UFC: Kamaru pounds Masvidal, retains welterweight world title


On a night in which fireworks became the norm during the first UFC card in front of a full crowd since the start of the pandemic, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman saved the best for last.

In a stunning showcase of his evolving game and pound-for-pound talent, Usman made the fifth defense of his 170-pound title by knocking Jorge Masvidal out cold in Round 2 of their UFC 261 main event rematch inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Usman (19-1) was dominant throughout in terms of takedowns and top control on the ground, which Masvidal

Kamaru Usman

would go on to say he fully expected. Unlike their first meeting in 2020, in which Masvidal accepted the fight on late notice and lost a one-sided decision, the 36-year-old slugger had no excuses following a full training camp.

“He showed me something that he didn’t show the first fight [when] I didn’t feel his power,” Masvidal said. “That’s what happens when you get overconfident. I thought we were going to wrestle more and I was ready to wrestle for 25 minutes but all the props in the world to him. He has got my number. There is nothing more to say. He won this fair and square and God bless him.”

In his third fight with new trainer Trevor Wittman, Usman’s evolution as a striker continued to be the story at age 33. Usman countered Masvidal’s outside leg kicks with clean right hands and stiff jabs throughout the opening round. Masvidal smiled and taunted back in return each time he was hit clean, but the strikes appeared to stun him and opened up opportunities for takedowns.

Although Masvidal remained competent from his back and landed a series of short elbows, the round closed with a big right hand from Usman and a jumping knee from Masvidal before the two rivals exchanged words after the horn and needed to be separated.

Shorty after, things took a much more violent turn.

“Jacksonville, Florida, you all said you wanted violence?” Usman said. “You’re welcome.”

Usman caught Masvidal (35-15) flush with a clean right cross which turned his chin and left him unconscious at 1:02 of Round 2.

“Sky is the limit, I’m growing so much in the sport, I’m just blessed to be at this present time and moment. It was a sweet one, it’s up there. If you look at the knockouts now that I’m putting together, that one’s up there for sure,” Usman said. “That’s what I wanted to do, I said I’m so far ahead of these guys, I’m coming around and lapping these guys on the track, I’m coming around with a vengeance and I had to go out there and put the nails in that coffin and I did and we turn the page and move forward.”

The victory extended Usman’s win streak to 14 fights. It also marked the first time the iron-chinned Masvidal was stopped due to strikes in his eight-year UFC run.

“First time in my career, in front of all my people, my family and my friends,” Masvidal said. “It hurts since I haven’t been knocked out in 54 fights. I didn’t fear his power and that’s what happens.”


Tobi Sangotola/CBSSports


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