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Opinion: Five interesting fights for UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman

The Nigerian Nightmare has beaten his path to gold the old-fashioned way; by outworking everyone thrown in front of him in the UFC cage.

kamaru usman

Kamaru Usman is on a bit of a tear in the UFC. Entering the promotion in July of 2015, he’s racked up eleven straight wins under the UFC banner. He beat the brakes off Tyron Woodley in March of 2019 to take the UFC welterweight strap and managed to quiet Colby Covington down for a few days with a 5th. round TKO finish in December of last year – showing off his much-improved striking to go along with his stifling wrestling control. In fact, ‘Marty From Nebraska’ has spent a grand total of just two seconds on bottom position during his UFC career. Two freaking seconds. I mean, Tony Ferguson spent more time on his back after tripping over that cord at the press conference. It takes me longer than that to stand up after tying my shoe. Usman is appropriately dubbed ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ for this exact reason – he haunts dreams. Since he’s beaten up a lot of contenders on his way to the top, let’s look at some cool fights inside and outside the promotion.

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5. Rory MacDonald – Rory MacDonald was once thought to be the GSP 2.0, in terms of fighting ability. He owns wins over Douglas Lima, Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia and B.J. Penn, amongst several other notable studs. No one can deny the fact that his two fights with Robbie Lawler took years off his life, not to mention his inability to walk after his first matchup with Douglas Lima. ‘The Red King’ has long paired technical striking with high-level MMA wrestling to become a top UFC contender and eventual Bellator champion – that I’ll remember most for his suplex multi-pack over Nate Diaz. MacDonald has some substantial miles on his tires, despite being only 30-years-old, though. After his second brain-swelling loss to Robbie Lawler, Rory dropped a decision to Stephen Thompson, prompting his free agency move from the UFC to Bellator. The Bellator championship victory against Lima was not without a cost and soon after, his weight class jump to fight Mousasi resulted in MacDonald questioning his desire to fight any longer. A lone victory over Neiman Gracie was paired between a draw with the ever-tough Jon Fitch and a title fight loss to Douglas Lima, has us wondering what ‘The Red King’ could muster up against Usman if given the opportunity. Prediction: three-years-ago, I’d say MacDonald…but right now, I think Usman by unanimous decision.

4. Jorge Masvidal – Jorge Masvidal is a true BMF, and he has a belt to prove it. Last November, he beat Nate Diaz at every turn to win the inaugural BMF title by doctor’s stoppage. From beating up guys in backyards during the Kimbo Slice era to a five-second finish of the undefeated Ben Askren, ‘Gamebred’ is always a live dog and he’s developed a sense of fighter maturity that makes any opponent cautious.
How does this pair up with Usman? Well, Masvidal is the faster, cleaner striker. His footwork and accuracy could be very problematic when combined with his eighty-three per cent takedown defense rate (albeit in a lighter weight division). I was sceptical that he could outstrike Darren Till, yet he won by a body-stiffening KO. He handled Askren’s wrestling with a quick knee and out-toughed Nate Diaz, so I’m not going to count him out of this bout, either. Prediction: Usman wins by unanimous decision, similar to the Woodley fight.

3. Jon Fitch – Jon Fitch is one of the greatest welterweight fighters in the short history of MMA and if you disagree, well – you’re wrong. Fitch was the clear number, one contender, during the GSP era and went on a seventeen fight unbeaten streak to get his title shot in the UFC. He threw over two-thousand strikes, has nearly two hours of control time in the UFC cage, and hasn’t fought for them in years. The guy is a machine!
The average human gets in less than two fistfights over their lifetime. In December of 2004, Fitch won three fights in one night – let that sink into your beta brains. He’s a monster to deal with anywhere the fight goes. With his last fight being a draw against then Bellator champion, Rory MacDonald, it’s safe to say Jon Fitch is still in his fighting prime and if you disagree, I hope Jon Fitchslaps you. Prediction: Fitch by majority decision. Old man strength is real.

2. Leon Edwards – Leon Edwards has squared off against Usman before. And he lost a decision. But, that was nearly five years ago. Since then, Leon has rounded out his game with victories over Vincent Luque, Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson and Rafael dos Anjos. His confidence is at an all-time high right now, his striking, laser-sharp and he’s absolute hell to drag to the ground. We need to see how this rematch would go. Prediction: Usman by majority decision. Edwards would win a round or two.

1. Douglas Lima – It’s a shame we haven’t ever seen Douglas Lima in the UFC, because he would undoubtedly be a more popular fighter amongst the casual fan base. With the welterweight version of Jose Aldo’s leg kicks and the punching power to kill a goat, We could have had some very exciting matchups. That’s not to say he hasn’t racked up some substantial wins in Bellator, touting victories over Rory MacDonald, Lorenz Larkin, Andrey Koreshkov and the near-murder of Michael Page. Ben Askren handed Lima a loss back in 2012, but it’s safe to say he’s shored up that wrestling defense since then. Usman is not the same kind of open-shot wrestler that Askren is, so we’d see some exciting clinch exchanges and have an always-entertaining ‘champ vs. champ’ fight for the ages! Prediction: Leg kicks and clinchwork give Lima the unanimous decision.

‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has beaten his path to gold the old-fashioned way; by outworking everyone thrown in front of him in the UFC cage. Considering his record and his ability to dictate where the fight takes place, it’s clear that we can get used to hearing the phrase “aaaaand STILL”.

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Written by Justin Adams

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