Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman was expecting to face Gilbert Burns in the UFC 251 main event on Saturday but Burns was forced out of the fight after testing positive to COVID-19 on July 3. At the time, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal was embattled in a contract dispute with the fight promotion.
Opportunity presented itself and when opportunity knocked, Masvidal answered the door. On six days notice, the 35-year old reached an agreement with the organization and stepped in as a late replacement to face the champion.
Masvidal came out predictably aggressive in the opening round. He was faster than Usman and took the fight to the titleholder. He delivered leg kicks and connected with punches. Usman looked to get the fight to the ground but Masvidal remained standing. In the clinch, Usman began to find success.
In the second frame, Usman continued to try and get the fight to the ground, but was having difficulty. Masvidal defended five of Usman’s first six takedown attempts. Usman’s strategy became concentrated on closing the distance and pressuring Masvidal against the cage. In the clinch, Usman delivered foot stomps, body shots, and shoulder strikes.
The pattern of closing the distance and clinching played out for the remainder of the fight. At distance, Masvidal was a threat, but Usman neutralized him. In the fourth and fifth rounds, Usman began to dominate Masvidal. While Masvidal showed his toughness and determination, Usman was too much for him on the ground. After 25 minute of fighting, two judges scored the fight 50-45 for Usman and one scored the bout 49-46. With the win, Usman tied former champion Georges St-Pierre for the most consecutive wins in the welterweight division with 12.
“Gamebred is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now and I had to switch gears and prepare for him on six days notice. I know a lot was made about him taking the fight on short notice, but he’s 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. I had a completely different game plan,” said Usman following the fight. “Gamebred is tough and he showed it out there. He took a lot of big elbows down there on bottom but he kept getting up. He kept fighting and he didn’t quit.”
“I knew Jorge was tough. I’ve always said it, minus all the trash talking and all the things that went on, which I know largely wasn’t him. It was the representative and all this stuff behind the scenes. Jorge is a guy and I give him credit for that,” said Usman. “They call him Gamebred for a reason. He’s always game to fight. I’m just levels better. I have more tools in the toolbox and when I need to pull them out I can pull them out and use them.”