Kamaru Usman won his 16th consecutive fight, improved to 12-0 in the UFC and retained his welterweight belt with a unanimous-decision win (50-45, 49-46, 50-45) over Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal in Saturday’s UFC 251 main event. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ cashed tickets as a -260 favorite and the headlining scrap went ‘over’ 4.5 rounds at a -105 price.
Usman to win by decision earned a +165 payout at 5Dimes. Masvidal still hasn’t been finished in 11 years. He fell to 35-14 overall and 12-7 in the UFC. All seven defeats have come via decision, including four split-decision losses.
MajorWager scored it 49-46 for Usman, giving Masvidal Round 1.
Masvidal set a fast pace in the opening frame, connecting with a bunch of big strikes. In the second round, Usman tried to slow Masvidal down and did so with grinding clinch work.
Perhaps a fight without a crowd worked to Usman’s advantage, because the boo-birds would’ve been raining down on the champion. Large portions of the scrap were spent with Usman clinching Masvidal against the fence while utilizing foot stomps and shoulder bumps.
The fight was competitive the entire way, but Usman’s wrestling was too much for Masvidal over the span of 25 minutes. Masvidal defended the takedowns well in the early going, and eventually got back to his feet after being taken to the canvas nearly every time, something that rarely happens for opponents when Usman gets top position.
However, when the fight was standing and Masvidal’s back was close to the fence, especially in the last three rounds, the 35-year-old Miami product didn’t circle out when the next double-leg shot from Usman was clearly on its way. Perhaps that was a gas-tank issue, one brought on by needing to lose 20 pounds in a 5-6 day window and taking the fight on short notice?
“‘Gamebred’ is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” said Usman at his post-fight presser. “I had to take six years to prepare for him on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made on him taking the fight on short notice, but he was preparing. 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 trained for Gilbert and I had a completely different game plan. I had a lot of little things coming into the fight, but those are no excuse. ‘Gamebred’ is tough and he showed it out there. He took a lot of big elbows down there on the bottom but he kept getting up, kept fighting and didn’t quit.”
After six months of bad blood and trash talk, the fighters appeared to squash things and embraced momentarily when the fifth round ended.
“It’s hard not to respect a man when you share 25 minutes with him in the Octagon,” Usman said.
“The weight cut was tough like everybody knows,” Masvidal said. “I had a little bit of weight to cut but I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. He won. I gambled the dice on myself. I knew I didn’t have the greatest gas tank coming in, but I’m still a dangerous man. Six days, one day, six weeks, so hats off to him. We’ll do it again.”
Masvidal conceded that he knows he has to go win a fight impressively to get another crack at the belt.
When asked if that foe could be former friend and American Top Team teammate Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington, Masvidal said, “The fragile guy with the MAGA hat, definitely not him. Cause he got finished by [Usman] with a full training camp. He had like 12 weeks and he got finished by that guy. That guy’s below me and this dude by a lot.
“Six days’ notice and I was nowhere near getting hurt or getting put out. The gas tank wasn’t the best but I wasn’t going nowhere as far as damage goes. Everybody could see that. So definitely not that punk.”
UFC President Dana White implied that Gibert Burns, who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 3, would get the next shot at Usman. Leon Edwards was offered the Usman fight for UFC 251, but he declined due to timing and issues with his training caused by the pandemic.
Edwards has won eight straight fights, but his winning streak was preceded by a loss to Usman.
One Bellagio bettor lost $100,000 on Masvidal that would’ve won $200,000.
This gambler had to be furious because his two wagers should’ve netted a $175,000 profit. However, the judges inexplicably gave Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski a split-decision win over Max Holloway (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) in the co-main event.
MajorWager scored it 49-46 for Holloway.
According to MMADecisions, 18 media members had the fight in favor of Holloway, while nine media members gave it to Volkanovski. The only round that was clearly for the champion was Round 5.
White thought Holloway won and when he asked the media on hand in Abu Dhabi if any of them had Volkanovski winning, nobody claimed to have scored it for the champ.
**B.E.’s Bonus Octagon Nuggets**
–According to Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a William Hill bettor lost $200,000 on a Masvidal wager for a +230 return.
–‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas defeated Jessica Andrade via split decision in the second fight on the main card. Both women garnered an extra $50,000 when they were awarded Fight of the Night honors. According to MMADecisions, all 19 media members scored the bout in favor of Namajunas. In fact, one had it 30-27 for Namajunas. Therefore, the only person who claims that Andrade won was judge Mark Collett, who also scored the co-main event for Volkanovski.
–Petr Yan is the new bantamweight champion after closing strong for a fifth-round knockout win over former featherweight king Jose Aldo. Referee Leon Roberts inexplicably allowed the fight to continue for at least 45 seconds and probably 15-20 extra punches, when Aldo wasn’t fighting back or moving and merely trying to block all of the strikes from Yan. It was one of the worst late stoppage you’ll ever see. With that said, Aldo looked outstanding in the first three rounds and Yan didn’t start to take over until the later stages of the fourth stanza. The 27-year-old Russian will most likely make his first title defense against Aljamain Sterling.
–The Performance of the Night bonuses went to Jiri Prochazka and Davey Grant.
–Prochazka improved to 27-3-1 by winning his promotional debut with a second-round knockout of seventh-ranked light heavyweight contender Volkan ‘No Time’ Oezdemir. Prochazka, who has incredibly long arms and an 80-inch reach, landed a headkick that backed up Oezdemir. Then he popped Oezdemir in the face with a stiff left and finished the combination with a thunderous right that turned out the lights. Prochazka now has 24 career knockouts and only two of his 31 career contests have made it to the third round. He looks like a serious contender in the 205-pound loop.
–It was all ‘chalk’ on the main card, including Amanda Ribas’s first-round submission win over Paige ’12 Gauge’ VanZant. Ribas improved to 10-1 overall and 4-0 in the UFC in her flyweight debut. However, Ribas indicated that she wanted to go back down to strawweight for her next scrap. We’ve probably seen the last of VanZant in the UFC. Her contract expired after this bout, and White said, “she should definitely test free agency.”
–Even though Grant sustained a broken jaw in Round 1 of his bantamweight showdown vs. Martin Day, he won with a one-punch KO in the third stanza.