Kamaru Usman improved to 17-1 with a unanimous choice over late substitute Jorge Masvidal to retain his welterweight crown in UFC 251.
The 33-year-old — who was born in Nigeria and moved to america as a baby earlier than turning into a wrestling champion in college — additionally made it 12 straight wins to tie light-weight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest lively streak within the sport.
Given Usman’s pedigree, a Masvidal win would have been an upset. However much more so as a result of the bout was solely finalized final week after Usman’s meant opponent, Gilbert Burns, pulled out when he examined constructive for coronavirus.
The continued pandemic prompted UFC President Dana White to hunt as protected a spot as attainable to carry fights and in early June he picked Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has been a earlier UFC vacation spot.
All fighters, their groups and employees have been examined for the virus that has, in line with Johns Hopkins College, killed 565,000 individuals world wide and contaminated practically 13 million.
In a quirk for main fights, the showpiece bouts had been held within the early morning hours native time Sunday for the prime time US tv market nevertheless it did not appear to have an effect on Usman.
All three judges gave him a hefty benefit. Two scored it 50-45 whereas the third had it 49-46.
“Gamebred is the most important, baddest dude on the market proper now,” Usman mentioned, referring to Masvidal’s nickname. “I needed to put together for him, change gears on six days’ discover. I do know loads was manufactured from him taking a battle on brief discover however he is ready.
“All these guys have ready for one man, and that is me on the prime of the mountain. I needed to take a psychological shift. I skilled for Gilbert, I had a totally totally different sport plan.
“Gamebred is hard and he confirmed it on the market. He took plenty of massive elbows there on the backside however he stored getting up, stored combating and did not give up.”
Masvidal — who recorded the quickest UFC knockout final yr, in 5 seconds — acknowledged Usman gained “honest and sq.” however added his “gasoline tank” was slightly empty.
“However I am nonetheless a harmful man,” mentioned the American, now 35-14. “I’ll come again higher than ever. I am not going to vanish from this sport with out this belt being wrapped round my waist a technique or one other.
“It wasn’t my finest efficiency tonight however everybody can see I’ve a canine in me. That canine does not shut up or roll over for anyone. I used to be very drained at some spots.
“However I used to be in a position to dig down and get again on my ft. I am not pleased with my efficiency however I am telling all people I will be again robust.”
Each males needed a rematch. In the meanwhile, although, Usman is eager to return to the US to spend time along with his five-year-old daughter, Samirah.
“I have to get again to my daughter,” he mentioned. “I would like to sit down on my sofa, eat some Thai meals and watch some Netflix together with her. After which watch a few (her) gymnastics coaching and ju-jitsu trainings, after which we’ll begin fascinated with combating somebody once more.”
Elsewhere, Alexander Volkanovski efficiently defended his featherweight title by beating Max Holloway — whom he toppled in December to first take the belt.
However the consequence wasn’t as easy.
Two judges scored it 48-47 for the Australian whereas the opposite gave it to the American by the identical rating. White felt Holloway did sufficient to win.
Russia’s Petr Yan, in the meantime, turned the bantamweight champ by stopping veteran Jose Aldo of Brazil within the fifth and remaining spherical.
Many onlookers, together with White, felt the affair ought to have been stopped sooner.
“Horrible, horrible stoppage by the referee. It ought to have been stopped sooner,” mentioned White. “Seems to be like we now have to tighten up our refs and judges on Combat Island.”
Three extra occasions are scheduled, starting on July 16.