the fight game but he has really come into his own the last few years. Overall, Masvidal has a 12-6 record in the UFC including a 7-4 mark as a welterweight. He has notable wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, Ben Askren, Darren Till, Donald Cerrone, Michael Chiesa, and many of his losses have been narrow decisions. For years Masvidal has been a gatekeeper at 155lbs and 170lbs but in the last two years, he has exploded into a superstar in MMA. He was arguably the top fighter of the year in 2019 with the three stoppage wins over Diaz, Askren, and Till, and he deserves this title shot based on his body of work. Masvidal is one of the most talented strikers in the welterweight division with elite boxing and KO power, plus he has improved wrestling that makes him well rounded. He has great cardio, an iron chin, and that “it” factor that makes him so dangerous. Masvidal is filling in against Gilbert Burns here on short notice, but don’t count him out.
Fight Breakdown: This is such an awesome main event. It’s unfortunate it took Burns dropping out due to COVID-19 to make it happen, but in the end, the fans got the fight they wanted between Usman and Burns. This is a tough fight to call, in my opinion, and the odds are reflective of how competitive I see this fight being. Usman has looked great in the UFC and his combination of striking and wrestling makes him a tough out for anyone, but Masvidal is fighting with an insane level of confidence right now and has improved in every area of this game. I really like both Usman and Masvidal as MMA fighters and it’s hard picking against either guy right now, but I need to pick a winner and I’m going with Masvidal. I wish Masvidal had a full training camp for this fight, but we’ve seen many fighters over the years come in on short notice and pick up upsets, so even with that going against him I still think he can win. I believe the fight is way closer than the odds suggest and I think Masvidal has a legitimate path to victory if he can keep this fight standing. Either he wins by TKO or by decision, but I believe we will see a new UFC welterweight champion on Saturday night.
Prediction: Jorge Masvidal wins via TKO