Kamaru Usman, a former UFC welterweight champion, was the promotion’s inaugural champion of African descent. He was also ranked as the top P4P fighter at one point in his career. However, his trajectory was forever altered after suffering two losses at the hands of the same opponent.
At UFC 278, Usman conceded his first-ever takedown to Leon Edwards, and although he lost the first round. He rebounded in the second and went on to win the next two rounds. Unfortunately, the fifth round ended with Kamaru getting knocked unconscious on the mat after receiving a head kick from his opponent, Leon Edwards.
In their third fight at UFC 286, the judges awarded another ‘Rocky’ victory, this time a majority decision. Although he managed to avoid being knocked out, Usman appeared sluggish and less agile than in previous bouts. Despite his incredible success in the welterweight division, it may be time for him to consider retirement or a shift in the weight class.
Bantamweight Kingpin Aljamain Sterling weighed in on the former 170 lb champ’s fall from grace. According to the Funkmaster, “With so much footage of Usman out there, and how he puts his grappling assault on people, it’s getting easy for fighters to beat him. You have all kinds of blueprints available to figure it all out. That’s how I feel about Usman.”
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has been fighting inside the octagon for a significant while now. There is indeed a lot of footage available that other fighters can use to their advantage. For a technical fighter like Edwards, who doesn’t really rely on his knockout power to win fights, studying an opponent like Kamaru properly seems to have done the trick.
Could we still see the Kamaru Usman vs Alex Pereira superfight?
At one point, Kamaru expressed his belief that he could win the 205 lb title. While it might seem unlikely for a welterweight fighter to succeed in the light heavyweight division. It has happened in the past. As was the case with Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, who also started as a 170er.
However, there are clear differences between Johnson and Usman, and even UFC President Dana White expressed skepticism about the idea. Usman’s motivation for seeking a title shot in the 205 lb division was to avoid fighting his friend and fellow African Adesanya for the latter’s 185 lb title.
If Israel Adesanya loses to Alex Pereira at UFC 287, it could be an opportunity for Kamaru, a strong wrestler, to step up and challenge for the title. This would not only give another Nigerian a chance at the belt. But also create a compelling storyline of a friend entering a new division to avenge his compatriot against a longtime rival.