Even the”Nigerian Nightmare” might not have given his opponent a terribly bad dream but he still eased to victory at the main event on the debut of UFC’s”Fight Island.”
The 33-year-old — that had been born in Nigeria and moved into the United States as a child before getting a wrestling champion in university — also made it 12 straight wins to tie lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active streak in the sport.
Given Usman’s pedigree, a Masvidal win could have been an upset. But even more so since the bout was only finalized last week after Usman’s intended competition, Gilbert Burns, pulled out when he tested positive for coronavirus.
The continuing pandemic prompted UFC President Dana White to seek as safe a place as possible to hold conflicts and in early June he picked Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has been a preceding UFC destination.
All fighters, their teams, and employees have been tested for the virus that has, according to Johns Hopkins University, killed 565,000 people around the globe and infected nearly 13 million.
At a quirk for important struggles, the showpiece bouts were held in the early morning hours local time Sunday for its prime time US television market but it did not appear to affect Usman.
All 3 judges gave him a hefty advantage.
“Gamebird is the biggest, baddest dude available right now,” Usman said, speaking to Masvidal’s nickname. “I needed to prepare for him, switch gears on six days’ notice. I know a great deal was made of him taking a fight on short notice but he is prepared.
“All these guys have ready for a single guy, and that is me at the top of the mountain. I needed to take a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert, I had a completely different game plan.
“Gamebred is tough and he revealed out it. He took a lot of big elbows there at the base but he kept getting up, kept fighting, and didn’t stop.”
Masvidal — who recorded the fastest UFC knockout last year, in five moments — confessed Usman won”fair and square” but included his”gas tank” was a little vacant.
“But I’m still a dangerous guy,” said the American, currently 35-14. “I will come back better than ever. I’m not going to disappear from this sport with no buckle being wrapped around my waist one way or the other.
“It wasn’t my very best performance tonight but everybody can see that I have a dog in me. That dog doesn’t shut up or roll over for anyone. I was very tired in some spots.
“But I managed to dig down and get back on my feet. I am not happy with my performance but I am telling everyone I’ll be back strong.”
Both men wanted a rematch. For now, though, Usman is eager to go back to the US to spend some time with his husband, Samirah.
“I need to return to my daughter,” he explained. “I want to sit on my couch, eat some Thai food, and watch some Netflix together with her. And then watch a couple of (her) gymnastics training and ju-jitsu training, and then we will start thinking about fighting someone ”
Elsewhere, Alexander Volkanovski successfully defended his featherweight title by beating Max Holloway — whom he toppled in December to first take the belt.
But the result was not as straightforward.
Two judges scored it 48-47 for its Australian while another gave it into the American by the same score. White believed Holloway did enough to win.
Russia’s Petr Yan, meanwhile, became the bantamweight champ by stopping veteran Jose Aldo of Brazil at the fifth and last round.
Lots of onlookers, including White, felt the affair should have been stopped sooner.
“Horrible, horrible stoppage by the referee. It ought to have been stopped sooner,” explained White. “Seems like we have to tighten up our refs and judges on Fight Island.”