Tagged in: UFC

Usman defeats Masvidal to retain belt

Kamaru Usman pushed Jorge Masvidal up against the cage. He struck Masvidal with his shoulder, stomped Masvidal’s feet and dug in with hard punches to the body.

With an opponent coming in on a week’s notice, Usman’s strategy was clear: grind and wear Masvidal out. And it worked entirely.

Usman overpowered Masvidal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 251 on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the win, Usman retained his UFC welterweight title.

Usman vs. Masvidal came together only in the past eight days. Usman’s scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus on July 3, just hours before the UFC charter was set to leave Las Vegas for Abu Dhabi.

Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the UFC was able to come to terms with Masvidal — who balked at the promotion’s initial offer for the fight six weeks ago — to fight for the 170-pound title as a late replacement.

“‘[Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after the fight. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on a week’s notice. … I had to make a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert. I had a completely different game plan.”

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The addition of Masvidal, one of the UFC’s biggest stars, actually made the fight more highly anticipated. Masvidal and Usman had been feuding since a verbal altercation on Super Bowl radio row back in February.

Usman’s 12 consecutive victories ties lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active winning streak in the UFC. That figure also ties Georges St-Pierre for the longest winning streak in UFC welterweight history.

Usman (17-1) has never lost in the UFC.

The Nigerian-born Florida resident has not lost since his second pro bout, in 2013. Usman, 33, was coming off a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, the latest UFC title-fight finish ever. This was Usman’s second title defense.

Masvidal (35-14) stopped Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz within an eight-month span last year, making him one of the hottest pugilists on the UFC roster. The 5-second KO of Askren was the quickest in UFC history.

Masvidal, a 35-year-old Miami native, had 48 career fights coming in, which was the second-highest total ever for a fighter competing in his or her first UFC title bout.

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Usman vs Masvidal agree to UFC 251

It will still take clearing some legitimate hurdles to reach the finish line, but according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal have completed negotiations and agreed to terms for a last-minute bout to serve as the main event of Saturday’s UFC 251 card in Abu Dhabi. 

With the new UFC 251 main event now essentially being cleared on paper, both warriors will undergo COVID-19 testing in Las Vegas and immediately enter quarantine while awaiting the results. Should Usman and Masvidal both test negative, then they will be en route to Abu Dhabi as soon as possible from there. With 48 career fights under his belt, Masvidal would serve as the fighter with the most MMA appearances before receiving his first title shot. 

Shortly after the news of the agreement broke, UFC president Dana White posted a hype video to Twitter which seemingly confirmed that he was able to secure the new blockbuster main event. 

The inaugural Fight Island card saw its original headliner fall apart Saturday when top contender Gilbert Burns pulled out of a shot at Usman’s title after testing positive for COVID-19.

Masvidal, the ceremonial BMF champion, was the opponent UFC initially targeted for Usman before negotiations went sideways and Masvidal started a public protest over fighter pay. 

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Masvidal (35-13) spent his July 4th holiday undergoing the first of what would be multiple coronavirus tests while negotiating the fight, per photos released on social media by his manager, Malki Kawa.

The 35-year-old brawler rose from journeyman status in 2019 with a trio of stoppage victories which earned him global fame and Fighter of the Year honors. 

Among the major hurdles facing the proposed fight are the logistics of how the fighters would safely arrive in the United Arab Emirates amid quarantine protocols in such a last-minute scenario.

Usman (16-1) did not board a chartered UFC flight which carried fighters, trainers, media and promotional personnel upon hearing the news of Burns (19-3) pulling out. 

In the event the fight does not take place, the original co-main event of featherweight champion Alexaner Volkanovski taking on former titleholder Max Holloway in a rematch would take top billing. The card also contains a vacant bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and former featherweight king Jose Aldo. 

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Jones teases multiyear holdout, expects UFC deal

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones said if he needs to sit out several years to stand up for what he considers is right, it’s something he will be remembered for more than his fighting. But he is optimistic the UFC ultimately will meet him halfway in negotiations.

