Finally, the combat that we all expected would take place, will take place at UFC 251. There were months of speculation and failed negotiations between the Usman and Masvidal sectors that buried an eventual combat between them. However, today we have the main event that was expected from the beginning and with the special seasoning that both took the fight a week in advance and that will take place on the controversial Fight Island. The breakdown of the combat, below:
Kamaru Usman has been undefeated for seven years and it took him four years to reach the top of the UFC welterweight division. From what is already redundant about Usman, it can be said that he is a fighter with a high level of fighting, physically strong, capable of holding five rounds and that the power in his hands cannot be underestimated. What I will focus on today will be mainly two virtues that he has demonstrated in the last two fights that he held.
When Usman fought Woodley one of the big questions was how he was going to deal with the former champion’s fast, lethal and explosive hands. Like Rory Mcdonald, Usman used the strategy of neutralizing Woodley’s counter, which retreats to the fence to explode when pressed, through clinchs, long blows, and an attempted takedown. In that fight the Nigerian, apart from looking dominant, proved to be disciplined and methodical. Each situation was dominated by Usman without falling into “excess” or the desire to take the crown forcefully. The most accelerated thing that was shown, was in a moment where he cornered Woodley and unloaded a machine gun with blows, then fell into the same clinch and grille work. Such a style of fighting doesn’t appeal to fans, much less does it mean hoarding expectations, but it does the most important thing in a belt fight: Winning.
IQ and Methodical
Seeing again this week the fight against Colby Covington, in his first title defense, I was able to interpret something that I had not done the first time I saw it. For everyone, including myself (before), Usman fought “you to you” against the American to harm him (for everything he talked about) or demonstrate that he could fight standing up. But by looking at the fight again you can come to understand that the fight plan was the right one, since otherwise it would have given Colby a chance to win. Colby is a fighter who appeals to intensity and “chaos” to win. This means exchanges of frantic blows, attempted takedowns one after another, and relentless initiative; Which was successful for him to knock down and score points. How to stop a fight like this? Well, through tranquility. What Usman did was hit Colby hard and force him to slow down. In this way he managed to slow down Colby’s actions, demoralize him, and find the necessary blows (along with the flaws in his guard) to finish him. Fighters who achieve that control can make easier decisions to win.
The bastard champion
I have been one of many who have enjoyed Masvidal’s resurrection since last year. This has ranged from his entire marketing proposal to his performance in the last three bouts. Stripping away a bit of the charm and being critical, even stupid, of the three knockouts he managed, two of them were “easy” and one was really achieved for his technique and skills against a dangerous adversary. Of all this new process that can be seen at Masvidal is that today he has a total conviction of what he can do and achieve.
I do not want to fall into a thick analysis of what Gamebred can do, because it is already known: It has a good muay thai mixed with the fundamentals of Cuban boxing (with clean and angular hands), an excellent pitch and fighter starts, and a fight and physical capacity undervalued by many. The central theme of this analysis of Masvidal is to expose the central point of the “resurrection”, and that is that today he has almost complete command of everything he does and must do. I mean that for Masvidal, and at the stage of his career he is in, there are no longer any technical obstacles, no doubts, to jump in the first five seconds with a flying knee in front of a fighter or go to the exchange with a fighter much larger. He took Darren Till as one more sparring session; hence his laughter when he is almost knocked out by English or in many exchanges. If the flying knee he applied failed, he was willing to fight an undefeated former fighter in MMA, and against Nate he proposed to be hit and enjoy exchanges that he would have easily avoided. The central point of the current “StreetJesus” is that today he fully enjoys fighting, without fear of points against him and with the conviction of 16 years in the game that he can win anyway. The eventual dilemma is that will he be able to fight that way for the most important title of his career?
I will be one of the majority who will be supporting Masvidal this Saturday; however, Usman’s ability cannot be overlooked. Both enter this fight a week in advance, but I have no doubt that both have already trained or spent time to devise plans to confront the other. I think that if, today, Masvidal is in a stage of general improvement, for himself, rather than in a focus for each rival as Usman is. “The Nigerian Nightmare” is a fighter who will not hesitate to make a fight more effective than colorful to take the victory, moreover, he stated in a last interview. Not so “Gamebred”, who may be more tentative to fight in the way that has led him to be the most popular fighter today.
I don’t think Jorge is too aggressive against a Usman who must already be predisposed to that. The maturity of the Cuban makes me intuit that he will leave reserved to explode when he sees the tickets that Usman gives him. For his part, Kamaru will be methodical and will seek to frustrate Masvidal with the repertoire that he has, and that he is open to use. Something like when Caín Velasquez anticipated what he would do to JDS: “When you think I will box you, I will fight you; When you think I will fight you, I will box you. “
I can only say that something makes me objectively 60% for Usman and 40% with Masvidal or also that the blood makes me shoot towards “Gamebred”, but the mind towards “The Nigerian Nightmare”.
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