Although Nigerian born-American fighter, Kamaru Usman, retained his UFC welterweight title after defeating a sluggish Jorge Masvidal on Fight Island – but spared praise for his opponent before declaring himself ‘a level better’.
The 33-year-old clinched the win with a unanimous decision from all three judges and dominated Masvidal, who infamously took the fight on just six days’ notice, in the headline bout at UFC 251.
And after equalling Georges St-Pierre’s record of 12 consecutive welterweight victories, a bullish Usman admitted Masvidal proved ‘tough’ during his statement performance to the rest of the division.
He said: ‘Gamebred (Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now, so I had to switch gears preparing for him on six days’ notice.
‘All these guys are preparing for one guy and that’s me, at the top of the mountain.
‘I trained for Gilbert (Burns), I had a different game plan. Gamebred is tough, he landed some elbows from the bottom and he didn’t quit.
‘I knew Jorge is tough, I’ve always said it minus all the trash talking and all the things going on, Jorge is a tough guy and I give him credit for that.
‘I’m just levels better. I have more tools in the toolbox and when I need to I can pull them out and use them.’
An accidental clash of heads drew blood from the challenger early on but Usman rallied to take control of the rest of the bout, even cutting Masvidal again after taking the second round.
The steady showing from the champion forced Masvidal to search for a sensational finish in the championship round, but he was forced down to the mat with elbows and failed to recover.
Masvidal was drafted in just days before the showpiece after Gilbert Burns was scratched from the line-up after testing positive for coronavirus.
He had earned a shot at Usman’s crown following his wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in a trio of stoppages.
Abu Dhabi was the host of the latest UFC event, with Yas Island turned into ‘Fight Island’ – where four separate spectacles will be held throughout July.
But some viewers had been left underwhelmed by the product they received, with the overall package throwing up little surprises despite the remote and idyllic location.