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Kamaru Usman beats Jorge Masvidal to retain welterweight title at UFC 251

Kamaru Usman (left) fights Jorge Masvidal in UFC 251 on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.Getty Images

Kamaru Usman retained his welterweight title with a smothering victory over short-notice challenger Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 on Sunday.

Usman (17-1) earned his 16th straight MMA victory and defended his belt for the second time with a cerebral, technical performance against the 35-year-old Masvidal (35-14), who gallantly accepted his first UFC title shot on six days’ notice when Gilbert Burns tested positive for the coronavirus.

“[Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman had 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 all these guys are preparing for one guy, and that’s me at the top of the mountain. I had to make a mental shift. I had a completely different game plan.”

Masvidal was eager for a knockout, and the former backyard brawler came out swinging in an exciting first round. But while Masvidal’s wind faded, Usman coolly took charge with wrestling takedowns, foot stomps and judicious strikes mixed with superior conditioning.

Two judges scored it 50-45 for Usman, and a third had it 49-46.

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