Since his title win in 2019, Kamaru Usman has climbed his way to the UFC’s top pound-for-pound spot. The legacy of ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is already set in stone, but he is still defending his welterweight title. Could the end be nigh for Usman?
This is my two cents on it all – this is Jake’s Takes!
For the years during his ascent, Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman was dubbed the dark horse of the welterweight division. After his TUF win, Usman put a six-fight win-streak together but was not rising the ranks as others would. The wins may have come against a lower level of competition that wanted, the performances showed that Usman was absolutely a force to be reckoned with.
Usman’s breakout performance came against Demian Maia over the course of five rounds, in Santiago, Chile. Fans critized the slow pace of the bout, but it proved that Nigeria’s finest could control the fight against the best in the world. Another impressive showing against former champion Rafael dos Anjos cemented Usman’s status as a title threat.
The title opportunity finally came for Usman in early 2019. Champion Tyron Woodley was riding three successful title defenses coming into the bout, including a recent finish over Darren Till. The hype meant nothing to Usman, who dominated and battered Woodley for five rounds, en route to a 50-44 decision. To the surprise of many, Kamaru Usman had become the new welterweight champion, and had done so in emphatic fashion.
The next three years told the story of Usman’s dominance. A switch in camp saw ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ improve his boxing skills and develop his punching power. Five title defenses later, Usman now sits atop discussions of being the greatest welterweight of all-time. The consensus remains that the distinction of greatest remains with Georges St. Pierre, but if Usman continues his reign, he could overtake the great GSP.
With his next title defense set to be a summer rematch with Leon Edwards, it got me thinking about Usman’s long-term future in MMA. It’s a topic that has seemed to spring up with the masses in the past few months, regarding Usman’s comments on retirement.
The champion understands that his fighting career will not always be viable, and that he will have to hang the gloves up at some point. Speaking to Damon Martin after his KO win over Jorge Masvidal, he said, “Being a realist and I’m honest with myself and I know that I can’t do this forever, and I don’t want to do this forever.”
“I’m just so far ahead of these guys that I’m coming back around and I’m lapping them now,” he continued. “So, talking to some of my mentors, and some of the greatest that have done this, what they’re telling me at some point it’s going to start, that waking up in the morning and going to the gym to put in a day’s work is going to start to get heavier and heavier when nothing really motivates me like that anymore.”
Before his rematch with Colby Covington at UFC 268, Usman had a similar point to make to media asking him about potential future fights. “I’ve been nine weeks now away from my daughter, and FaceTime does help, but it doesn’t do it justice, as far as being there each and every day. So, obviously, I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this. They have to make sense for me now.”
To me, those are the words of a man who does have a way out on his mind. Fans of Usman know that he is a family man who is prioritising his external needs right now. The end of Usman’s career could be sooner rather than later, if we are to believe his comments.
What further pushes this idea for me is the recent interactions with Conor McGregor for the champion. Should McGregor pull his trump card out and score himself a 170lb title shot, I don’t think Usman will say no to a payday of that magnitude. By the UFC’s standards, he has earned himself a ‘superfight’. It’s that superfight we speak of that could see Usman bow out of the sport on a high-note.
Despite those callouts from McGregor, Usman has yet to confirm or deny that he is interested in the fight. He is confident that, if the fight does happen, that he will “retire [McGregor]”.
One fight that has been on the champion’s tongue is a boxing match with undisputed super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. Usman and his team are confident that they can bring the fight to the Mexican boxer. The UFC, however, have shut down any possibility of this happening.
“I think that [Usman] serious about it; he shouldn’t be serious about it,” Dana White told Sky Sports. “I don’t like that fight at all. Everything about it is horrible. Usman is not a boxer. Canelo is probably the best guy out there right now. It’s a stupid fight that makes no sense.”
