Key Strengths and Weaknesses of Kamaru Usman

| January 11, 2021 7:11 am PDT
Kamaru Usman Strengths and Weaknesses

Kamaru Usman is one of the very best examples of a dominant champion there is in MMA.

And that makes it hard to break the Nigeran-born wrestler down and point out his weaknesses. After all, the UFC welterweight champion has made light work of pretty much every single opponent he has shared the Octagon with.

But as we know, things aren’t always obvious. It takes time to learn about the makeup of a fighter. But if you are betting on Kamaru Usman fights, it can pay to be on the ball. After all, everyone is made up of positives and negatives. Even this guy.

With that in mind, today’s exercise is based on trying to pinpoint the potential holes in Usman’s game while covering what it is that he does best.

Join me as I break down the strengths and weaknesses of Kamaru Usman.

Kamaru Usman Key Strengths

Putting together Kamaru Usman’s key strengths will be the more straightforward part of this exercise.

If you are unfamiliar with the champ, strap in, as you will learn what makes him such a monster inside the cage. But, if you know him inside out, this is where we get to compare notes on the UFC welterweight champion.

Let’s start with his superhero power…

Elite Wrestling

Take Khabib Nurmagomedov out of the equation, and there is no one in the UFC with stronger wrestling than Kamaru Usman.

An NCAA Division II All-American with post-college freestyle experience, “The Nigerian Nightmare” lives up to his name with audacious skills on the mat. His raw strength and power, combined with an excellent rotation of techniques, make his takedowns often impossible to resist.

Offensively, Usman is an absolute menace. His transition from inside trips to slams, and vice versa, are incredible to watch. His double leg technique, in particular, is awesome to watch.

Although he sometimes shoots in with what looks like sloppy, high crotch takedown technique — especially as his loose head positioning leaves him open to a guillotine — he trusts his understanding of transference of weight and overall technical nous to get what he is looking for.

As for his defensive wrestling? He is as close to indomitable as you will find in the game, with a 100% takedown defense in the UFC.

Maximum Efficiency

Once again, Usman is the perfect example of a super athletic mixed martial artist.

Standing at 6’0 and as jacked as they come, Usman charges forward for the relentlessness of a man possessed. He has been in there with awesome athletes like Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley and has looked a level above them both.

Sure, he’s not the most powerful or technical striker in the world, but he is efficient with what he does. Even though his wrestling is high level, he still relies on adopting the more efficient approach depending on the situation.

This was crystal clear when he faced off with another elite wrestler in Covington, as he basically left his wrestling in the locker and focused on his stand up.

Phenomenal Cardio

Who has the best cardio in MMA right now?

I’ll answer it for you, although it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to say, Kamaru Usman, right? Right.

Usman’s engine is off the charts. Seriously, it’s an absolute weapon in itself and is so important to his style. He just does not seem to get tired. Ever. And even when he is in there with fighters with good engines, they seem to be puffing and blowing while Usman is as comfortable as a yolk in an eggshell.

In order to fight the style and at the pace of Usman, you need a superb engine. His engine is, well, the envy of the UFC.

Oh, and despite having cardio for days, he told Brendan Schaub in 2019 that he hadn’t run in three years. Wow.

Usman has fought 25 rounds in his last five fights. That’s 125 minutes or 2.0833 hours. How does he do it?

Longest Average Fight Time in UFC History
Ranking Fighter Time
1 Dominick Cruz 19:26
2 Joanna Jedrzejczyk 19:24
3 Demetrious Johnson 18:34
4 Benson Henderson 18:02
5 Kamaru Usman 17:21

 Usman’s Obvious Weaknesses

Man. What a task, huh?

Try to say Kamaru Usman has obvious weaknesses in a room full of MMA savants and see how far you get without each and every one of them turning their chairs around in your direction.

As things are in the UFC, there are not many fighters who are close to unbeatable as this man. But, everyone has at least one exploitable weakness, right?

Holes in His Striking Game

Although Henri Hooft has worked wonders in developing the champ’s striking game over the years, there are still holes in his game that can be exploited.

Usman’s bodywork against Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington was impressive, and his kickboxing as a whole has really upped a level. But if you factor in Woodley’s decline and Covington’s lack of power, has Usman really shown us that he can hang with a superior striker that can live with his wrestling.

Well, that’s a very hard question to answer. Is there a fighter out there that is capable of standing toe to toe with Usman while stuffing his takedowns and delivering the right shots at the right time? The answer is probably no. The closest we have right now is Stephen Thompson, who, at 78%, has better TDD stats than most would believe.

We saw how he performed against Jorge Masvidal in July 2020, but that a version of “Gamebred” that had six days to prepare. But still, there was a lesson in that fight that many missed. It was kind of similar to the Sergio Moraes fight — there is potential success to be had for an elite striker against Usman if they can apply counter pressure and force him to stiffen up.

A guy with the obvious striking acumen of Israel Adesanya, perhaps? Sure. But no chance that fight ever happens.

Kamaru Usman’s UFC Statistics
Takedown Average 3.38
Takedown Accuracy 47%
Takedown Defense 100%
Significant Strikes LPM 4.50
Striking Accuracy 53%
Significant Strikes APM 2.23
Striking Defense 58%
Submission Average 0.1
  • LPM = Landed Per Minute
  • APM = Absorbed Per Minute

Very Pattern-Oriented

And when you deny Usman the chance to get comfortable, you will notice that he reverts to very similar patterns in the center of the Octagon.

In other words, you can draw out particular responses from the champ by forcing him back a little. Of course, this is easier said than done because the man is just a machine. But if a striker with decent takedown defense can goad Usman into a striking exchange, he can set him up to be countered with heavy shots.

Usman likes pressure and is an excellent switcher. But what he does, especially under pressure, is all very basic and predictable. The right striker and coach combination could cause Usman a lot of problems based on his propensity to follow rigid patterns. A fighter with good footwork, feints, and counters could really take advantage of the Nigerian Nightmare.

Susceptibility to Injury

Usman is just awesome, and it’s so hard to try and pick out things he does wrong because, well, there aren’t many at all.

But one thing he has shown a slightly worrying susceptibility to is injuries. And more than just knee problems.

Now, this is mixed martial arts. Injuries are common, of course. But even before Usman’s career in MMA, he suffered from numerous injuries, such as the ones that prevented him from realizing his dream to compete for the US Olympic team.

I started experiencing a lot of different injuries and it was something that started to hurt my motivation. At that [Olympic] level, there’s only a slight advantage that separates the Olympic champion from the guy who took 12th.

I was starting to lack in that area of motivation with all the injuries I was sustaining.

Usman has pulled out of several fights in the UFC. The most recent, at the time of writing, being his rescheduled welterweight title scrap with Gilbert Burns at UFC 256 on December 12, 2020.

As the champ gets older, injuries will only get worse. Let’s hope that these don’t affect his reign at the top of the 170-pound roster.

Final Thoughts on Kamaru Usman

An incredible specimen, it doesn’t appear that there is a fighter in the UFC’s welterweight division capable of beating Kamaru Usman.

But, if you disagree, feel free to bet on Usman’s demise on any of the top UFC sportsbooks. Personally, I’ll be saving my money for bets that are more likely to come to fruition.

Usman is not without his weaknesses, of course. As you read above, there is the potential for a fighter to come along and take advantage of the holes in his armor. The question is, who will that be? And if I can attach a tag to that question, how long will it take for this mystery man to arrive in the UFC?

It’s been fun putting this piece together. If you enjoyed reading it, why not check out the strengths and weaknesses of the following UFC fighters?

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.

A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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