There has been a slight change in the UFC 251 main event. Original title challenger Gilbert Burns has been removed from the event after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. Taking his place will be the 3rd ranked welterweight in the promotion, Jorge Masvidal. Gamebred was the original choice for Kamaru Usman’s next fight but negotiations fell off the table after Masvidal wanted more money. But with Burns out, Masvidal has agreed to step in on six days’ notice and face Usman at Saturday’s headliner at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Kamaru Usman is the current UFC welterweight champion. The 33-year old Nigerian-American fighter was the TUF 21 winner and is a former NCAA Division 2 wrestling champion. Usman is undefeated inside the UFC octagon. He has a record of 16-1 with seven knockouts and one win via submission. The Nigerian Nightmare is coming off a stoppage win over People’s Champion Colby Covington in his first title defense.
Usman stands six feet tall and has a reach of 76 inches and is a switch hitter. He is an accurate striker who connects with 52% accuracy and lands an average of 4.6 significant strikes per minute with a 60% striking defense. He is also a takedown machine who completes an average of 3.44 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 50% takedown accuracy and a 100% takedown defense.
Jorge Masvidal is a veteran of Bellator, Strikeforce, Shark Fights, and World Victory Road who has been fighting since 2003. The 35-year old from Miami, Florida is a former street fighter who never backs down from a challenge. He is coming off a year where he scored knockout wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz. Arguably, he was the best fighter in the UFC in 2019.
Masvidal is 5-11 tall and has a reach of 74 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 35-13 with 16 knockouts and two wins via submission. He is also a high volume striker who lands an average of 4.33 significant strikes per minute and has a 47% strike accuracy and a striking defense of 66% Masvidal has a takedown accuracy of 59% and completes 1.7 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Being the underdog isn’t new for Masvidal. He’s closed as the dog in five out of his last six bouts and picked up wins over Donald Cerrone, Ben Askren, and Darren Till despite not being favored by the oddsmakers. Gamebred was the slight favorite when he stopped Nate Diaz for the BMF title.
As for Usman, the Nigerian Nightmare has been the betting favorite in all but one of his UFC bouts. The only time Usman was an underdog in the UFC was when he challenged Tyron Woodley for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 235. He dominated Woodley in that bout to win the belt.
Usman is a world-class wrestler and a takedown machine. However, I expect him to try and trade with Masvidal in the early going. The champion should be very confident about his striking game after he knocked out Colby Covington in a strictly stand-up battle which no one expected.
However, I think that Masvidal gets the better of him during these striking exchanges. Not only is Masvidal quicker, but he is also the better technical striker. As soon as Usman feels that his opponent is gaining an advantage on the feet, he will try to take this fight to the ground where he is most dangerous.
But taking Masvidal down is easier said than done. Gamebred hs a 78% takedown defense and he has been put to the mat only five times in his last seven bouts. If he can defend against Usman’s takedowns, then he has a good chance of dominating on the feet.
There is one concern on Masvidal though. He is taking the fight on six days’ notice and without a full training camp, we don’t know what shape he’s in or what his weight is right now. What’s sure is that he will need to lose a lot of pounds in a hurry if he wants to formalize his first title shot.
Masvidal’s conditioning, or lack thereof, plays to the strength of Usman who likes to put on a fast pace. He has excellent conditioning that allows him to put the pressure on his opponent for 25 minutes. If Masvidal isn’t fit, he’s going to struggle in a grinding bout against the champion.
Usman has only tasted defeat once, and that loss was via rear-naked choke in his second professional fight. He’s never been dropped before but no doubt that Gamebred has the power to do so. If the champ decides to stand and trade, there’s a good chance that Masvidal pulls off the upset. Prediction: The betting value is on Masvidal but between his knockout power and Usman’s pace, I will go with the latter.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman (-265)
Half of Usman’s wins have come via decision. He’s gone the distance in eight out of his 11 UFC bouts, including four out of the last five. He was 50 seconds away from another decision win when they fight against Covington was stopped. Masvidal too has won half of his bouts by decision although his last five wins have come via knockout. It’s interesting to note that four out of his last five losses have been by split decision so Gamebred has never been out of a fight during his rise to the top.
I’m not counting out a quick knockout by Masvidal because he has the tools to do so. Given that he only has six days to prepare for this fight, he knows that he has to end the fight early. Usman meanwhile, will try to take the fight as deep as he can knowing that Gamebred didn’t have the benefit of a full training camp. I think Usman drags this fight to the ground and I also think this will be a long and maybe boring fight.
Prediction: Over 4.5 (+130)
*Odds from MyBookie as of 07/08/2020
Half of these fighters’ combined bouts have gone the distance. While Masvidal wants a quick win, Usman’s best chance here is to drag this fight to the final horn. Conditioning could be an issue for Masvidal here and Usman will make him pay by dragging him to the ground. Usman said he would rag-doll Masvidal. I think that’s what is going to happen. The longer this fight goes, it’s Usman who has the advantage. He knows how to win this fight.
Prediction: Yes (+140)
As stated above, this should be a long and grinding fight because Usman knows that his opponent’s conditioning could be compromised as he is taking this fight on very short notice. Masvidal meanwhile, wants to end this early while he still has the power and stamina to knock out Usman or dominate him on the feet.
Prediction: If you’re with me, go win Usman To Win On Points +185. If you’re rooting for Gamebred, go for the quick stoppage and pick Masvidal to win in Round 1 at +700
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