Jones has said he would be willing to vacate his belt after talks for a superfight with heavyweight knockout artist Francis Ngannou fell through. Jones and fellow UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal are waging social media battles with the UFC and promotion president Dana White to get more money and rise revenue sharing among fighters.

“I’m not asking for anything outrageous, and I know we’re in a pandemic, and I know when you’re a multimillionaire and you’re asking for more, it makes you seem like this greedy person,” Jones said on Steve-O’s “Wild Ride” podcast. “I’m very aware of all of this, but I’m also very aware that I have the voice and the platform to make difference.

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“Most of the guys who are doing the absolute worst are not in the position that they can say publicly, ‘I have a second job, I’m borrowing money from my parents.’ I know so many fighters who are living in the Jackson Wink MMA gym because they can’t afford to have their own apartment, and they’re UFC fighters. So this is sad.

“And if I have to have a bad relationship with Dana, sit out for two years, three years, to bring light to what’s happening, then these are the things people remember you for more than winning belts. I stood for the younger fighters.”

White, who has described Jones as the greatest MMA fighter of all time, recently stated Jones can fight whenever he wants.

He said Jones and Masvidal both signed new contracts within the past year.

“Being the greatest of all time doesn’t mean you get $30 million. It’s being able to sell,” said White, who added that UFC walked Jones through the recent numbers on his fights. “[Jones] said, ‘I don’t give a f— what the numbers are. I want what I want.’

“That’s not how life works.” Jones said he wished he had a better relationship with White.

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Cejudo retired, bantamweight title vacant

Earlier this month at UFC 249, Henry Cejudo shocked the world when he retired at the age of 33. The news came right after he made his first bantamweight title defense by earning a TKO victory over former longtime champ Dominick Cruz.

After the stunning news, many people doubted his retirement, but now his retirement seems to be the real thing as the UFC removed Cejudo’s name from the title page and the official rankings on the UFC website.

Once the world noticed the removal of Cejudo’s name, ESPN confirmed that Cejudo is now considered retired by promotion officials and therefore, the UFC bantamweight title is now vacant.

While the UFC views Cejudo as retired, there is now word at this time as to whether or not Cejudo has removed himself from the USADS drug-testing pool.

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Cejudo is one of the most successful combat athletes of all time.

In 2008, he won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling and following his wrestling career, he started competing in mixed martial arts, where he went on to conquer the UFC’s flyweight and bantamweight championships. He also is one of four people in UFC history to hold two titles in two different weight classes at the same time.

At the time of his retirement announcement, Cejudo was considered to be in the prime of his career. He was on a six fight undefeated streak and his last loss came in 2016. He also ended Demetrious Johnson’s reign as flyweight champion, which snapped Johnson’s UFC record of 11 title defenses.

The UFC has not officially announced any further plans regarding the vacant bantamweight title. UFC president Dana White said after UFC 249 that Petr Yan would be one of the two men that will compete for the belt at 135-pounds. Yan was planned to fight Marlon Moraes in June, but the travel ban from the global coronavirus pandemic as affected that fight.

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Teixeira dominant in fifth-round TKO of Smith

One day, Glover Teixeira will cease to be one of the world’s best light heavyweight MMA fighters. That day was not Wednesday.

Eighteen years after his pro debut, Teixeira proved his caliber yet again in the main event of UFC Jacksonville, beating Anthony Smith via TKO at 1 minute, 4 seconds of the fifth round. Teixeira, at 40 years old and six years after his most recent title shot, has won four straight fights.

“It’s not how hard you hit,” Teixeira told Daniel Cormier in the postfight interview. “It’s how hard you get hit and keep coming forward.”

Teixeira laid plenty of hard hits on Smith, who was transported to a hospital and told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani afterward that he suffered a broken nose and a broken orbital bone and had two of his teeth knocked out, including one of his front teeth. The card took place at an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

It was the second UFC event in four days, following UFC 249 on Saturday at the same venue. The promotion caps its busy eight-day stretch with another show from VyStar on Saturday. Before last weekend, UFC had not run an event since March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Smith vs. Teixeira was supposed to headline a UFC card on April 25 in Lincoln, Nebraska, before the schedule was reshuffled.