If the callout from Usman is anything more than a media stunt, this is fairly conclusive proof that the champ is looking for challenges outside of the routine contenders in his division. Is it a fair assumption to make that Usman could retire if he doesn’t get a lucrative superfight in the near future?
Of course, there are still other challenges at 170lbs that are looking to earn their chances at gold. Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad are set to throw down in a title eliminator, and Khamzat Chimaev has enough fan support to get a title shot with another win. For fans, those matchups may be intruiging but Usman isn’t overly-eager to fight those challengers until they make a solid case. As mentioned in his earlier quote, Usman is taking fights that “make sense for [him].”
Still, before any of that can hypothetically happen, Usman has to get through the challenge that is Leon Edwards. Even if retirement is on his mind, the champ has made it clear to the media that he is taking this fight very seriously. “If Leon wants the smoke in July, I’ll put him to sleep too.”
If everything goes according to plan, this year could be the year that ‘The Nigerian Nightmare‘ leaves his historic legacy behind.
Fight To Watch | Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
Fights are being booked fast and furiously for July 23rd as the UFC’s anticipated return to London approaches. With fireworks expected throughout the whole event, MMAPlay365 and VMTV have scoured through the card and selected Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson as our ‘Fight To Watch’ on the night.
Muhammad Mokaev returns to the octagon following a successful debut back at UFC London in March against Cody Durden. ‘The Punisher’ made light work of his American counter-part, submitting him in the first round via guillotine choke with very little problems. His upcoming opponent, Charles Johnson, signs with the UFC after an impressive four-fight winning streak on LFA, which saw him capture and defend flyweight gold.
His ability to mix it up on the feet and in grappling scenarios make this a much more dangerous bout for Mokaev stylistically, but it’s still nothing the 21 year old won’t be able to handle in the eyes of MMAPlay365 Founder, Adam Newsome:
“At this stage of Muhammad Mokaev’s UFC career every fight is going to be a test. And just because you haven’t heard of Charles Johnson doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter. Johnson was the Flyweight Champion in LFA. If you aren’t familiar with LFA it’s basically the American equivalent of Cage Warriors. You are battle tested in LFA and if you become a Champion the chances are the UFC are going to sign you.
So this is a very interesting match-up but still right now I don’t think that Mokaev gets tested enough to the point he loses. This is going to be another fight I see him doing extremely well in and I don’t see Mokaev losing a fight until he hits the top 20 of the division. But even when that time comes, he is going to have improved and developed so much that he could run through that pool of fighters at that time. If a fighter is going to beat Mokaev outside the best fighters in the division then now is the time to do it whilst he’s still developing. But even though he’s still developing he’s still a problem. I’m not sure Mokaev finds another finish here so I am predicting a dominant three round decision victory for Muhammad Mokaev.”
Cauley Quilty, Editor for VMTV, had this to say on the fight: “Muhammad Mokaev is always a treat to watch in action and his UFC debut back in March was nothing short of spectacular! He came to fight and did exactly that getting the first round finish and I see him doing the same thing when he steps back out there against Charles Johnson. His extensive amateur career and impressive run of professional performances make it almost impossible to not side with Mokaev in this bout, especially with the way he defeated Durden on his debut.
However, Charles Johnson isn’t an opponent anyone should underestimate as his resume and recent performances speak for themselves! His fight vs Carlos ‘Mota’ Tizil was a barnburner and with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of finish you know he can get the job done when needed. Both fighters are highly touted and respected so expect the winner of this to receive a bump up in competition on their next outing.”
Who do you think leaves the ‘Fight To Watch’ with their hand raised? Be sure to let us know your predictions below!
Sumo | Summer Tournament wide open after 10 days
The Sumo Summer Tournament has a surprise joint-leader after 10 days, but many Rikishi are in with a shout of glory with only 5 days to go.
