MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 261, a five-round UFC welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Jorge Masvidal. The event takes place on Saturday, April 24 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Kamaru Usman (-420)
Usman (18-1) is the UFC welterweight champion. The 33-year-old Nigerian has been in the UFC since 2015 when he won “The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians.” He has since then racked up a perfect 13-0 record in the UFC with notable wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos, Demian Maia, and Gilbert Burns, among others. He has only lost once in his whole career back in 2013 and since then he has been crushing the competition. Usman is extremely well-rounded, which makes him a nightmare matchup for everyone else in the division. He has tremendous wrestling, improved striking, really good cardio and a solid chin which has allowed him to excel at the top of the welterweight division. He has very few holes in his game so it will be interesting to see how this rematch against Masvidal goes.
Jorge Masvidal (+335)
Masvidal (35-14) is the No. 4 ranked welterweight in the UFC. The 36-year-old American has been in the UFC since 2013 and he has since then racked up a 12-7 record in the Octagon, with notable wins over Nate Diaz, Ben Askren, Michael Chiesa, and Darren Till. Masvidal for years was a journeyman who bounced from promotion to promotion, but over the last couple of years, he has really exploded into a superstar for the UFC. Masvidal has always been an underrated fighter who is well-rounded and good everywhere, with sharp striking skills, solid grappling, great cardio, and iron chin, but once he started knocking his opponents out in devastating fashion he really started to see a resurgence in his career. Masvidal showed in the first fight against Usman last year that he could go the 25 minutes with the champ, but he didn’t have much success. It will be interesting to see what changes he’s made since then as he looks to right the ship and win the belt this time around.
Fight Breakdown: We just saw this same matchup last year and I am not convinced anything changes, even with the full training camp for Masvidal. Stylistically, I just think Usman is a bad matchup for a lot of fighters in the welterweight division and Masvidal is no different. Usman is able to stand and strike with anyone and we know he has the wrestling to bail him out. Although Masvidal has surely been drilling his takedown defense over the last 10 months, I’m not convinced he will be able to consistently stop Usman’s takedowns. And even if he does stop the takedowns, Usman showed in the first fight that he can press Masvidal against the cage and grind out the decision. As much as it would be cool to see Masvidal score another highlight-reel knockout, I’m not seeing it with this fight. Just like last year on Fight Island, look for Usman to win a decision on the scorecards.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman