Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal 2: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will look to continue his run of dominance in the main event of UFC 261 this Saturday when he takes on popular contender Jorge Masvidal.
The bout will be a rematch of a 2020 fight that Usman won with a lopsided, unanimous decision. While that outcome was quite decisive, Masvidal was given a bit of a mulligan, having stepped in to replace Usman’s original opponent, Gilbert Burns, on just a weeks’ notice.
Usman has fought once since then, picking up a TKO victory in a rescheduled fight with Burns. Masvidal, on the other hand, has spent the months since his loss to Usman sitting on the sidelines waiting for the right opportunity. That strategy evidently paid off, as he’s been booked for a rematch with the champion without doing anything more to earn the opportunity.
Heading into the pair’s imminent rematch, the oddsmakers are quite confident Usman will come out on top again. That being said, when the two fighters are put under the microscope, it’s clear this matchup could end any number of ways.
Keep scrolling to see how the two fighters match up in 2021.
Kamaru Usman has made some massive improvements to his striking game, particularly over the last few years—as evidenced by his recent TKO wins over Colby Covington and Gilbert Burns. That being said, the edge in this department still has to go to Masvidal.
While Masvidal only really discovered his knockout power in the last few years, he’s long stood out as one of the slickest boxers in MMA, and he’s supported his world-class hands with an excellent kicking game. The full and lethal breadth of his striking arsenal was most recently on display in his 2019 stoppage win over Nate Diaz—though much of his success in that fight was predicated on the fact that he didn’t worry about takedowns, which will not be the case against Usman.
The champion’s takedown threat will probably make Masvidal more cautious than usual on the feet—one wrong move and he could end up on his back—but even still, he’s the far more nuanced and fluid striker of the two.
This one is a no-brainer.
Kamaru Usman, a three-time NCAA DII All-American, is one of the very best wrestlers in the welterweight division and has the skills to drag just about anybody into a suffocating grappling hell.
If Masvidal isn’t careful, he could find himself mushed up again the chain link—or worse, flattened out under Usman on the canvas—eating a steady diet of punches. That’s just what Usman does to people. The champ lands takedowns at an impressive 47% clip, and averages 3.22 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Of course, Masvidal has solid enough defensive wrestling to make any grappling exchanges interesting, but in terms of pure wrestling skill, there’s no debating who’s superior.
Neither Kamaru Usman nor Jorge Masvidal is known as a submission specialist.
Usman has won just one of his 18 victories by way of submission, while Masvidal has picked up only two subs in 35 victories. As such, determining which man has the edge in terms of submission skill is challenging.
Usman is clearly the superior grappler overall, and the stronger of the two fighters, but Masvidal was competing in an MMA almost a full decade before Usman even got his start, meaning he was probably quite proficient at jiu-jitsu before Usman had even put on a gi.
It’s very difficult to imagine this fight ending by submission, and more difficult still to guess which of the two men is more likely to lock up a limb or a choke. That being said, we’re going to give an ever-so-slight edge to Masvidal on the basis that he’s simply been practicing submissions for longer.
Usman’s X-Factor: Keeping Calm
Kamaru Usman has made it clear that he wants to beat Jorge Masvidal again and leave no room for his rival to make excuses.
"The only reason this man took the [first] fight is because it was on six days' notice and he had a built-in excuse, and he's still running his mouth," Usman said of Masvidal after he beat Gilbert Burns in February. "...I'll give you a whole training camp. I guarantee you won't sign on that dotted line because this time I'mma finish your ass. Anyone of these fools can get it; any one of them. But he keeps running his mouth. If he's gonna talk, step in there and you gotta see me."
If Usman is too eager to put a stamp on this rivalry with a finish, he might start making mistakes—and Masvidal is a master of capitalizing on his foe’s mistakes.
If Usman wants to win this fight, he needs to ignore his ego, keep calm, and stick to the game plan.
Masvidal’s X-Factor: Unpredictability
Jorge Masvidal is not going to be able to beat Kamaru Usman by simply denying takedown attempts and forcing a stand-up fight. If he wants to win this fight, he needs to be unpredictable.
He needs to respond to Usman’s takedown attempts with knees—like the one he used to knock out Ben Askren in 2019. He needs to throw spinning attacks. He needs to initiate wild scrambles, and attempt submissions off his back.
If he's able to do these things it will increase the likelihood of a highlight-reel title win, but more importantly, they’ll keep the champion guessing.
Usman and Masvidal’s first fight may have occurred under short-notice circumstances, but it provided ample information in terms of what happens when they're locked in the Octagon together.
Masvidal should perform better with a full training camp in the rear-view, but the things that were true in the first fight will still be true at UFC 261: Usman will be able to keep control of the fight with his takedowns, and hold his own when the action is unfurling on the feet.
A Usman finish definitely feels like a possibility, but the most likely outcome is history repeating itself.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision
Unless otherwise noted, all stats in this article are per UFC Stats.
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