UFC 251 featured an interesting title bout as UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defeated challenger and BMF champion Jorge Masvidal via a fairly lopsided unanimous decision.
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ defended his welterweight strap for the second time extending his winning streak to 12. The champ has now defeated six of out the top 10 ranked welterweights including kingpins like Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.
However, that’s obviously not enough for the champ as he looks to add more victims on his legacy. Usman would eventually want to surpass the epitome benchmark to which every welterweight ever will be judged. The man with whom he ties the record for most consecutive welterweight wins. Former welterweight and middleweight champion, the legendary, Georges St-Pierre.
Today we look at five potential toughest challenges for champ Usman in the near future.
5) Stephen Thompson
We start off the list with this flashy, two-time title challenger, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. Thompson came back in the winning column with a lopsided decision win over a surging Vicente Luque at UFC 244 in November last year.
Though only being on a one-fight winning streak as of now, Thompson has done some ‘wonders’ inside the octagon that make us believe, he can give the champ a run for his money. Despite wrestling being an antidote for traditional karate, Thompson surprisingly has good performances against wrestlers.
He has wins over dangerous wrestlers like Jake Ellenberger and former champion Johnny Hendricks. Not to forget, Thompson also went toe to toe with another wrestler, former champion Tyron Woodley, who in his reign, was in the conversation for the best welterweight of all time. The first time they fought resulted in an epic five-round draw. Whereas in the second fight, Woodley was able to just edge Thompson via a close decision.
4) Jorge Masvidal
This list would be incomplete without mentioning the ‘BMF champion’ Jorge Masvidal. Obviously Usman was able to pick up a fairly lopsided win over Masvidal, the fact that Gamebred took the fight only on six days notice, made his performance rather commendable.
Masvidal was able to stuff 11 out of the total 16 takedowns attempted by the champ. He also didn’t allow the champ to out to use his wrestling pedigree and he had to sort towards using clinch control and foot stomps.
Despite the short notice against a high-level wrestler can prove detrimental to cardio, Masvidal went full 25 minutes. To add up to that the PPV did a massive 1.3 million PPV buys which increased his stock despite in defeat. It would certainly be interesting to see how Masvidal does against Usman on a full camp.
3) Gilbert Burns
Burns was already slated to fight Usman however tested positive for COVID-19 and was pulled out of his title fight. For starters, that alone should be a valid point to rebook Burns to fight for the title.
Burns being a multiple-time BJJ gold medalist, champ Usman will have to be ultra-careful dealing with him on the ground. And if the fight happens to be on the feet, ‘Durinho’ has enough weapons for that as well. He has three wins by knockout, one of them being against former title challenger and legend Demian Maia. In his previous performance which also happens to be his best. he was able to drop Woodley twice which even Usman couldn’t do.
Another interesting dynamic being, the duo happen to be training partners and really good friends. That being said, they know each others’ flaws would like to capitalize on mistakes each other make.
2) Khabib Nurmagomedov
You have to be one hell of a special fighter if people are considering you to beat the champion of a division above where you haven’t even fought yet! And that’s exactly what lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is! A special fighter!
Nurmagpmedov’s elite wrestling pedigree might challenge and even surpass even Usman’s wrestling ability. Last time when Khabib fought a wrestler, he set the record for the most number of takedowns in a UFC fight (21).
On top of that, his ever-improving striking makes things even more worse for his future opponents. As per physicality is concerned, despite having a relatively smaller frame, everybody knows that Khabib is a huge lightweight walking around the vicinity of mid 180 pounds.
1) Colby Covington
Despite losing against Usman before, Colby Covington still takes #1 spot in our list.
The former interim champ suffered a fifth-round TKO loss against the champ at UFC 245 back in December last year. However he had some huge moments and with few adjustments, we may see the tables turn in a rematch.
Covington put up his trademark pace and volume of strikes on Usman, even rocking him and forcing him to retreat. Usman had never even lost a round in all of his previous 10 fights inside the octagon. Covington, however, was up three rounds to one on a judges’ scorecards before the finish in the fifth round.
It was also reported that Covington suffered a jaw injury during the fight which made things difficult for him. All of that added to his already high stock and promoting skills, calls for an interesting rematch.