Only last week, Gilbert Burns was scheduled to face Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 after negotiations with Jorge Masvidal had fallen through, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of some fans. Some, however, feel he was justified in his battle with the bosses for an increased pay. That left us with the surging Brazilian, Gilbert Burns vs Kamaru Usman.
However, with COVID-19 having a say in most things at the moment, the UFC got a bittersweet reminder of how a the virus has derailed things. Friday afternoon, after training partner and One FC Light Heavyweight Champion Aung La Nsang tested positive, Burns came back with a positive test also. That ended his immediate hopes of a title shot and left the UFC with an opportunity to give the original number 1 contender, Jorge Masvidal, another chance to work it out and get his title shot. And this time, the job seems to be done.
With a little under a week to go until the card, there’s still time for this fight to fall through, however, touch wood, it looks as if it’s a potential disaster-turned marketing opportunity for the UFC as the existing bad blood, with Masvidals recent superstar status, makes this card, somehow, even more incredible.
How Did We Get Here?
Ever since his BMF title-winning performance against Nate Diaz, Masvidal has been everybody’s pick for the next welterweight title shot. However, contractual issues and the age old fighter pay argument has put multiple spanners in the works.
Back in April, there were hot talks of a fight being made, through to May, with conflicting stories from either side, pointing the blame at each other for not getting the fight made. Eventually, by the time Burns v Woodley came around, the UFC and Dana White had gotten fed up with the negotiations.
Burns went into the fight knowing he could have a potential title shot, depending on his performance. Woodley, 4x defending ex-champion, was looking for a comeback victory to put himself back in the mix. Burns had other ideas, securing a 10-8 round in the first, dominating the former champ over 5 rounds on all 3 judges scorecards. This, was enough for the UFC to grant him the title shot, ahead of Masvidal.
This caused Masvidal to ask for his release, and threaten the UFC with legal action, causing a plethora of fighters to follow suit. Many wondered if the UFC and Jorge Masvidal could ever bury the hatchet and come to an agreement. It didn’t seem to matter, the UFC were moving on with Burns, and Masvidal was quietly doing his own thing.
With Usman and Burns being teammates, Usman moved to Colorado for the camp. Whilst Usman was away, an outbreak of COVID-19 hit Florida. Then, 1 week from the fight, Burns tests positive for the coronavirus. Causing him to be pulled from the fight. The UFC obviously had a difficult decision on their hands. Keep Usman on the card and find someone else or move the fight to the next card? But would anybody be willing on 7 days’ notice, on an island, during a worldwide plague-like pandemic?
Gamebred is a term used when describing Pitbulls. Definition; an animal that is bred to be game. A nickname that suits Jorge Masvidal to perfection. Whilst knowing he could have waited 6 months and still got a title shot on command, Gamebred, has shown he is also true to his BMF belt moniker. Stepping up to the plate and saving the card.
How Will the Fight Go?
In terms of Usman, I think we can predict how he will fight. He will most likely look to mix up his sound kickboxing, with his relentless wrestling. Looking to take Jorge down, control his posture, and land as much damage as possible. Submissions aren’t exactly Usman’s speciality. And with Jorge being one of, if not the most underrated defensive grapplers in the UFC, ground and pound will be the Nigerians way to victory.
If he can land enough damage on the ground, he can start to have success on the feet, by feinting his takedowns and mixing up his striking. However, if Usman can’t get Jorge down, he’s in for possibly a short night.
Without a full camp, no matter how hard Masvidal has been training, he won’t be championship fight ready. This also makes Masvidal relatively easy to predict also. He’s going to want to keep it standing, and he’s going to come out all guns blazing. This, whilst easy to pick apart in most fighters, becomes a real issue when someone with the technical abilities and IQ of Masvidal is walking you down.
With some of the best boxing in the UFC, Jorge Masvidal will have the advantage in that department. He also has a wide range of kicks. From leg kicks, calf kicks, body kicks and head kicks. All more precise and intelligently thrown than anybody Usman has fought before.
Masvidal has previously credited spending time in the jungle for a TV show as his turning point in his career. He used the time to reflect, and come back with a finishing mentality. Never wanting his fights to go the distance, with less than a week of training camp, there’s even more of a reason for the Cuban to try finish the fight.
Will Jorge beat Kamaru and pull off a shock reminiscent to Nate Diaz vs Conor Mcgregor? Or will Kamaru Usman continue his reign of dominance? Either way, we should probably be glad the fight wasn’t scheduled in the first place. Whilst unfortunate that Burns was tested positive, it causes me to wonder, if Masvidal vs Burns was booked the first time round, would Usman have stayed at Hard Knocks 365? Would he have caught COVID-19, like his teammates, ruling out any possibilities of a Welterweight bought this weekend? If anything, it seems like the little bit of luck the UFC have needed. And for us fans, we have an even more mouth-watering fight. Officially signed now.
Wishing Aung La Nsang, Gilbert Burns, and any others affected with the virus, a fast, easy recovery.
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