So far, only two have managed to achieve a guaranteed winning record, with M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto and M4 Takanosho posting 8-2 records 10 days in to the basho. It remains to be seen if he can keep up his championship challenge, but Ichiyamamoto is bringing back memories of the January 2020 basho when the M17 ranked Tokushoryu took home the title in a huge surprise. Whatever happens, Ichiyamamoto should see himself catapulted up the rankings for the next tournament if he can keep up this form. It is a welcome return to form for Takanosho who has previously been a Sekiwake.
Despite his patchy form, Terunofuji has scrapped himself to a 7-3 record, which puts him 1 behind the leaders in a large chasing pack. On day 10 he managed to get by a spirited Hoshoryu who is improving all the time. The Mongolian giant will be hopeful of taking home his first championship of the year. Others in the pack on 7-3 are Kiribayama, Ura, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama. With NINE more wrestlers on 6-4, only two behind the leaders and with an outside shot, there will be an amazing 16 Rikishi who may be dreaming of lifting the Emperor’s Cup come Sunday 22nd May. The chances of there being a playoff for the win for the second tournament running are looking pretty high.
Down at the other end of the table, it has been another tournament to forget for March’s playoff runner-up, Takayasu, who has posted a losing record of 2-8 so far. After doing so well to get himself back to M1 rank, he will find himself going down the rankings ahead of the July tournament. Ozeki Shodai has continued his poor form and one more defeat will once again see him staring down the possibility of losing his rank come July. March winner Wakatakakage, alongside fellow Sanyaku ranked competitors Abi, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, are all fighting for winning records having gone 5-5 so far.
Keep an eye out for the next update after Saturday’s day 14 when I will be recapping the standings and looking ahead to what promises to be a very exciting final-day’s action.
Remember to check out the VMTV Sumo introduction and guide here if you need a refresher of the rules and some of the words used in these articles.
You can find the full rankings and results of the tournament so far at the Japan Sumo Association’s page here.
UFC London | Aspinall vs Blaydes Staff Predictions
The UFC will take centre stage once again in London as they return to UK shores for a second time this year on July 23rd. Following the immense success of the previous show in March, the O2 Arena will again play host to another stacked night of fights.
Headlining the card is surging heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall who will be looking to cement his name amongst the top ranked in the division with a win over #4 ranked Curtis Blaydes. It’s do or die for Darren Till when he faces Jack Hermansson in the co-main event as he aims to get his first win since 2019.
Leading up to the event, VMTV have teamed up with MMAPlay365 and our writing staff will be giving their predictions for each fight on the card as there announced. You can view details on the partnership between VMTV and MMAPlay365 here.
Tom Aspinall vs Curtis Blaydes
- Cauley – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R4
- Matt – Tom Aspinall via decision
- Jamie -Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Jake – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Darragh – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R3
- Harry – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Colin – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R2
Darren Till vs Jack Hermansson
- Cauley – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Matt – Darren Till via KO/TKO, R2
- Jamie – Darren Till via decision
- Jake – Darren Till via decision
- Darragh – Jack Hermansson via submission, R3
- Harry – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Colin – Darren Till via decision
Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson
- Cauley – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Matt – Nikita Krylov via KO/TKO, R1
- Jamie – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Jake – Nikita Krylov via submission, R1
- Darragh – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Harry – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Colin – Nikita Krylov via decision
Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir
- Cauley – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Matt – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jamie – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jake – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Darragh – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Harry – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Colin – Paul Craig via submission, R2
Muhammed Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
- Cauley – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
- Jamie – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R2
- Jake – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Darragh – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R1
- Harry – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Colin – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy
- Cauley – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R3
- Matt – Molly McCann via decision
- Jamie – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R2
- Jake – Molly McCann via decision
- Darragh – Molly McCann via decision
- Harry – Molly McCann via decision
- Colin – Molly McCann via decision
Mandy Bohm vs Victoria Leonardo
- Cauley – Victoria Leonardo via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jamie – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jake – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Darragh – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Harry – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Colin – Mandy Bohm via decision
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