Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 is the classic wrestler vs. striker matchup, and the numbers favor Usman.
UFC 251 on Saturday on "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi features three title fights. Anticipation for the main event rose when Masvidal replaced Gilbert Burns in the welterweight title fight against champion Kamaru Usman (15-1, 11-0 UFC). Burns was pulled from the card after testing positive for COVID-19. Masvidal has seen his star rise over the last year and will be challenging for his first UFC title in his 49th pro fight.
Usman, an NCAA Division II national champion wrestler, has used his pedigree to dominate and smother the top contenders in the division on his way to the title. His 11-fight UFC win streak is the longest active run in the division.
Masvidal (35-12, 12-6 UFC) will look to use his experience and striking advantage in what will be his 12th UFC welterweight fight after competing at lightweight.
Among active fighters, Masvidal is tied for third with six KO/TKO wins as a UFC welterweight. His eight knockdowns, 49.4% significant strike accuracy and 4.75 strikes landed per minute all place him within the top 10 of active fighters in the division, according to UFCStats.com, which tracks records in UFC fights as far back as UFC 28 in 2000, the first event to use the unified rules.
But Masvidal is going to have to hope he can stay on his feet long enough to use that potential striking advantage.
Usman’s 1:36:29 of control time is the fifth most in the division's history. That translates to 52.6% of control time in his fights, which is sixth best all-time and first among active welterweights. Usman also has the best significant strike differential in the division, landing 2.43 more per minute than he absorbs. He has only lost one round in the UFC unanimously: the first round against Colby Covington in his first title defense last December at UFC 245.
Usman has never been taken down in the UFC and has spent 0.02% of the time in bottom position, a record that is five times better than second place Lorenz Larkin. Only three fighters have even attempted a takedown against Usman - one each by Tyron Woodley and Rafael dos Anjos and 15 by Demian Maia.
Maia is the one common opponent of Usman and Masvidal, and the numbers from those fights tell the same story. Maia was close to a take down on the first of those 15 attempts but was unable to mount much offense the rest of the five-round fight as Usman won a unanimous decision.
Maia had more success against Masvidal, dragging him to the ground early and spending most of the first round looking for a rear naked choke. The last of his four takedowns midway through the third round helped secure a split decision for the jiu-jitsu ace.
Masvidal looks to be the best he’s ever been. He’s coming off three straight wins, including a high-profile victory over Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden and the fastest knockout in UFC history over Ben Askren, a flying knee in the opening five seconds of the fight.