Kamaru Usman finally got the name opponent he’s long sought. And he proved he belongs with the big dogs of the welterweight division.
Usman met crafty veteran Demian Maia on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Chile. And while the bout wasn’t thrilling, Usman was effective against one of the sport’s premier jiu-jitsu players. Usman was rarely threatened as he coasted to a unanimous decision victory at Movistar Arena in Santiago. The judges’ scores were 50-45 and a pair of 49-46s for the unanimous decision.
“Nothing but respect for Demian Maia,” said Usman, who revealed he broke possibly both his hands during the fight. “He’s a legend of the game, it was an honor to be in here with him.”
The 40-year-old Maia, a replacement for Santiago Ponzinibbio, had his best round of the night in the first. He neutralized Usman in the clinch and worked into a position resembling an old-school pro wrestling abdominal stretch. Maia was landing punches to Usman’s glutes and midsection when referee Leon Roberts ordered a curious restart.
But that proved to be Maia’s high point in the fight. Usman took over in the second, as he used superlative hip strength and posture to thwart Maia’s takedown attempts. Maia went to his go-to in situations where he can’t force his opponent to the mat, as he’d pull guard, or hit the ground and try to goad Usman to follow, but Usman never took the bait.
Meanwhile, while Usman controlled the final four rounds, he never came close to finishing the uber-tough Maia, who usually managed to scamper to safety when Usman landed punches. The closest Usman came to potentially setting up a finish came in the fourth round, when he dropped Maia early with a right which landed flush on the jaw.
With the win, Usman (13-1), the TUF 21 winner, won his 12th straight fight and improved to 8-0 in the UFC. Six of his past seven wins have come via decision.
“For all the talk of I’ve never faced a top-10 fighter, I just met a legend of the game, two-time title challenger, and I dominated him,” Usman said.
Maia (25-9), a former middleweight and welterweight title challenger, has dropped three fights in a row.