Who will Kamaru Usman face next after his dominant win at UFC 251?
With Gilbert Burns and British star Leon Edwards among the top contenders, who will Kamaru Usman face next after his dominant win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251?
- Kamaru Usman dominated Jorge Masvidal to defend UFC welterweight title
- ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ has style to cause problems for anyone in his division
- Gilbert Burns was due to fight him before pulling out after catching coronavirus
- Leon Edwards is another name in the mix who could step up next for a title shot
Kamaru Usman took on all the risk in fighting Jorge Masvidal on short notice but can now savour the rewards after dominating ‘Gamebred’ at UFC 251.
The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ has matched Georges St Pierre’s record 12 welterweight wins in succession and now the question is, who’s next?
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the runners and riders to see who might challenge the champion…
Kamaru Usman (right) manhandled Jorge Masvidal (left) for much of their UFC 251 showdown
The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ said he wants to take a break for a while before defending the belt
Gilbert Burns (19-3-0)
The Brazilian looks the most likely at the moment. He was due to face Usman in the headliner in Abu Dhabi but contracted coronavirus and was forced to pull out.
His withdrawal was hugely disappointing and Burns would have been coming into the contest with plenty of momentum behind him having recently beaten former champ Tyron Woodley.
Usman and Burns are familiar with each other’s ability as they are team-mates, which would add another dimension if they were to meet next.
And the champion has spoken in glowing terms about Burns, calling him a ‘dog’ and dangerous in all areas.
Gilbert Burns is the front-runner to face Usman having been forced to withdraw last time
It seems as though given the fact that Burns leapt at the opportunity to fight Usman and was only denied his chance by a positive Covid-19 test, the UFC have him as front-runner.
Dana White seems keen on the idea, saying: ‘I think Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman is going to be a really, really good fight. A really good fight.’
And the man himself tweeted: ‘I’m very hungry. I’m next!’
Burns is 4-0 since moving to welterweight and the manner in which he dispatched Woodley seems to have moved him to the head of the queue.
The British fighter is more deserving than most of a title shot.
He was in fact offered the chance to face Usman for the title before Burns but turned it down as he felt he couldn’t adequately prepare in time.
He wrote: ‘For those asking, yes I got offered the shot before Gilbert. We couldn’t make it work this time.
‘2020 has been tough for me on this side of the world, as it has been for a lot of people, but f*** it, you cant stop what is inevitable.
‘The strap will be mine. Continue to stay safe everybody.’
Birmingham’s Leon Edwards has won eight in a row and is deserving of a title shot
And having watched Sunday’s bout on Fight Island, the Birmingham fighter tweeted: ‘Usman done what he needed to! Good win. Now somebody please go and throw that BMF title in the bin and whilst your there add Woodley’s name to my streak.
‘Everybody knows I would of smoked him. Gilbert get in line and you can get yours after me and Kamaru run it back.’
Edwards has won eight successive fights, beating the likes of Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos and Gunnar Nelson.
The last time he tasted defeat was five years ago – a unanimous decision in favour of current champion Usman.
A revenge mission certainly sweetens the narrative and Edwards would be the choice for UK MMA fans wanting to see a second champion from these shores after Michael Bisping became the first in 2016.
Edwards had the chance to face Usman before Burns but turned down the UFC’s offer
Jorge Masvidal (35-14-0)
Immediately after the fight on Sunday, Masvidal could be heard on the microphone saying, ‘I’ll get a couple of wins and we’ll run it back.’
It would be no surprise at all to see Usman and ‘Gamebred’ go toe-to-toe again, probably in better circumstances with a full camp and fans permitted in the arena.
Even though Masvidal had been training, this was still a very short notice fight with a significant weight cut in extremely hot conditions.
The first round showcased some of his flashy striking but as the fight wore on, fatigue played a major role and Usman was able to suffocate him.
If Masvidal could earn a big win before Usman next defends the belt, there would be a renewed appetite to see the rematch.
Masvidal is also a great competitor and outlined his intention to run it back.
Masvidal (right) came in on six days notice and feels he would do far better with a full camp
He reflected: ‘There was some areas where I didn’t give him enough credit and there was some areas I felt with a better training camp I could definitely surpass him. I think I showed a lot of my wrestling on six days’ notice that I’m not too easy to take down or hold down on the ground.
‘I made a lot of mistakes. I tried to fight in spots where I didn’t think my gas tank was the greatest. Right when I would get loose he would clinch me up and take it right back into his world.
‘So, I’m not going to take anything away from him. He won fair and square. I will do whatever it takes to get back in front of that man and compete again and get my hand raised.’
While Masvidal’s chances of fighting Usman next are significantly worse than Burns and Edwards, it is by no means an impossibility.
Before you dismiss this one out of hand, have a read of Usman talking it up…
‘If a lot of MMA fans really look at what Georges did towards the latter part of his career, they looked a lot like that, dominate a guy, take them down and just beat them up and utilise each and every aspect of the mixed martial arts.
‘I think I’m on that same track, we’re both tied for most consecutive wins and that’s a fight I look at and I love and I want.
‘I want a fight like that to be able showcase all my skills and have him showcase all his skills. I think that’s a crazy fight, it’s a huge fight and I think a lot of people would want to see it.’
Georges St-Pierre (right) came out of retirement to beat Michael Bisping and Usman has spoken about how much he’d love to face the UFC legend
St-Pierre has retired but still keeps himself in top condition, he’s 39 now and has spoken about only coming back for something that would improve his legacy.
If he could prevent Usman from breaking his welterweight win streak record, reclaim the belt and become champion again, it would be an incredible achievement.
Although this is a very long shot, St-Pierre might suddenly have an itch to return.
He has the wrestling foundation and all-round game to compete with Usman on paper and the UFC would no doubt be amenable as it is a far more lucrative pay-per-view event than Edwards or Burns would provide, given GSP’s status as one of the all time greats.
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