Usman knocks Masvidal out cold to win rematch


UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman dominated Jorge Masvidal last year over five rounds. But Usman wasn’t satisfied with that performance; he thought he could do better.

Usman put a stamp on his rivalry with Masvidal on Saturday night, dropping Masvidal with a crushing right hand and following up on the ground for a knockout victory at 1 minute, 2 seconds of the second round in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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With the victory, Usman defended his 170-pound title. It was the first time the famously durable Masvidal had been finished by KO/TKO since 2008.

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“There’s two setups to that right hand that I just envisioned them landing. That was one of them. … I just had to stay composed and I was going to find it,” Usman said of the knockout blow.

“I needed to put a definitive finish on that chapter, and I did that tonight,” he added.

At the postfight news conference, UFC president Dana White said Colby Covington is next for Usman in what would be a rematch of their December 2019 bout, which Usman won via fifth-round TKO at UFC 245.

ESPN had Usman ranked No. 2 in the world on its best pound-for-pound MMA fighters list coming in. At welterweight, ESPN has Usman at No. 1 and Masvidal at No. 7. Now, Usman has to be considered one of the best in the world currently, and the questions will begin about where he stands on the all-time list.

Kamaru Usman won his rematch with Jorge Masvidal in dominant fashion, leading Masvidal to admit, “He’s got my number, man.” Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
“With my fundamentals, I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” Usman said.

White went even further, saying Usman is “one of the best ever, and he’s on his way to probably being the greatest of all time.”

“When you go in and you beat the guys who are looked at as the best in the world at that time and you beat them twice and you beat them convincingly, it’s all part of cementing that legacy that this guy is going to have some day,” White said.

The bout took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the first UFC event with a capacity crowd during the COVID-19 pandemic, as 15,269 people were in attendance, according to the UFC.

At UFC 251 last year, Usman (19-1) beat Masvidal via unanimous decision in fairly one-sided fashion. But Masvidal came into that fight on just six days’ notice, after Usman’s initially scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Usman, 33, now has his fourth straight title defense and his 14th straight UFC victory. He has the second-longest winning streak in UFC history; only Anderson Silva has more consecutive wins (16).

“You elevated me,” Usman said of Masvidal. “You made me get into the workshop. … I told everybody I’m still getting better. The sky is the limit for me as long as I’m doing this.”

Saturday’s title defense was especially emotional for the Nigerian fighter. In the Octagon after the bout, Usman put his welterweight belt on his father, Muhammed, who got to see Usman fight in the UFC for the first time in person. Muhammed was in jail for nearly 10 years on insurance fraud charges, before being released in February 2020.

“It was amazing,” Usman said. “My family is finally complete, and to have him experience that, especially in front of a crowd like that and feel that energy, there’s nothing like it. There’s absolutely nothing like it.”

Masvidal (35-15) is one of the biggest stars on the UFC roster. The Miami native was on a three-fight winning streak before falling to Usman last year. In 2019, Masvidal knocked out Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in a span of eight months to become one of the hottest MMA athletes in the world. The latter was for the mythical BMF title at Madison Square Garden. Masvidal, 36, has been a pro fighter for almost 18 years, but he has just recently become one of the most popular MMA stars in the world.

“He’s got my number, man,” Masvidal said of Usman. “He beat me fair and square. God bless him, man.”

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