How Masvidal ended up being the big winner of UFC 251
It was the Bee Gees who many years ago lyrically asked “how can a loser ever win?”
In more recent music history, Off The Record bluntly insisted that “Losers Never Win.”
In the octagon surrounded world of UFC, deciphering the winners and losers isn’t generally rocket science. The loser is the one with the bloodied face and the pained expression. The winner has hands raised in glee and full-on exultation.
Not according to Dana White. In the world of UFC, White is all-encompassing. He is their soothsayer, the heart, soul and brains of the outfit.
When White speaks, people don’t just listen. They get on it and get it done.
So what’s all this talk about losers never winning? White will hear none of it.
In fact, following Saturday’s UFC 251 card on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, White triumphantly declared post bouts that one of the night’s biggest losers was actually the guy who made the card a big winner.
Masvidal Is Massive
In one of three main event bouts on the UFC 251 card, Kamaru Usman (17-1) successfully defended his world welterweight title, holding on to the belt by scoring a five-round decision over Masvidal.
Afterward, White heaped praised upon . . . the vanquished challenger.
“Yeah, he’s a big star,” White told MMAFighting.com of Masvidal. “Masvidal is a massive star. Obviously, Usman, the champion and a guy that we’re all starting to realize is tough to beat.”
It’s easy to comprehend why White was so pleased with Masvidal. After all, he jumped in to save the day, taking the title fight on six day’s notice after Gilbert Burns was forced to pull out of the bout against Usman after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Without Masvidal’s willingness to step up and step in, White loses one of the marquee bouts on his first big post-COVID-19 pandemic card.
Not Much Of A Fight
In all honesty, the Usman-Masvidal title fight wasn’t much of a show. There were no knockdowns or attempted submission holds.
The rest of the numbers tell a tale of a lopsided contest. Usman connected on 263 of 341 attempted strikes, for a 77.1% success rate. By contrast, Masvidal was on target with just 88 of 157 of his strike attempts a 51.6% success ratio.
Usman carried a 62.2% (94 of 151) to 52.8% (66 of 125) edge in connection rate in terms of significant strikes. He attempted 16 takedowns and was successful on five of those occasions. Masvidal never attempted a single takedown.
Perhaps it was the short notice and lack of specific preparation but those totals would seem to clearly exhibit that Masvidal was outmatched inside the octagon by Usman.
Masvidal Makes Bank
Historically, UFC fighters are easily replaceable and don’t tend to have a long shelf life as big-time draws.
Masvidal, though, appears to possess some sort of magical powers over fans of mixed martial arts. Whenever he sets foot in the octagon, despite a middling 35-14 career record and just a 12-7 mark in UFC, Masvidal is money in the bank. Masvidal’s win over Nate Diaz at UFC 244 was the promotion’s best-selling pay per view of 2019.
The numbers are in from Saturday’s event and they are impressive. In terms of pay per view, UFC 251 drew 1.3 million buys, making it one of the most-watched cards in the history of the promotion.
Television ratings show that UFC 251 was the No. 1 draw among cable programming and also took top spot among the 18-49 demographic.
What’s Next On Tap?
Masvidal is already lobbying strongly for a rematch with Usman, even though it was evident that he was clearly second-best in the bout.
“I want that damn belt, and I’m stubborn,” Masvidal told ESPN. “And I know I’m better than Usman, and I want to prove it. I want to fight again.”
Masvidal insists it’s not about the money to him. Considering the drawing power he displayed in terms of eyeballs on the UFC 251 card, money in White’s pocket might be the exact reason why a rematch with Usman would make financial sense.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Masvidal said. “Could they offer me bigger names that pay me more money? Yes. For a fact. But if it’s up to me, Usman. For me stepping up on six days’ notice when no one else would. Because no one else would.
“A lot of people are saying that they would, but who else did it? Ask Dana. Who else was actually like, ‘Hey, Masvidal didn’t do it, I’ll do it. I’m right here.’
“So, if it’s up to me, Usman right away. I don’t care if they can offer me a bigger fight or not, I would like to fight Usman.”
That bigger fight could in fact be a match with the UFC’s all-time king draw, Conor McGregor. But Masvidal seems dubious regarding that notion.
“You can tell me that McGregor right now would make X, Y, Z dollars, the biggest pay-per-view you get in history, right, and I’m going to get paid forever,” Masvidal said. “I feel I’m getting compensated well enough now that if I keep making the right decisions I’ve been doing, this money is forever money. So it’s not about money.”