Kamaru Usman showcased some different aspects to his game at UFC 258.
First, he displayed the ability to overcome adversity when he recovered from being rocked by an overhand right from Gilbert Burns in the opening stanza of Saturday’s welterweight championship headliner at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Then, as the bout progressed, “The Nigerian Nightmare” utilized a powerful jab from both the southpaw and orthodox stance, and it was that very maneuver that floored Burns in the finishing sequence at the beginning of Round 3.
“I’ve been waiting for this fight for a year. I was excited for this fight,” UFC president Dana White said at the post-fight press conference. “I knew it was gonna be great. For all the attributes that Usman has, his chin is probably the best one. He’s got a chin from hell. He took some big shots tonight and just kept coming forward … He said he used to get hit with that punch when they used to spar. It basically just made him mad.
“The kid’s the real deal, man. He breaks GSP’s consecutive win streak record tonight. For the people that actually know about fighting, they know that this one tonight was a big deal.”
Indeed, Usman’s 13th consecutive triumph at 170 pounds moved him past Georges St. Pierre and into sole possession of first place for longest winning streak in UFC history at welterweight. Thus far, Usman hasn’t emerged as a megawatt crossover star in the UFC. White believes that moment should have arrived more than a year ago, when Usman outdueled Colby Covington in a slugfest at UFC 245.
“I just think that him and Colby Covington was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” White said. “Say what you want and think what you want about Covington, but Covington’s a bad dude. He dominates everybody that he fights. He’s the real deal. If you look at the war that he and Usman had and how Usman finished that fight, it’s one of the best fights I’ve ever seen. He looked damn good tonight, but he looked really good in that Covington fight.”
Usman’s resume now includes victories over the likes of Burns, Jorge Masvidal, Covington, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia. White says that the strength of the welterweight division will do the lion’s share of the work for Usman when it comes to the star making process.
“People keep asking, ‘Is he gonna be a breakout star?’ If you’re looking at all the guys that are lined up that he has to fight next and he keeps doing what he’s doing, we’re all gonna pop our heads up one day and start talking GOAT,” White said. “It’s not just how you’re fighting, are you winning – it’s who you’re fighting. This guy has nothing but straight killers in that division that he has to get through and possibly twice [with] some of them.”
Becoming a breakout star is reliant upon factors other than in-cage performance. If Usman isn’t in that realm yet, White claims he is already well deserving of comparisons to St. Pierre and being mentioned in welterweight GOAT conversations.
“He just broke his record tonight. Absolutely [he deserves it],” White said. “If you look at what he just did, he just broke [St. Pierre’s] record for consecutive wins. If Usman can keep doing what he’s doing, he’s going to go down as the greatest welterweight ever. It’s a fact. Look at who he’s fought and who he has to fight here in the future, it’s undeniable that this guy will go down as the best welterweight. The question is where will he go down in the history of the sport.”