Gamebred's first try ended disastrously, as Kamaru Usman simply outclassed him for the entirety of the five rounds at UFC 251. Fortunately, the UFC felt that Masvidal's poor performance was understandable due to the less-than-optimal circumstances he had to deal with.
This time around, Masvidal will have the benefits of having undergone a full training camp – something that he didn't have at UFC 251. But to beat a dominant champion like Usman, simply training for a longer period wouldn't be enough. Listed below are five adjustments that Jorge Masvidal has to make to defeat Kamaru Usman at UFC 261.
#1 Jorge Masvidal should showcase an improved takedown defense
Kamaru Usman will definitely be looking for a repeat performance of his first title defense against Jorge Masvidal. The champion's game plan is no secret. Given that Masvidal is the more elite striker, Usman will try to neutralize his knockout power by taking the fight to the ground.
Masvidal knew that the first time they fought and he's surely aware of it coming into the rematch. If Masvidal hopes to win, he should show up against Usman with a significantly improved wrestling defense.
Just like Francis Ngannou during his fight against Stipe Miocic, Masvidal has the advantage of knowing exactly what his opponent will try to accomplish. The only question is: Is Masvidal capable of preventing Usman from asserting his will?
#2 Jorge Masvidal should get back to his feet
Ideally, Jorge Masvidal should stuff Kamaru Usman's takedown attempts every single time if he wants to walk away as the victor. However, getting taken down is very difficult to prevent against an elite-level wrestler like Usman.
So when Masvidal inevitably gets taken to the ground, he has to get back to his feet as quickly as possible. That way, he can avoid taking damage from Kamaru Usman's menacing ground strikes. And by doing so, he'll also send a message to the judges that Usman's offense is ineffective even if he successfully scores the takedown.
#3 Jorge Masvidal's counter striking needs to be on point
What makes Kamaru Usman very difficult to defeat is his suffocating relentlessness. The Nigerian Nightmare loves to push forward and smother his opponents in the clinch or take the fight to the ground when the opportunity presents itself.
What Jorge Masvidal has to do is use Kamaru Usman's aggression to his advantage. Gamebred should try to keep the distance and let Usman come at him. Every time Usman attacks, there will be an opening to land counters, which Masvidal should definitely exploit as much as he can.
But if Masvidal wants to take that route, he needs to be in phenomenal shape. Another attribute that makes Usman look seemingly unbeatable is his inhuman-like conditioning. Masvidal needs to come in with a gas tank that matches Usman's if he wants to go toe-to-toe with him for five rounds.
#4 Jorge Masvidal needs to bait Kamaru Usman into a stand-up fight
It didn't work the first time, but Jorge Masvidal has to keep trying. Masvidal's easiest path to victory is to try to bait Usman into standing up with him. That's because striking is the only department where Masvidal has the clear advantage over Usman.
Kamaru Usman is unstoppable when he utilizes a wrestling-heavy offense. However, he's not as invincible when he engages in a slugfest. Colby Covington somehow managed to lure Usman into a striking contest, which arguably cost the champion a couple of rounds before earning the victory via TKO.
If Masvidal can keep the fight standing, there will be plenty of opportunities to connect with his patented three-piece combinations. And if he's lucky, he might even score a knockout.
#5 Jorge Masvidal should use his flying knees to perfection
Jorge Masvidal is best-known for one particular highlight – his flying knee KO of Ben Askren. Perhaps the flying knee strike is his best weapon to try and put Usman away.
Masvidal was able to execute the flying knee to perfection because he's aware of Askren's tendency to shoot for a takedown. Against another great wrestler in Kamaru Usman, he must also always be on the lookout for openings to land the devastating blow.