Masvidal vs Usman at UFC 251 Has Fight of the Year Potential

Jorge Masvidal, UFC 239 Masvidal v Askren
Jorge Masvidal, UFC 239 Masvidal v Askren / Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Jorge Masvidal is officially stepping into the main event at UFC 251 to fight Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title. Unless there is a hiccup over the next few days, MMA fans will finally get a fight they've wanted for months. And it could be a Fight of the Year contender.

Masvidal has been battling the UFC over money for months as president Dana White tried to make this fight happen. At one point, the 35-year-old fighter asked for his release if he wasn't adequately compensated by the company. Apparently those issues have been resolved and he'll now get a real title shot on Fight Island.

Usman was already locked in for a title defense at UFC 251, but scheduled opponent Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19, making Masvidal's addition to the card feel inevitable. A deal got done quickly and now the two best 170-pounders in the world can resolve the differences that were on display during Super Bowl week.

Masvidal has rapidly become one of UFC's biggest draws. He's won six of his last eight fights with the two losses coming via decision -- one of which was split. Five of those six wins came via knockout. He's an action fighter with a flair for dramatic, highlight-worthy knockouts.

His five-second KO of Ben Askren via a flying knee elevated Masvidal to elite status and gave the UFC one of its greatest viral moments of all-time. His popularity soared, which led to a bout with Nate Diaz for the symbolic "BMF" title belt. Masvidal won via TKO due to a doctor stoppage after the third round. Diaz had developed a nasty cut over his right eye after being dominated early.

Masvidal brings power, accurate striking and a fearless attitude to the octagon every time he's in it. His next opponent is an incredibly smart tactician who can make aggressive fighters frustrated.

Usman took the welterweight title from Tyron Woodley in March of 2019 via unanimous decision. His lone defense came again Covington in December of 2019. He has main evented five UFC events now and has gone five rounds in each.

Usman won the 21st season of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2015 and has worked his way up the ranks of the UFC. He's currently 16-1 and hasn't lost since his second professional fight back in 2013. He has adequate power in his hands, having knocked out both Colby Covington and Sergio Moraes, but his stamina and grappling game are what separates him.

Eight of Usman's last 10 fights have gone the distance and his preferred fight will wind up on the ground and stay there. A Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu black belt and a former Division II wrestling national champion, Usman loves forcing his opponents to the fence and taking them down. He rarely moves backwards and is relentless moving in for takedowns.

Neither of these guys want to wander the outside of the cage and wait to pick their spots. Both want to move forward and attack, which is why this matchup has so much potential. The clash in styles telegraphs a great fight.

We'll find out if that's what we get in short order. UFC 251 is scheduled to take place on July 12, so we only have to wait a week. Here's hoping this bout lives up to the anticipation.