Jorge Masvidal flew halfway around the world to fight UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on just six days' notice as a replacement when original challenger Gilbert Burns fell out.
When they fought Saturday night in the main event of UFC 251, it looked exactly like a matchup between a fully trained champion against a late replacement as Usman retained his title with a unanimous decision over Masvidal.
South Florida's Masvidal (35-14 MMA, 12-7 UFC) got out to a fast start in the first round and then gassed out.
From there, Usman's combination of superb wrestling and powerful hands took over, as the Dallas resident, by way of Nigeria, outworked his game but overmatched foe in a rinse-and-repeat effort to retain the title.
The judges' scores in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, were 50-45, 50-45, and 49-46 in a unanimous decision for the champion Usman (17-1), who made his second successful title defense.
The main event was one of three title fights on the evening.
In the others, Australia's Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) retained his championship against the man he lifted the title from in December, Hawaii's Max Holloway (21-6), in a vigorously debatable split decision. Holloway clearly won the first two rounds, while Volkanovski rallied and put together three razor-close rounds to close things out.
The judges saw things his way, giving Volkanovski the better end of two out of three 48-47 scores for a split decision and his 18th consecutive win.
And in a bout to fill the bantamweight title left vacant by the retirement of Henry Cejudo, Siberia's Petr Yan (15-1) took the gold in a fifth-round TKO of former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (28-7) of Brazil.
The bout was tightly contested for three rounds. But Yan pulled away in the fourth, then in the fifth, a depleted Aldo was allowed to absorb a horrific level of punishment before things were finally waved off for a TKO at the 3:24 mark.
--Field Level Media