The first title fight between Usman and Masvidal took place in July 2020 at UFC 251 where Usman won by dominant decision. Usman oustruck Masvidal in total strikes 263 to 88, he also secured five takedowns and maintained control time for 16:38 (just over three rounds).
While it was a one-sided performance, Usman’s original opponent Gilbert Burns was forced to pull out after he contracted COVID-19 and as a result, “Gamebred” filled in for “Durinho” on just six days notice.
Not only did Masvidal have to travel from Florida to Las Vegas and then to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, he also had to cut weight to 170 pounds during that span of time as well.
Masvidal spoke of the difference between cutting weight on short notice for UFC 251 and what it was like to cut weight earlier in his career.
“The weight cut was tough, and as you get older it just gets rougher. When I used to fight at [lightweight] I used to cut between 17 and 18 pounds,” Masvidal said. “It would hurt but I could do it. I could recuperate, it wasn’t a great feeling.”
“Gamebred” then provided perspective of what his short notice weight cut was really like.
“It wasn’t my best weight cut, I can tell you that much. The last three pounds to cut took longer than the first 17 if that kind of gives you a better understanding of how tough it was. But as I stand right now, I just finished training right now I’m like nine pounds to go. So, let’s rock and roll.”
With an adequate amount of time to cut down to 170, it provides Masvidal with a much better opportunity to win welterweight gold.
But there are certainly other takeaways from the first fight that Masvidal can utilize to have a better chance at victory at UFC 261. One of those takeaways include trying to find a way to evade Usman’s foot stomps that accounted for a solid amount of the strikes Usman landed that were mentioned earlier.
“We got some plans for that,” Masvidal said. “But the first thing is being in good shape. Not having to cut a crazy amount of weight. So I have my legs under me, I got a little bit of power in me. I got my speed with me. Those things look ‘check, check’,” Masvidal said while crossing both off an imaginary checklist. “Since I’ve got in this fight I started running right away. Doing the things I had to do drop my weight. My weight is perfect, so I am not worried about anything this guy does.”
To Masvidal though, the most important factor headed into the fight is unsurprisingly, who will be the most game.
“It’s not even about the skill. It’s about the will of the person, the dog in the person. There’s a lot of other fighters that I probably wouldn’t fight on six days notice because I’m like ‘Man, those guys are mean. If I’m not in shape and I’m a little bit tired, they’re gonna try to break my nose. They’re gonna try to hurt me,” Masvidal said. “Usman’s not that guy. He’s never been. He’s a fucking coward.”
While many believe a sequel can never be as good as the first act, Usman and Masvidal will look to disprove that notion Saturday.