Smith had a strong first two rounds Wednesday, using a very good jab and right hand, which found its home over and over. Teixeira’s left eye began to swell.

But in the third, Teixeira turned the tide. He landed a big combination with a head kick against the cage and a monstrous uppercut seconds later. A Teixeira uppercut put Smith down. The bout could have been stopped there, but referee Jason Herzog let it continue and Smith survived the rest of the round.

Teixeira got Smith down in the fifth, slipped into mount and rained down huge punches until Herzog stopped the fight. It was only the second fifth-round TKO in UFC light heavyweight history. The other featured Alexander Gustafsson stopping Teixeira in the final round of their 2017 bout.

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Gaethje batters Ferguson to win UFC interim title

Two months ago, Justin Gaethje was training and waiting for the UFC to find his next rival.

On Saturday night, after accepting a short notice opportunity to compete in the UFC 249 main event, he stopped Tony Ferguson by TKO in the fifth round to become interim lightweight champion, setting up an inevitable showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year.

It was a jaw-dropping show, as Gaethje punished Ferguson round after round before finally putting him away with less than two minutes remaining in the combat.

“I knew I was a killer stepping in here,” Gaethje said about his performance. “No better drug on Earth. Adrenaline coursing through my veins.”

Following two consecutive losses, Gaethje started making noticeable changes to his strategy and approach to fighting without sacrificing any of his highlight-reel finishes.

It was more of the same at UFC 249 as he attacked Ferguson with devastating power behind his punches while refusing to engage in the wild exchanges that cost him so dearly in many past fights.

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“I had to lose to change,” Gaethje stated. “Can’t fix what’s not broken. I was getting hit too much, and I was having too much fun. At this level you absolutely cannot do that.”

While Ferguson did manage to put Gaethje down briefly at the end of the second round with a staggering uppercut, the former Ultimate Fighter winner failed to mount much offense over 25 minutes. He did display incredible durability, though, as he absorbed punches that would have likely knocked out every other lightweight on the roster.

Gaethje’s controlled aggression continued to add to his significant strike total as he cut up Ferguson’s face and left him a bloody mess by the fifth round. It was a stiff jab late in the fight that rattled Ferguson for the final time, and as he wobbled backwards toward the cage shaking his head, that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.

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Ferguson, Gaethje make weight for UFC’s return

Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje both made weight Friday ahead of their fight for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 on Saturday. 

According to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, both Ferguson and Gaethje weighed in at 155 pounds in Jacksonville, Florida, which is where UFC 249 will take place.

The event is set to be held at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC 249 will mark the first event from the organization since UFC Fight Night: Lee vs. Oliveira on March 14 in Brazil.

Ferguson and Gaethje had been expected to headline UFC 249 on April 18, but the event was postponed after UFC President Dana White said he was told to “stand down” by ESPN.

The fight is a replacement for the originally scheduled bout of Ferguson vs. UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has been unable to travel outside of Dagestan, Russia, due to travel bans brought on by COVID-19.

With Khabib unable to fight currently, the winner of Ferguson vs. Gaethje will go on to face him at a later date to determine the UFC Lightweight champion.

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The 36-year-old Ferguson is the No. 1 contender for the title. He owns a career professional record of 25-3 with 12 victories by way of knockout and eight by submission. He is on a 12-fight winning streak, with his last two victories coming over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

Gaethje, 31, is the fourth-ranked lightweight and owns a career record of 21-2 with 18 of those victories coming by knockout. Gaethje lost two fights in a row to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in 2017 and 2018 but has since bounced back to win three consecutive, including a knockout victory over Cerrone in September 2019.

Other major fights planned for UFC 249 include Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz for the UFC Bantamweight title, a heavyweight title eliminator between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik and a featherweight contest between Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar.

Cejudo, Cruz, Ngannou, Rozenstruik and Kattar all made weight, but Stephens came in overweight, which could put his fight versus Kattar in jeopardy.

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