UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman can defeat Jorge Masvidal if he avoids a stand-up fight, according to Demian Maia.
Maia is the only man to have stepped into the Octagon with both Usman and Masvidal, who will meet at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday local time (Saturday night in the U.S.).
The titleholder was initially scheduled to fight Gilbert Burns but the Brazilian contracted the coronavirus and was replaced by Masvidal on six days’ notice.
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Maia gained a split-decision verdict against “Gamebred” after three rounds in 2017; the following year, he lost on points to Usman after 25 minutes.
He believes the “Nigerian Nightmare” has the skills required to get the better of Masvidal.
“Fights are all about styles and matchups. It doesn’t mean that if I had a difficult time with Kamaru and I won against Jorge, that the same will reflect on the fight,” Maia told TMZ Sports. “I think there’s some things that make Kamaru [the] favorite for this fight. I think he’s more well-rounded, he’s a very good wrestler and he had that full camp.
“Masvidal didn’t have this camp, he just got this fight, so that’s why I think Kamaru is the favorite.
“But MMA is a crazy sport. Even when there is a big difference it’s hard to tell who’s going to win. I think that’s what makes the sport so exciting — it’s because it’s very hard to predict fights and winners.”
Asked what advice he would give to Usman, Maia responded: “What he should do is for sure do what he does best, which is mixing his boxing and his takedown skills.
“Because even though Usman has very good boxing and he’s very technical, he changes stances, and he’s powerful also, he has heavy hands, I think in this matter Jorge is more experienced. He’s been in more stand-up fights and boxing fights, so it’s dangerous for Usman, even with all his skills, to keep the fight like that.
“I think [if] he mixes boxing and taking down Jorge, who then gets a little bit tired especially because he didn’t get a full camp, then it will be easier for him to get a better outcome.”
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