Kamaru Usman is currently the welterweight division’s winningest fighter, having preserved his flawless eight-fight Octagon run with a unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia at UFC Chile. Now he wants to cash in his division-best streak for a shot at gold.
“I think I should fight for the belt next,” Usman said at Saturday night’s UFC Chile post-fight press conference. “I just dominated [Maia] better than (UFC champion) Tyron Woodley. Tyron ran from him the whole fight. Tyron threw, what, the fewest strikes in a championship fight ever? And I just went out and I dominated the guy from start to finish.”
Usman, 31, routed Maia on the scorecards to earn the judges’ nod, out-striking Maia to the tune of a 97-33 advantage, knocking Maia down with a nasty fourth-round salvo, and successfully defending all 15 of the Brazilian’s takedown attempts to push his perfect UFC record to 8-0.
Usman now finds himself in a prime spot in the welterweight division, and he’s confident that after dispatching Maia, there won’t be a harder stylistic matchup he encounters in his climb toward the belt — that includes 170-pound champion Woodley and UFC 225’s interim title challengers Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington.
“Let’s be honest. Nobody — nobody in my division wants to fight me, because I am the hardest fight for anybody,” Usman said. “This fight right here, this a fight that Dana White wanted. He wanted to test me against the most dangerous guy in the division, and that was the most dangerous guy in the division. The champion is easier for me to fight. And you’ve got these other two bums that are fighting for an interim title, those guys are bums, those guys are easier for me to fight. This was the hardest fight in the division.
“I believe Dana really wanted to test me to see if I had all the tools, and I proved it. I’m good everywhere. I can defend the takedowns. I can get a guy down if I want them. I can keep it standing and strike. I can do it all.”
Usman’s foray against Maia marked the first time the “The Nigerian Nightmare” has competed in a five-round UFC main event, and he did so successfully after dealing with an unexpected opponent switch. Less than a month out from UFC Chile, Usman’s original opponent Santiago Ponzinibbio was forced to pull out with an injury.
Usman admitted that the newness of five-round fights and the short-notice change were hurdles that affected his preparation, but with UFC Chile now in the books, he is happy to have been able to learn from the experience.
“Demian Maia, he’s a legend,” Usman said. “He’s a veteran in the game. He knows how to fight. He’s been through so many five-round fights. He’s headlined a lot of cards, fought Anderson Silva for the title, fought Tyron Woodley for the title. He’s a veteran, he knows how to fight, and he’s always training. He’s a jiu-jitsu wizard. So I wasn’t coming in thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m going to be in better shape because he’s taking this fight on three weeks notice.’ No, I’m pretty sure he’s been training jiu-jitsu, and he was working. He’s a veteran. He knows how to fight these rounds. This was a new one for me, fighting five rounds, and I just proved that I can go five rounds and still be dominant.
“I’ve never been five rounds before. Usually three rounds, I can sprint balls to the wall and do whatever I want, but five rounds is definitely an adjustment, and it’s something that, now that I’ve felt it, I know how to adjust and the rest, the future, is up after this.”
After potentially breaking both of his hands midway through his win over Maia, Usman said he was unsure about a timetable for his return. Either way, though, his desires are clear.
Usman said he wants to challenge for the title “by the end of the year, if possible.” And if a Woodley matchup is unavailable, he wants a No. 1 contender match instead.
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