Jorge Masvidal, Usman’s opponent in the co-main event, had not reckoned with that reality, even after losing to the Nigerian champion in a unanimous five-round decision last summer. He labeled Usman a coward, assured violence and questioned Usman’s striking power.
In their Saturday rematch, Masvidal smiled and laughed early on in the second round as he absorbed and eluded punches. But eight seconds after his final smirk, Usman devastated him with a stunning right jab to the jaw, finishing one of the sport’s most durable fighters and extending his reign of divisional supremacy with a fourth consecutive title defense.
“He has completely evolved as a fighter,” UFC President Dana White said of Usman during the post-fight news conference. “He’s become an unbelievable, well-rounded fighter; one of the greatest ever and on his way to possibly being the best ever.”
Usman (19-1) started on the road toward a martial arts career as a high school wrestler in Texas and has developed a reputation as a sturdy, indefatigable fighter since joining the UFC in 2015. But some have characterized him as a sluggish striker who lacks the destructive power of some of the promotion’s most exciting fighters.
Despite those doubts, Usman broke rival Colby Covington’s jaw during their 2019 fight. He downed Gilbert Burns twice in February, using his signature right jab to help end the fight.
Between those bouts, Usman fought Masvidal with a broken nose on six days’ notice last July and won by unanimous decision. Afterward, Masvidal dismissed Usman’s striking power. Usman promised a more definitive finish in their next meeting.
And as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, Usman followed through.
He secured two takedowns in the opening round although Masvidal, the fourth-ranked welterweight contender, landed more strikes in both rounds. Masvidal (35-15) hadn’t been knocked out since 2008.
In the first minute of the second round Saturday, Usman missed with a right hook. Masvidal flashed a smile, but seconds later, Usman dropped him with an explosive right jab, displaying the improved striking prowess that illustrates his continued evolution.
The reigning champion has won 18 consecutive fights and owns the UFC’s longest active winning streak (14). If Usman can win his next three contests, he will surpass Anderson Silva for the most consecutive wins in UFC history. He will next face Covington again in his fifth title defense, according to White.
Usman had won two of his previous three bouts by technical knockout before UFC 261. He viewed his first victory over Masvidal as a blemish on a résumé which he plans to further augment to become the greatest welterweight ever.
In Saturday’s triumph, Usman felt that he had properly atoned.
“I’m satisfied,” he said of his method of victory. “I wasn’t satisfied with the last one and I wanted to be satisfied tonight, and I got that.”
Review the rest of UFC 261 below.