6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) / 170 lb (77 kg; 12 st 2 lb) / Welterweight
Kamaru Usman currently holds the title for the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, and it is truly deserving. He is also one of the most active champions right now; he defended his belt four times in 16 months, which is rare for other UFC champions.
Usman was born in Nigeria and moved to the US when he was just eight years old. He competed in college wrestling, was accepted in an NCAA Division II Wrestling, and was a National champion.
He started his MMA debut back in 2009 and won his first fight against David Glover via TKO. For his second fight, he lost against Jose Caceres, the brother of Alex Caceres, via a rear-naked choke. Usman explained was that it was due to his lack of experience with grappling and BJJ in general.
That loss made Usman an even better fighter, and he worked more on grappling and adding more tools to his arsenal. He also realized that wrestling could not lead him to victory every time, but he needed to be well-rounded.
Going to the UFC
Usman competed in other organizations, like Legacy FC; his ample opportunity arrived when the UFC produced The Ultimate Fighter Series: ATT vs. Blackzillians. Usman was great friends with former UFC champion Rashad Evans. Initially, he did not want to join but eventually decided to.
It later became one of Usman’s best decisions since he went on to win the whole tournament, granting him a UFC contract. His next fight was against British fighter Leon “Rocky” Edwards, who was also a rising contender. Usman dominated the whole fight with the use of his wrestling. The win also aged well, considering Edwards’s last loss before going on a nine-fight win streak and a potential title contender.
Usman’s fighting style was heavily dependent on his wrestling. He does strike with his opponents, but he usually dominates most of his opponents with wrestling. Most of his fights ended unanimously; hence some call him a boring fighter since he grinds all rounds.
His first KO win was against Sergio Moraes, where he showcased a bit of his mighty right hand. After that, he faced Emil Meek and tried to call out the top contenders; it was also where the famous 30% came from. In the post-fight interview, Usman said he only used 30% of his capabilities to win the fight.
Usman vs. Maia
The first real test of Usman came when he faced BJJ specialist Demian Maia. It was also to show whether his grappling defense has improved over time. Maia is one of the best BJJ grapplers in the UFC, and Usman managed to neutralize it by defending takedowns and keeping the fight on the feet.
Usman vs. Dos Anjos
He then faced former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. It was a great match-up since Dos Anjos was a decent grappler with high-level striking. Usman dominated most of the rounds; he was almost submitted via kimura but defended it pretty well.
Woodley vs. Usman
Due to having a dominant performance against Dos Anjos, Dana White gave Usman a title shot against Tyron Woodley. In the fight, there were questions about whether Usman could take Woodley down given his high takedown defense, and Usman took Woodley down quickly. It was a one-sided beatdown as well; Woodley looked like he did not want to be there.
Usman vs. Covington: Rivalry
Usman became the new welterweight champion, and opponents are now wanting to fight the new king. Covington, who was stripped of his interim title due to not fighting on the timeline, was granted the next title fight.
It had a lot of bad blood between both fighters, and the fight delivered to be one of the greatest UFC fights ever. Two wrestlers decided to become kickboxers and not even attempt a single takedown. It was an even back and forth, where Covington landed more punches, but Usman landed the better punches.
Going to the fifth round, it was arguably 2-2, so that means whoever won the last round will win the fight. In the latter half, Usman managed to land an ample counter that stunned Covington a bit. He kept pressuring Covington until he knocked him down and went on for the finish. Usman successfully defended his belt, winning via TKO.
Usman was then scheduled to face his teammate Gilbert Burns. He decided to change teams and train under Trevor Wittman. It turned to be one of his best decisions. Unfortunately, Burns tested positive for COVID just a few days away from the event. Jorge Masvidal stepped in instead on short notice.
It was a massive PPV success due to Masvidal’s stardom. In the fight, Usman used his wrestling more to win rounds and win a comfortable decision.
After Burns had recovered, he was scheduled for his title shot. It was an intriguing match-up since Burns has excellent striking and world-class grappling.
The fight starts and Burns landed his signature combo that knocked Usman down, but the champ stayed composed and recovered. Burns went more aggressive and slipped as he threw a kick, and Usman was landing strikes while Burns was on his back.
As the fight went on, Usman’s striking got better. He landed a pull counter that knocked Burns down. It was a showcase of Wittman’s training; Usman finished Burns in the third round via TKO.
Usman vs. Masvidal 2
He then called out Masvidal after the dominant win, saying he guarantees a finish on the rematch. Masvidal accepted, and the bout was booked. Going to the fight, Masvidal has said that Usman does not hit hard and has pillow hands.
Usman landed one of the most brutal knockouts and put Masvidal to sleep. It now proved that training under Wittman was one of the best moves for Usman. In all of his pro fights, Masvidal was never knocked out cold. The knockout also put Usman as the pound-for-pound king.
Usman vs. Covington 2
The UFC decided to give Covington another title shot since the first fight was pretty close. It was a back and forth, and Usman started the fight strongly, but Covington also had his moments in the later rounds.
Usman is clearly an all-time great with the guys that he has beaten, and he is still undefeated inside the Octagon. He could potentially surpass GSP as the greatest welterweight of all time.