Kamaru Usman pushed Jorge Masvidal up towards the cage at UFC 251. He struck Masvidal together with his shoulder, stomped Masvidal’s toes and dug in with laborious punches to the physique.

With an opponent coming in on per week’s discover, Usman’s technique was clear: grind and put on Masvidal out. And it labored utterly.

Usman defeated Masvidal by way of unanimous choice (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the principle occasion of UFC 251 on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the win, Usman retained his UFC welterweight title.

Usman vs. Masvidal got here collectively solely up to now eight days. Usman’s scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, examined constructive for the coronavirus on July 3, simply hours earlier than the UFC constitution was set to depart Las Vegas for Abu Dhabi. Over the Fourth of July vacation weekend, the UFC was capable of come to phrases with Masvidal — who balked on the promotion’s preliminary supply for the combat six weeks in the past — to combat for the 170-pound title as a late alternative.

“‘[Masvidal] is the most important, baddest dude on the market proper now,” Usman advised UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after the combat. “I needed to change gears and put together for him on per week’s discover. … I needed to make a psychological shift. I educated for Gilbert. I had a very totally different sport plan.”

The addition of Masvidal, one of many UFC’s greatest stars, truly made the combat extra extremely anticipated. Masvidal and Usman had been feuding since a verbal altercation on Tremendous Bowl radio row again in February.

After Sunday’s assembly, the 2 males confirmed one another respect. Masvidal advised Usman as the 2 embraced that they might “run it again.”

UFC president Dana White later mentioned in his post-fight information convention that Burns can be subsequent for Usman.

“I believe that Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman goes to be a very, actually good combat,” White mentioned.

The bout happened on the not too long ago constructed Flash Discussion board on Yas Island, which the UFC has branded “Struggle Island” for this monthlong stretch of occasions. The power is inside a “secure zone” amid the coronavirus pandemic, the place solely those that have been examined a number of occasions for COVID-19 are allowed. These individuals embody members of the UFC touring occasion — fighters, nook individuals, employees, and so forth. — and native employees.

Coming in, Usman was tied with Israel Adesanya for sixth on ESPN’s high pound-for-pound MMA fighter checklist. Masvidal is No. 2 at welterweight, just under Usman.

Usman’s 12 straight wins ties light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest energetic successful streak within the UFC. That determine additionally ties Georges St-Pierre for the longest successful streak in UFC welterweight historical past.

Masvidal began out sizzling within the first spherical, pushing the tempo and touchdown laborious kicks to Usman’s legs and physique. Masvidal landed some laborious proper arms, too, although Usman was by no means at risk.

It was fairly clear Masvidal was making an attempt to complete issues early since he was coming in on quick discover with out full preparation. Usman was capable of climate that early storm and grind Masvidal’s offense to a halt starting within the second spherical, which led to loads of Usman pushing Masvidal up towards the cage and taking him down. Masvidal had two cuts open up within the second resulting from incidental clashes of heads.

“It performed out the best way I assumed it would. I assumed if Jorge did not catch him with one thing, that is the best way the combat would go,” White mentioned. “[Masvidal’s] takedown protection was unbelievable. He would get taken down and get again up towards Usman, which is hard to do. He did it for 5 rounds and did what he may do. Usman is a beast, man.”

Each time Masvidal was capable of get separation, he remained harmful, even into the closing seconds of the fifth and last spherical. Masvidal closed the combat by throwing a flying knee and laborious kicks. None landed with any significance and Usman held on for the excellent victory.

“I am simply at a degree higher,” Usman mentioned. “I’ve extra instruments within the toolbox. And once I want to tug them out, I can pull them out and use them.”

Usman (17-1) has by no means misplaced within the UFC. The Nigerian-born Florida resident has not misplaced since his second professional bout, in 2013. Usman, 33, was coming off a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, the most recent UFC title-fight end ever. This was Usman’s second title protection.

Masvidal (35-14) stopped Darren Until, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz inside an eight-month span final 12 months, making him one of many hottest fighters on the UFC roster. The 5-second KO of Askren was the quickest in UFC historical past. Masvidal, a 35-year-old Miami native, had 48 profession fights coming in, which was the second-highest complete ever for a fighter competing in his or her first UFC title bout.