Kamaru Usman has won 12 straight. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kamaru Usman headlines his second Ultimate Fighting Championship card this weekend when he takes on former lightweight king Rafael dos Anjos at “The Ultimate Fighter 28” Finale. Usman is undefeated in the UFC with eight wins since 2015 and a satisfactory performance over Dos Anjos should push him into the title picture.
Usman might be one of the most linear contenders in the UFC, but we have seen with fighters like Demian Maia and most notably Khabib Nurmagomedov that grappling-heavy linear fighters can go a long way. Although it doesn't get mentioned, Usman’s grappling is very similar to Nurmagomedov’s. Both men use chain wrestling to demoralize opponents and create a false sense of security to allow opponents to get to their feet before landing another takedown. They both also have fantastic guard passes and transitional grappling, but the major difference between the two is what they do once the fight hits the ground.
While Khabib is the most feared ground-and-pound artist in mixed martial arts history, Usman is frustratingly passive with his striking. Instead of unloading with punches, Usman will spend entire rounds doing nothing but passing guard and landing short elbows. Sure, this will win fights, but not only is it boring to watch,it’s also not allowing Usman to grow as a fighter and a future star. Usman can pass guard like butter to get in dominant positions, but is much too content with laying on his opponent and striking just enough to not get the fight stood up. If he had some urgency he could finish frequently and it would be fantastic to see him work on that in the future.
Usman is far from a technical striker, but he can use his athletic ability and threat of takedowns to fluster opponents on the feet. Recently it seems Usman is trying to prove a point and has elected to stand and trade. Against Maia, he didn’t shoot for a single takedown in a five-round fight and although his striking didn’t look great, he proved he doesn't have to go to the ground to earn a victory. His finest performance to date was against Sergio Moraes last year and he again didn’t shoot for a single takedown and won by knockout. Although Usman working on his striking is a nice Touch To his game, it would be much better for him in the long run if he can be more aggressive with his ground-and-pound and become the Nurmagomedov of the welterweight division.