Two years ago, it felt as though Jorge Masvidal had finally arrived. After years of traveling the world and battling the elite, Masvidal’s career best win had at last emerged, battering Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone en route to an emphatic 2nd round stoppage. That victory made it three straight for ‘Gamebred,’ and while his route here had been anything but brief, a title shot suddenly seemed very much in reach. However, a familiar story soon returned and halted Masvidal’s momentum as a result.
After three back and forth rounds with Demian Maia, Masvidal’s skill-set remained undeniable but unfortunately, his win streak was no more. On the losing end of a debated split decision verdict, this was nothing new for the veteran contender. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Masvidal’s last three defeats had actually come the exact same way, dropping heavily debated decisions to Lorenz Larkin, Ben Henderson and Al Iaquinta respectively. Nonetheless, Masvidal’s Welterweight stint had been an obvious success and regardless of the result opposite Maia, his overall stock had only continued to rise.
Things change quickly in MMA though and in 15 minutes, Masvidal’s steady climb was swiftly dismissed. Returning to the octagon in November 2017, Masvidal was shutout by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and this time, there wasn’t any kind of debate either. Instead, Masvidal had mostly struggled from start to finish, failing to make an impact befitting of his contender status. There’s no shame in falling short opposite Thompson of course, one of the sport’s trickiest strikers and a man firmly among the division’s elite as well. Even still, Masvidal’s 2017 had taken an undeniable turn.
After initially looking set for a well-deserved breakout year, Masvidal’s progress had now been reset and after just half an hour of fighting, he was now back to square one. To worsen that trend, inactivity then stalled Masvidal even further, disappointingly not fighting once in all of 2018. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is rarely more apt in sports than it often is in MMA and Masvidal’s steep rankings decline is proof of it. Fortunately for fight fans though, ‘Gamebred’ returns this weekend, heading to London for a headline fight with top contender Darren Till.
After two losses and over a year of inactivity, Masvidal is back in a main event spot and it’s a credit to him that frankly, he doesn’t feel even slightly out of place. A brief glance at Masvidal’s body of work will provide a few clear trends. In the UFC especially, judges’ opinions have been undeniably pivotal in deciding his career trajectory. In the same way though, that theme of debate tells its own story and reiterates the fittingly game nature of Masvidal’s approach.
More often than not, ‘Gamebred’ finds a way to make things competitive and the versatility of his skill-set usually allows him to push the sport’s elite to their limits. That gritty consistency has brought a quite reliable entertainment value to Masvidal’s outings and as a result, he’s undoubtedly earned the more ardent fans’ respect. With that being said, this fight represents an opportunity to shift that general perception. With a win here, Masvidal reignites the momentum that he carried two years ago and in the process, places him back firmly among the Welterweight elite.
Stylistically, this fight is an incredibly exciting one. A battle of contenders with a penchant for stand-up action, this main event looks an ideal crossroads clash. Masvidal’s experience, skill and toughness against Till’s youth, aggression and knockout power. Combine those factors within a five round affair and suddenly, the intrigue is undeniable. In truth though, this fight’s core appeal transcends rankings. Instead, it’s rooted in personality and ego, the reputation that Masvidal especially has built over almost 16 years of professional fighting.
At this point, Masvidal’s career is rather unique. Very few questions surround his talent or toughness but in contrast to that, immense debate is entrenched within some of Masvidal’s most important bouts. All of that uncertainty can still be erased with one win though and this Saturday night in London, Masvidal gets the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. On the other hand and in fear of being hyperbolic, his future at the elite level also likely hinges on this very showing.
It’s hard to imagine that ‘Gamebred’ will be anything less than…well, game but the question is, can he remove any doubt? As usual, he may need to.