UFC 251: Usman grinds down Masvidal, Namajunas trumps Andrade

In the card's other title fight, Russia's Petr Jan scored a brutal technical knockout over Brazilian Jose Aldo to claim the bantamweight title.

With Masvidal taking the title fight on six days' notice after Gilbert Burns was forced to pull out after testing positive for the new coronavirus, Usman used his superior wrestling and clinch work to wear down the challenger over five rounds.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman ground out a decision victory over Jorge Masvidal to keep his belt, and Alexander Volkanovski retained his featherweight title with a split decision victory over Max Holloway at the UFC 251 event in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

With Masvidal taking the title fight on six days' notice after Gilbert Burns was forced to pull out after testing positive for the new coronavirus, Usman used his superior wrestling and clinch work to wear down the challenger over five rounds.

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The 33-year-old ripped vicious hooks to the body against the cage and smothered Masvidal on the ground, sapping the challenger's energy en route to a convincing win.

READ: UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal, Volkanovski vs Holloway - All you need to know

"All these guys, they're preparing for one guy, and that's me, at the top of the mountain, and I had to make a mental shift," Usman said after the fight. Masvidal "is tough, and he showed it out there."

In the co-main event Australian Volkanovski, who won the featherweight belt from Holloway via unanimous decision in December 2019, found himself behind early on, after he was knocked down at the end of each of the first two rounds.

The former semi-professional rugby league player dug deep, relying more on his wrestling and doing just enough over the final three rounds to edge out the Hawaiian on the judges' scorecards and remain unbeaten in the UFC.

READ: 'Fight Island' opens with three UFC titles up for grabs

In the card's other title fight, Russia's Petr Jan scored a brutal technical knockout over Brazilian Jose Aldo to claim the bantamweight title left vacant by the retirement of previous champion Henry Cejudo in May.

Dropping down a weight class, former featherweight champ Aldo held his own but wilted in the fourth round, and the Russian dominated him with ground strikes in the fifth until the referee waved the fight off, declaring Yan the winner by TKO.

Former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas avenged her loss to Jéssica Andrade with a split-decision win in their rematch on Yas Island. Namajunas returned from a 14-month break since Andrade claimed her title with an upset victory, surprising the champ with a body slam after Namajunas dominated the early fight.

Namajunas never allowed an opportunity for Andrade to finish her in the rematch, dominating the first two rounds with her slick striking and fluid movement. Andrade rallied in the third and badly damaged Namajunas' nose and left eye, but Namajunas won 29-28 on two judges' scorecards.

"I was just in the right state of mind," Namajunas said. "That's everything. Early on in the fight, I was doing great. Then I think she hit the desperation button and started really unloading. She caught me a couple of times, but I just stayed strong."

If her nose heals up quickly, Namajunas could get the next title shot at Zhang Weili, who took the belt from Andrade late last year.

Namajunas never allowed an opportunity for Andrade to finish her in the rematch, dominating the first two rounds with her slick striking and fluid movement.



Brazilian flyweight Amanda Ribas kicked off the pay-per-view card with a first-round armbar submission victory over Paige VanZant. Ribas (10-1) improved to 4-0 in the UFC with a swift dismantling of the popular VanZant (8-5), whose UFC contract is up after four losses in her last six bouts.

Jiri Procházka wrapped up the non-PPV undercard with a spectacular knockout of former light heavyweight title contender Volkan Oezdemir in the opening minute of the second round.

Procházka (27-3-1) is a Czech veteran who has fought mostly in Japan for the past five years, and he was impressive in his hyped UFC debut. Procházka lowered his hands, stuck out his chin and boldly dared Oezdemir to hit him in the first round, and he ended the fight with a head kick followed by a punch that rendered his Swiss opponent unconscious.

(With inputs from AP)