UFC 251 is scheduled to feature an assortment of amazing spectacles on July 11 in Abu Dhabi. In addition to the sheer awe that should be reserved for UFC officials being able to pull off such wildly entertaining fight cards during the worldwide pandemic, UFC 251 has the added gravitas of featuring three UFC title fights, being the first card scheduled for Fight Island, and presenting from top to bottom what would be considered one of the best fight cards in recent history per just about any reasonable metric.
But don’t lose sight in all that of arguably the most remarkable point of interest at UFC 251. UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is one of the scariest and most amazing champions in the world today.
And “The Nigerian Nightmare” deserves your full attention.
UFC 251 takes place July 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern time on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Usman Should Be Praised for Taking Fight on Short Notice
Usman is set to take on short-notice opponent Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 251 on July 11 in Abu Dhabi.
It’s one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year, and Usman accepted it on just six days’ notice after his original opponent Gilbert Burns was yanked off the card due to illness.
The audacity of Usman accepting the new fight is telling. While both fighters should be commended for taking such a huge fight on short notice, Usman would have been well within his rights as the champ to pass on Masvidal for UFC 251.
While it’s true Usman was the one of the two fighters who was training for a fight on July 11 the whole time, it’s also true that the 33-year-old Nigerian-born American stands the most to lose at UFC 251.
So Usman should be commended for being the type of champion that the entire sport can point to and laud as something special.
But Usman’s willingness to accept all comers isn’t the only thing that helps the 170-pound menace stand out among his peers.
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Usman’s Most Superb Asset Is Wrestling
There’s simply no better example of just how excellent a wrestler Usman must be than to say that former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler Colby Covington attempted exactly zero takedowns when the two men faced each other last year at UFC 245.
While Covington, a former UFC interim champ, loves to stand and strike and has the kind of cardio advantage that means he can do so in high volume, Covington has never been shy about taking his opponents down to the mat on fight night.
But he never took Usman to the ground in their fight. In fact, Usman’s amazing record of never being taken down to the mat in a UFC fight remained strong as ever in his five-round decision win over Covington in December.
That Covington never even tried it, even when the fight appeared to be on the line in the final round, should tell you all you need to know about Usman’s amazing wrestling game.
Powerful and Precise Strikes Make Usman Nearly Unbeatable
Here’s the thing about Usman though. He’s proven to be just as effective standing as he is on the ground, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the division.
While there was some debate before UFC 245 over whether Usman could withstand Covington’s ground attack over five full rounds, there was no debate that the UFC welterweight champ had employed his own ground-and-pound game to maul just about every fighter he’s faced leading up to that fight.
A good example would be UFC 235 in March 2019 where Usman ragdolled Tyron Woodley around the cage for 25 minutes to forcefully seize the UFC’s 170-pound championship.
But beating Covington in a full-scale stand-up brawl proved without a doubt that Usman is one of the most complete fighters in the sport today.
According to UFC Stats, Usman has landed more significant strikes per minute than even the strike-savvy Masvidal heading into UFC 251.
Usman lands 4.60 significant strikes per minute while Masvidal’s rate is 4.33.
At 52%, Usman also lands his strikes at a higher percentage than Masvidal does, 46%, and the champ takes fewer significant strikes in return per minute (2.17 vs. 2.94), too.
Usman Has Been as Dominant as 2019 Masvidal for Whole UFC Career
Much has been made of Masvidal’s epic 2019 run that included stoppage wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz.
To blow more air through that trumpet, it might be even more impressive that Masvidal achieved such a stunning run in his mid-30s and after successive losses two years prior to Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson.
But the thing about Usman is that the champ’s enjoyed Masvidal’s 2019 status for basically his entire career.
Usman enters UFC 251 on July 11 having won 15 straight contests. He’s undefeated in the UFC, and he’s not lost in over six years.
The champ’s last four wins show just what kind of fighter Masvidal is up against on Saturday night. Over that timeframe, Usman defeated top-notch competition including Maia, Rafael dos Anjos, Woodley and Covington.
Only his last fight was close, and even that win over Covington should be labeled clear and definitive for Usman.
Beating Masvidal Would Solidify Usman’s Standing Among Elite
There’s no doubt Usman’s dominant run in the company has been overshadowed by the sport’s other big stars.
In a way, Usman’s hostile takeover at 170 was even undervalued in 2019 because of the hype surrounding Masvidal’s three-fight run.
So beating Masvidal at UFC 251 would surely help Usman lift the veil for many.
Usman is a dominant champ in his prime years. Beating Masvidal on Fight Island on July 11 wouldn’t really make him elite. His 11-0 UFC record already means he’s that.
But winning such a big fight against a huge star on a massive stage would help others recognize what probably already should have been accepted as true.
Look, the last guy that stepped inside the Octagon with Usman ended up having his mouth wired shut. That’s because all “The Nigerian Nightmare” does is crack jaws and slam opponents down to the mat with brutal force.
Usman is already the single most dominant fighter in a division packed with legit killers. And beating Masvidal would help more people notice.
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