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UFC

UFC 251: Dustin Poirier predicts Jorge Masvidal 'will surprise a lot of people' when he takes of Kamaru Usman

American was in training camp with Masvidal weeks before late call-up to fight UFC welterweight champ in Abu Dhabi

If Kamaru Usman expects a somewhat undercooked Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, then Dustin Poirier has served the champion a word of warning.

Masvidal was added earlier this week to the headline bout at the Fight Island opener at Flash Forum, stepping in at late notice to take on the welterweight belt-holder. Gilbert Burns had been originally slated to face his teammate, but had to withdraw last Saturday having tested positive for Covid-19.

However, any thoughts Masvidal won’t be prepared for the clash on Yas Island have been laid to rest by Poirier. The lightweight contender trained with his compatriot at American Top Team before his own fight with Dan Hooker at the end of last month.

“It’s a short notice, because he didn’t have the contract signed, but let me tell you what: this guy was there my whole training camp,” Poirier said on The Fight with Teddy Atlas.

“He was my main sparring partner. We probably put in five weeks of sparring together. He flew in wrestlers, the best wrestlers in the world.”

One of the most popular fighters in the sport, Masvidal had initially been slated to take on long-time rival Usman, but negotations stalled with the UFC because of a pay dispute, prompting the promotion to turn to Burns.

Yet Poirier said Masvidal (35-13 in professional mixed martial arts) continued to prepare as if he was readying himself for the title match-up. Masvidal last fought in November, when he defeated Nate Diaz by TKO to capture the one-off “BMF” crown.

Kamaru Usman will defend his welterweight belt at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. AP 
Kamaru Usman will defend his welterweight belt at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. AP Photo

Usman, meanwhile, fought in December, securing a last-minute TKO against Colby Covington. The Nigeria-born champion boasts an 11-fight win streak in UFC.

That said, Masvidal represents a serious threat to that run.

“The guy never stopped training,” Poirier said. “Even when the fight fell through, and they gave it to Burns, it was at the end of training camp, Jorge was still in the gym every day like he had a fight. I don’t know if he knew something that we didn’t, but the guy was in training camp the whole time and never stopped.

“I think he’s gonna surprise a lot of people with the kind of shape he’s in. His timing is going to be good. He’s in fight shape, I know that much. This isn’t a guy coming off the couch. This is a guy who’s been preparing to fight Usman, and the fight fell through, and he kept training.”

Usman's defence against Masvidal headlines an action-packed UFC 251, which features three championship bouts in all. In the co-main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway go head-to-head for the second time in a rematch of their December clash, while Petr Yan and Jose Aldo face off for the vacant bantamweight crown. After UFC 251, Fight Island hosts events on July 16, 19 and 26.

Updated: July 11, 2020 08:33 PM

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