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Kamaru Usman equalled Georges St-Pierre’s record for consecutive UFC welterweight wins at 12 with a dominant, smothering points victory over Jorge Masvidal in the main event at UFC 251.
The champion navigated a tricky opening round as ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal came out of the traps hunting for an early knockout, finding some success as he used slick movement to slide in and out of range.
But Usman soon shut the challenger down, dragging Masvidal into a grappling match against the Octagon cage as he repeatedly scored points with a combination of foot stomps and shoulder strikes.
It was a pattern of offense that repeated from the second round onwards as Masvidal struggled to find a way to escape Usman’s hold, growing increasingly fatigued as the fight wore on.
In truth, action was at a premium with Usman unwilling to go all in for the finish while Masvidal was left unable to operate under the champion’s suffocating pressure.
Scorecards of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 were an accurate reflection of proceedings on Fight Island as Usman navigated what could have been a tricky evening’s work with relative ease.
He's always game to fight but I'm just levels better
- Kamaru Usman
Speaking immediately after the fight, the champ seemed ready to bury the hatchet was Masvidal having endured a feisty relationship with the Miami fighter over the past six months.
“Gamebred is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman said.
“I had to switch gears and prepare for him on six days’ notice. I know a lot was made of him taking the fight on short notice but he’s preparing, all these guys are preparing, for one guy and that’s me. At the top of the mountain.
“I’ve always said it, minus all the trash-talking and things that went on – which I know largely wasn’t him, it was his representatives behind the scenes – but Jorge is a tough guy and I give him credit for that.
“They call him ‘Gamebred’ for a reason, he’s always game to fight but I’m just levels better.
“I have more tools in the toolbox and when I need to pull them out, I can use them.”
Despite the dominant nature of Usman’s win however, not all were left satisfied with what they saw from the Nigerian-born star.
Former welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy was left underwhelmed by the main event, admitting: “Usman used his wrestling ability, he used his conditioning and wore Masvidal down but it’s not going to win him loads of fans, that kind of performance unfortunately.
“He maintained his belt, he got the win and he’ll stay top of the division.”
Former Fighter’s Only editor and Fight Disciples host Nick Peet went further, claiming Usman had missed an opportunity to snatch a slice of Masvidal’s stardom by settling for an unspectacular points win.
“It’s all about holding on to that belt and extended that record but if you’re a fan like me watching that, I came away thinking Kamaru Usman was the undisputed champion of foot stomps," Peet said on BT Sport's Open Mat Live.
“It was pretty boring. There were times there were he was so utterly dominant, I’m thinking ‘okay, come on then. Let’s see you become a superstar. Take that superstar mantle away from Jorge Masvidal’.
“What’s next for both of these guys? I’ll tell you what’s next for Kamaru Usman. It’s Gilbert Burns or it’s Leon Edwards. Do you know what’s next for Jorge Masvidal? It’s Nate Diaz. Do you know which one is pay-per-view? Masvidal v Diaz.
“Kamaru Usman has missed an opportunity to become a pay-per-view star. I thought he would roll the dice in the end. He completely dominated, I thought he would go for the finish and really rubber-stamp that performance and let the world know ‘I’m ready to become a star’.
“I think he played it too safe and I think he’ll regret it.”
UFC 251 - Full fight replays
Alexander Volkanovski bt. Max Holloway by split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
Alexander Volkanovski edged a razor-thin decision win against Max Holloway for the second time in the co-main event at UFC 251 to keep a hold of the featherweight strap.
Petr Yan def. Jose Aldo by TKO
Czech powerhouse Petr Yan overcame an improved Jose Aldo performance to take home the vacant 135lb title, stopping the former featherweight king after a back-and-forth five-round affair on Fight Island.
Best of the rest from UFC 251
Amanda Ribas made light work of Paige VanZant in the opening bout of the main card at UFC 251, securing the tap thanks to a nasty arm bar.
Light-heavyweight beast Jiri Prochazka announced himself to the division with a crushing knockout victory on debut against former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir.
And Makwan Amirkhani showed he is a true martial artist after helping revive Danny Henry following an emphatic submission victory over the Englishman.
Don't forget, you can click here to go back and watch the entire UFC 251 fight card - including prelims - thanks to our revolutionary enhanced video player, giving you the chance to control your viewing experience with chapterised fights and an interactive timeline.