Kamaru Usman has done nothing but win since he arrived in the UFC, and if delivers on his plan to make a big statement Saturday night, what could be next for the rising welterweight?
Usman is booked to fight perennial contender, Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 129 this weekend, who agreed to step up and replace the injured Santiago Ponzinibbio. The card will mark the first time Usman’s been tapped for a main event, and he’s been placed in the high profile spot, as a result of going 7-0 to date in the UFC.
While hardcore fans are, or should be, well aware of what Usman’s accomplished to date, the 31 year-old is not a mainstream draw just yet. Thus, this is likely one of the reasons why, he recently said this about Saturday’s bout with Maia (quote via MMA Weekly):
“I don’t take nothing away from Demian Maia. This is a guy that has been doing this sport since before I even knew what this sport was….I’ve put in so much time and I’ve sacrificed so much to where I want to face the best. This is why I called him out two years ago because I wanted to challenge myself against a guy of his level.
“He’s the most dangerous submission specialist in the history of the UFC. I don’t think there’s anyone that comes close to him. You know if you go to the ground with him, your chances of survival are really slim. That’s why I think this fight will open a lot of eyes once I go out there and get the job done.”
There’s no question that this is Usman’s biggest opportunity to date. One, as noted, he’s fighting in a main event. Two, he’s taking on a guy who has challenged for both the middleweight and welterweight title, and is one of the biggest names ever in the grappling world. So, there’s no question that a win on Saturday will send more buzz Usman’s way. But how much?
While Maia has had a remarkable career, the 40 year-old vet is coming off losses to Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington. Although Maia showcased his massive heart and ridiculous toughness in those fights, the vaunted grappler took a ton of punishment, particularly in his bout with Covington.
So, as a result of those losses to the accomplished wrestlers, and because of Usman’s own wrestling pedigree, the latter is a considerable favorite heading into UFC FN 129. So, Usman likely needs to go out and score a decisive win of his own, in order to really move the needle in his direction, and secure a spot in a title shot eliminator.
If Usman can’t, and just gets by the jiu-jitsu master, then his road to a title fight will very likely be extended.