WELL, it wasn’t exactly the barnburner we had hoped for, but the main event at UFC 251 was still an interesting topic in its aftermath, and for a variety of reasons.
For one, the challenger that brought with him the intrigue and the interest to the fight clearly lost, but took solace in the fact that he performed as well as he could have given the circumstances.
The champ, on the other hand, just did what he had to do in order to get the job done, but earned his fair share of criticism for playing it quite safe, in most observer’s eyes.
GAMEBRED FIGHTER. To his credit, Jorge Masvidal gave no excuses for his sub-par performance and so neither should his fans.
Because he took the fight on six days’ notice, “Gamebred Fighter” had to cut as much as 20 lbs in order to make the welterweight limit.
That, plus all the consequences of not having a full training camp were on full display at fight time.
Masvidal’s body looked bloated after rehydrating for fight night and he clearly lacked the energy and explosiveness that he usually brings to the table.
He had a very good first round as he landed neatly on several strikes, but other than that, it seemed like he didn’t have much to offer as the fight wore on.
He would land a solid shot here and there, but for the most part he looked winded and seemed content on landing a knockout hail mary shot to end the fight—a clear indicator of a fighter who is not in the best of shape.
USMAN. The defending champion Kamaru Usman won handily and there should be doubt about that. But much of the criticism that went his way centered on the fact that he played it too safe against a fighter who stepped in as a last-minute substitute and who hadn’t trained as well as he could have for a high stakes match.
Instead, much of his effort was concentrated on leaning on Masvidal against the cage and while he was at it, delivered (drum rolls please...) foot stomps.
Did they work? Well, other than probably making Masvidal feel uncomfortable, clearly not.
In an interview with MMA scribe Ariel Helwani yesterday, when asked how those stomps affected him, Masvidal stood up and danced while shuffling his feet.
To his credit, Usman played on his strengths as a wrestler and managed to score several takedowns. But he wasn’t able to parlay those into advantageous positions for a submission, which could have placed an exclamation point on an otherwise dominant performance.
On several occasions when it seemed like he was on the verge of getting into position for a submission, it seemed like he would relent or Masvidal would extricate himself and be able to reset.
I think what happened strategy-wise, was that Usman played it safe in the first few rounds, wanting to feel out the kind of conditioning Masvidal was in. But midway through the fight, he decided it just wasn’t worth taking any risks for and did enough to secure the victory.
Bottom line? I am never going to disrespect a guy who does what he has to do in order to win a match, keep the belt and provide for his family. It is what it is.
VERBATIM. “Fighter to fighter, you know that that doesn’t do anything—Jorge Masvidal when asked on the foot stomps from Kamaru Usman (ESPN MMA YouTube Video)
LAST ROUND. It’s on my kumpare, Rey “Gutzie” Guttierez, who recently celebrated his birthday. Cheers to our “happy man”!