UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman thought he would be fighting for a title by now.
Instead, he will have to settle for a headline bout against a former champion in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 Finale on Friday at the Palms.
Usman will put his 12-fight win streak, which includes eight UFC bouts, on the line against former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos.
The 7 p.m. card on Fox Sports 1 includes championship bouts for the heavyweight and women’s featherweight tournaments from this season of the reality show.
A victory should put Usman in prime position to finally secure a title shot, but that’s what he thought before his last fight against contender Demian Maia in May.
Usman won the fight by unanimous decision, but it wasn’t the kind of overwhelming performance that could have served as a springboard to bigger things.
“I’ve just kind of put my mind in a position of what’s going to be big for me is winning that UFC title,” Usman, 31, said this week. “When I was there in Chile going through all the media rounds as a main event for the first time, I had a second to think about how it felt special. After the victory, it’s all about the media and the fans and how they receive it, and they didn’t receive it as well. So it is what it is, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, my job is to win in impressive fashion.”
Style points have been tough to come by for Usman, who tends to smother opponents to the point of making it look too easy.
The Division II national champion wrestler secures takedowns at will and makes it difficult for opponents to get to their feet, but he also has shown growth with the rest of his game.
“I think I’m a hybrid of the new age of mixed martial arts,” he said. “There was a time when guys just had a specialty like boxer or wrestler or jiujitsu guy. Then came guys who could blend taking you down with also being able to kick your head off. Now you get these guys that are doing all these weird spinning and jumping strikes and then you throw them on their back and they can still choke you out. I’d like to think I’m a hybrid to where if you had to pick, where would you say I’m weak? I can outwrestle guys, I can outgrapple guys. I can put your lights out, and I have a gas tank for days. I can do it all.”
Dos Anjos has taken notice. The former lightweight champion had won his first three fights after moving to 170 pounds, only to fall to Colby Covington in an interim welterweight title bout in June.
Dos Anjos doesn’t spend much time watching film on opponents, but he has monitored Usman’s progress.
“He’s a really good wrestler, and his striking has been improving a lot,” dos Anjos said. “To be undefeated in the UFC is no easy task. It’s impressive. But I’ll be glad to hand him his first loss.”
Four fights from the preliminary card also will air on Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m.
“TUF” Season 28 Finale
Main card bouts for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 finale, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Palms and will be televised on Fox Sports 1:
— Kamaru Usman (13-1) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (28-10), welterweights
— Juan Espino (8-1) vs. Justin Frazier (10-2), for the Season 28 heavyweight title
— Macy Chiasson (2-0) vs. Pannie Kianzad (10-3), for the Season 28 women’s featherweight title
— Pedro Munhoz (16-3, 1 No contest) vs. Bryan Caraway (21-9), bantamweights
— Darren Stewart (9-3, 1 No contest) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (6-0), middleweights
— Ji Yeon Kim (7-1-2) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (6-0), women’s flyweights