Who’s Next for Kamaru Usman?

Kamaru Usman (Photo by Jeff Bottari | Credit: Zuffa LLC, 2020 Jeff Bottari)

The dominant performance by Kamaru Usman in his victory over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 to retain his welterweight title still has the MMA world buzzing. The jab he displayed throughout the fight was absolutely masterful.

Usman immediately called out Jorge Masvidal after the fight. It was a surprising call out since Usman disposed of Masvidal quite easily in July. Granted, Masvidal took the fight on 6 days notice, but it still is a tough sell given that the fight wasn’t close whatsoever. Would a full training camp be the difference for Masvidal to take out Usman? Also, shouldn’t Usman be the one making the other fighters chase him, not the other way around?

Masvidal is nearing the Conor McGregor territory. I don’t just mean in regards to popularity, but he has not been very active. His last win was against Nate Diaz in November of 2019. He became a sensation in the UFC once he knocked out Ben Askren with a flying-knee in a record-breaking 5 seconds. Before that, Masvidal was just someone who was in the middle of the pack.

Usman versus Masvidal would probably be the biggest money fight, but as far as the fighter who is most deserving, it would probably be Colby Covington. Covington also lost to Usman in the fifth-round of their title fight after Usman broke Covington’s jaw earlier in the fight. It was the closest fight that Usman has had in his dominant reign as champion, some having Covington winning the fight if it wasn’t for the fifth-round stoppage.

Usman and Masvidal (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The only other two options would be Leon Edwards or Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Leon Edwards lost to Usman back in 2015, but he also hasn’t fought since July of 2019. Not only would that be a hard sell for the fans, but it would also be a tough fight to throw Edwards back into after a long layoff.

“Wonderboy” Thompson has never fought Usman, but his last two fights weren’t against anyone that should warrant a title shot. He fought Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal and won both of those by unanimous decision.

The best options would be the first two laid out, Masvidal or Covington. And luckily for the UFC, those are the fights that would garner the most attention from fans and media. Masvidal will likely get the nod, just for the simple fact that Usman called him out right after his beatdown of Gilbert Burns.

If Masvidal loses again, he will have a harder time selling himself as a real contender, especially if it’s in the same fashion as their first fight. It’s where Conor McGregor is at right now. McGregor has to win his next fight or else he’s going to see a dip in pay-per-view sales because no one will be buying what he’s selling. Masvidal doesn’t even have the track record McGregor does as being a former champion.

Covington would be the most believable contender to get the fight, just because most of the others don’t match up well against Usman. Covington’s endurance and output alone give him a chance in just about any fight. Not to mention his impressive wrestling background.

Usman vs Covington (ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The welterweight division is confusing right now. And also a little boring. That does tend to happen when you have a dominant champion for so long. Just look at light heavyweight. Jon Jones cleared out that division numerous times to where the fights that were on the table for him were people who didn’t deserve a title shot or people who Jones beat not long before. It’s becoming a similar situation with Kamaru Usman.

If Usman beats Masvidal and Covington again, where does that leave the division? He’ll almost be forced to try his luck at middleweight, just as Jon Jones has had to do with moving up to heavyweight. At least a move to middleweight would create fresh matchups for Usman, who’s finally getting recognition seemingly for the first time in his career for the great fighter that he is.

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