Usman put a stamp on his rivalry with Masvidal on Saturday night, dropping him with a crushing right hand and following up on the ground for a knockout victory at 1 minute, 2 seconds of the second round in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.
With the victory, Usman defended his 170-pound title. It was the first time the famously durable Masvidal had been finished by KO/TKO since 2008.
“Jacksonville, Florida — y’all said you wanted violence?” Usman said in his postfight interview. “You’re welcome.”
At the postfight news conference, UFC president Dana White said Colby Covington is next for Usman in what would be a rematch of their December 2019 bout, which Usman won via fifth-round TKO at UFC 245.
ESPN had Usman ranked No. 2 in the world on its best pound-for-pound MMA fighters list coming in. At welterweight, ESPN has Usman at No. 1 and Masvidal at No. 7. Now, Usman has to be considered one of the best in the world currently, and the questions will begin about where he stands on the all-time list.
“With my fundamentals, I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” Usman said.
White went even further, saying that Usman is “one of the best ever and he’s on his way to probably being the greatest of all time.”
“When you go in and you beat the guys who are looked at as the best in the world at that time and you beat them twice and you beat them convincingly, it’s all part of cementing that legacy that this guy is going to have some day,” White said.
The bout took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the first UFC event with a capacity crowd since the COVID-19 pandemic. A crowd of 15,269 was in attendance, according to the UFC.
At UFC 251 last year, Usman (19-1) beat Masvidal via unanimous decision in fairly one-sided fashion. But Masvidal came into that fight on just six days’ notice after Usman’s initially scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for coronavirus. Usman, 33, now has his fourth straight title defense and his 14th straight UFC victory.
Usman has the second-longest winning streak in UFC history. Only Anderson Silva has more consecutive wins in UFC history (16).
“You elevated me,” Usman said of Masvidal. “You made me get into the workshop. … I told everybody I’m still getting better. The sky is the limit for me as long as I’m doing this.”
Masvidal (35-15) is one of the biggest stars on the UFC roster. The Miami native was on a three-fight winning streak before falling to Usman last year. In 2019, Masvidal knocked out Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in a span of eight months to become one of the hottest MMA athletes in the world. The latter was for the mythical BMF title at Madison Square Garden. Masvidal, 36, has been a pro fighter for almost 18 years, but has just recently become one of the most popular MMA athletes in the world.
“He’s got my number, man,” Masvidal said. “He beat me fair and square. God bless him, man.”