Kamaru Usman scored a stunning second-round knockout to finish Jorge Masvidal and retain the undisputed UFC welterweight title at UFC 261 in Florida.
The bout, which took place in front of 15,000 fans in Jacksonville, was a rematch of their meeting at UFC 251, where Masvidal stepped in on six days’ notice but lost out to Usman on the scorecards after five gruelling rounds.
American Masvidal, 36, said that he would fare better after a full training camp, while Nigerian Usman, 33, promised to deliver an even more decisive victory in the rematch to register his fourth successive title defence.
The pair engaged in a thrilling back-and-forth battle through round one, with both men enjoying success on the feet, while Usman scored a significant takedown midway through the round.
The bout exploded in round two when Usman connected with a huge straight right hand that sent Masvidal crashing to the canvas for a knockout victory.
Usman’s win improved his record to 19-1 and extended his unbeaten run to 18 fights, including 14 straight victories in the UFC.
“I told everybody, I’m still getting better. The sky’s the limit for me as long as I’m doing this,” he said.
“I know with my fundamentals, I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now.”
Masvidal was classy in defeat as he reacted to the first knockout loss of his 50-fight MMA career.
“First time in my career, and it’s in front of all my people, my family and my friends, so it hurts,” he said.
“I’ve never been knocked out in 50 pro fights. Usman showed me something that he didn’t show in the first fight. I didn’t feel his power, and that’s what happens when you get overconfident. I thought we were going to wrestle more.
“All the props to him in the world. He caught me by surprise. He’s got my number. There’s nothing I can say. He won this fair and square. God bless him.”
Namajunas stuns Weili with spectacular knockout
In the night’s co-main event, Rose Namajunas reclaimed the UFC women’s strawweight title with a spectacular first-round knockout of Chinese champion Zhang Weili.
Namajunas started confidently as she looked to work her jab in the early exchanges but Weili countered with a few low leg kicks. The 28-year-old then answered with a perfectly timed high kick to the head that dropped Weili, 31, to the canvas.
Namajunas followed her opponent to the mat and connected with a pair of hammerfists, as referee Keith Peterson swiftly moved in to stop the fight with the American becoming a two-time strawweight champion.
“I didn’t see her moving. I wasn’t sure if she was going to come back from that. Just a couple of hammerfists and I felt like that [she] was out,” said Namajunas.
Shevchenko dominates to continue flyweight reign
The first title fight of the night saw women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko continue her dominance of the 125lb division with a second-round TKO finish of top contender and former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade.
Kyrgyzstan’s Shevchenko, 33, finished Brazilian challenger Andrade, 31, with elbows from the crucifix position to register her fifth straight title defence in a fight she completely dominated from start to finish.
Despite being known for her striking, Shevchenko opted instead to use her grappling skills to take Andrade off her feet before finishing her with ground strikes to claim her 21st professional win.
“My plan was to come into the octagon and destroy my opponent. Sorry, Jessica, but that was my plan,” she said.
“I want to say one thing. When my opponents try to figure out what is a weakness of mine, don’t waste your time. There isn’t one.”
Former champion suffers leg injury
Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman’s hopes of a big win ended in just 17 seconds as he suffered a broken leg in his bout with Uriah Hall.
The bout ended immediately after the very first kick of the fight as Weidman threw a powerful leg kick, which was checked by Hall.
The block instantly broke Weidman’s leg in an incident that was eerily similar to an injury sustained by former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in his rematch with Weidman in 2013.
After the fight, Hall paid tribute to Weidman and promised to face him again in the future once he had fully recovered.
“I got nothing but respect for Chris Weidman. He’s truly one of the best,” he said.
“Man, I feel so bad. I hope he’s OK. I with his family well.
“Whatever rank I am in the future, if he gets healthy, I owe him this fight.”