May 15, 2018

UFC Fight Night 129: Kamaru Usman Deserves Title Shot With Win Over Demian Maia, But He Might Not Get It

By Adam Martin

One of the top welterweights in the UFC currently is Kamaru Usman. The 31-year-old native of Nigeria won TUF 21 and has gone on to have a terrific UFC career so far, going a perfect 7-0 inside the Octagon with wins over Emil Weber Meek, Sergio Moraes, Sean Strickland, Warlley Alves, Alexander Yakovlev, Leon Edwards and Hayder Hassan. All told he's 12-1 in his MMA career and is riding an 11-fight win streak into his main event this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 129 at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, when he takes on Demian Maia with a possible welterweight title shot on the line.

Considering Colby Covington just got an interim title shot at UFC 225 against Rafael dos Anjos after beating Maia, it only makes sense that Usman should also get a title shot if he takes out the Brazilian submission specialist. A win over Maia would be eight straight victories for Usman inside the Octagon, and that should equate to a title shot. But bad timing may get in the way, and it might mean Usman wouldn't get what he deserves. Even if Usman goes out there and smashes Maia, if UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley comes back this year and wants to fight the winner of Covington vs. RDA, then Usman might have to wait a while to get his opportunity. We have no idea when Woodley is coming back, which makes it hard to definitively say if Usman will get a crack at the belt even if he puts on a dominant performance against Maia. All Usman can control is whether he puts on a great performance and gets a win, and I expect him to do just that.

But not only are Woodey's injury and the RDA-Covington interim title fight possible obstacles to Usman getting a title shot, so is another man, and that's Darren Till, who fights Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 130 next weekend at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. Till is one of the biggest names in the welterweight division right now and talks a big game. After knocking out Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in his last outing, if Till goes out there and beats Thompson -- especially if he finishes the fight -- then he could very well jump past Usman in the title shot queue, since Thompson is technically the #1 contender after losing a razor close fight and having a draw with Woodley. In that situation, it's possible that Usman gets passed over for a title shot even with a longer win streak, or at the very least have to fight Till for that next title shot. Usman will therefore be rooting for Thompson to beat Till and take his hype away, but we'll have to wait and see how that fight plays out.

With seven straight wins, Usman is more than deserving of a chance to compete for the welterweight title right now, but he has three things going against him. The first is that RDA and Covington are already ahead of him in the title pecking order, and the winner of the interim title fight will likely get a chance to fight the champ Woodley later in the year. The second is that Till could go out there and beat Thompson and steal his #1 contender ranking. And the third is that as dominant as Usman is with his wrestling, he is more of a decision fighter, and the UFC likes to promote fighters who finish fights. If this were just a sport then we could go and give Usman the title shot right now since he has the longest win streak in the division. But the UFC is more than just a sport, and that could hurt Usman when it comes to getting a title shot. All he can control, however, is securing the win against Maia, and then he has to hope for the best. Hopefully all of this is sorted out in the next few weeks with all of these huge welterweight title fights coming up, but right now Usman looks like he's in a tough spot, since no one can ever know how this crazy sport will go.

UFC Fight Night 129: Maia vs. Usman (formerly UFC Fight Night 129: Usman vs. Ponzinibbio) takes place May 19, 2018 at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night 129 Pre-Fight Analysis

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