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UFC 251 preview: Kamaru Usman may have the belt, but Jorge Masvidal has the shine

Kamaru Usman is the UFC welterweight champion and one of the toughest fighters in the entire sport, making former champion Tyron Woodley look amateurish at UFC 235 before showing his heart in a violent victory over Colby Covington at UFC 245.

So then why is everyone talking about Jorge Masvidal?

“Rumor has it that Usman is upset that Jorge is getting all the media attention and has asked the UFC to please include him in the national media spots,” manager Ibrahim Kawa wrote on Twitter.

Usman (16-1), who captured the glass trophy on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), has been flawless in 11 trips to the Octagon, starting with his commanding performance against Hayder Hassan roughly five years back and ending with “Chaos” last December.

He can be a jerk from time to time, but professionally, he’s pretty much perfect.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Usman, 33, is perhaps a little too perfect. Not that it matters when it comes down to wins and losses, but maybe it’s hard for combat sports fans to relate to his blue-collar style of fighting that relies heavily on wrestling.

Nobody daydreams about winning dominant decisions.

Masvidal, who takes over for the infected Gilbert Burns on super short notice, spent his 2019 fight campaign making a mockery of the 170-pound division. “Gamebred” planted Darren Till in London before setting a knockout record against Ben Askren at UFC 239, only to follow it up with a UFC 244 bloodbath against Nate Diaz.

A fight that crowned him the “Baddest Motherfucker” in the sport, though I don’t think Usman is overly impressed with his opponent’s street cred.

“The real story is, he has turned into everything that he had said that he wasn’t,” Usman told ESPN. “A real gangster don’t need to talk about what they’re going to do or what they’re capable of doing or wear pink robes on a two-seater plane in a private jet or whatever. A real gangster don’t need to talk about that.”

Masvidal (35-13) has been wildly inconsistent prior to his breakout year in 2019 and is helped by the fact that fans have short-term memories. Stephen Thompson out-struck the Cuban assassin and took home a clearcut unanimous decision victory at UFC 217, but who cares?

Usman is certainly no “Wonderboy” when it comes to the stand up.

The champion will enter the UFC 251 headliner as the odds-on betting favorite, which is not surprising when you consider that Masvidal had zero time to prepare for their championship showdown this Sat. night (July 11) on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.

Perhaps one more reason fans are rooting for “Gamebred.”

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 251 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the ESPN portion at 8 p.m. before the PPV main card start time on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 251: “Usman vs. Masvidal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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