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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #1 Welterweight: Kamarudeen Usman

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The final entrant in our 2015 welterweight scouting list, Nigerian born NCAA DII championship wrestler Marty Usman.

Kamaru Usman sparring at the JACO gym, home of the Blackzilians
Kamaru Usman sparring at the JACO gym, home of the Blackzilians
Ryan Loco

The Welterweight list is now complete with this addition, but be sure to keep an eye for some extra pieces covering some very good prospects that didn't quite make the list that Zane Simon will be putting out in the near future. Then it is on to Light Heavyweight, which should start posting after a week or two.

To catch up you can go up and to your right and click on the article stream, but since that sounds like a lot of work just check out the links below:

Methodology and Criteria

Welterweight Prospects #6 - #10

Welterweight Prospect #5 - Ryan Scope

Welterweight Prospect #4 - Khusein Khaliev

Welterweight Prospect #3 - Abubakar Nurmagomedov

Welterweight Prospect #2 - Magomed Mustafaev

#1 - Kamarudeen Usman

Record: 5-1 Height: 6'0" Age: 26 Years Pro: 2.1

Country: Nigeria Team: Blackzilians Base: Wrestling

Topping our list is the 2010 Division II NCAA Wrestling Champion, Kamaru Usman. A Nigerian immigrant to the United States at the age of 7, Usman moved to Nebraska where he took up wrestling. He attended and wrestled for the University of Nebraska at Kearney and then spent two years training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado before transitioning to MMA.

Our own Coach Mike was kind enough to give us a bit of inside detail on Usman's ability, saying "I think he might have Martian android strength. Guys routinely get in deep, as in DEEP on shots, and he'll just shake them off his leg like it's nothing. Also, he'll get in on stuff, but barely, like fingertip deep and he'll still get some lift off that. His best offensive technique was his ability to find the angle from his short offense (front headlock) and fish for the single leg. He did this a bunch, which is good because it shows the intelligence to steer matches to his good positions and wrestle within himself."

Usman now trains with the Blackzilians in Florida, a team that has been somewhat maligned in the past but now has become rock solid under the leadership of its striking coach Henri Hooft and BJJ coach Jorge Santiago. Usman has spent much of his young career in the Legacy Fighting Championships, but is currently scheduled to take a fight against Brazilian WSOF and Bellator veteran Valdir Araujo at Fight Time 21 on November 7th, 2014.

Strengths

T.P. Grant: Any discussion of Usman needs to start with two topics: his wrestling and his amazing athletic ability. This man is a freak athlete. He is a big welterweight and has great explosion, speed, body control, and physicality to his fighting style. Pair that with Usman's very high level wrestling ability and you get a pretty potent package of MMA talent. Usman has an excellent shot and when he gets in on the hips he has a great power finish chain.

On top Usman has a very solid base and he kills bottom player's hips. He also has excellent ground and pound and drops damaging elbows from inside the guard and half guard. His positional progression on the ground isn't amazing, but his half guard top game is quite good and he's shown the ability to pass the guard via takedown.

In terms of striking, Hooft's influence on Usman is already apparent. Usman already appars to have a natural feel for striking and smoothly throws out punch-kick combinations and makes good use of his excellent reach. He certainly has power and Usman is already developing a good sense of transitions between striking and grappling.

Zane Simon: So yeah, as Coach said above, his biggest strength may be that he's strong, like inhumanly so. And with that comes a special kind of confidence. In his fight against Marcus Hicks, Usman started the match doing the Jon Jones crawl on all fours, daring Hicks to try and take advantage. And that confidence really carries over into everything he does. He strikes with confidence, works the clinch with confidence, and takes down and works fighters over on the ground with confidence. Everything he does he makes look easy.

In that vein, Usman looks like he's taken to striking like a fish takes to water. He lands with power, chambers his punches well, and is working on building his combination striking. He lands powerful knees in the clinch, and while he doesn't have the Anderson Silva-esque laser GNP, he lands hard and with unrelenting consistency. Add on to all of that that his wrestling is not only reasonably well crafted, but very powerful, and you've got an undeniable "blue chip" prospect.

Points of Development

T.P. Grant: Usman already has a functional MMA game in place, so aside from continuing to improve his ability to kickbox at range, transition to takedowns, and then bring the hurt from a solid top position, the only things he could really stand to improve are his submission grappling and defensive striking. We have yet to see Usman face a good pressuring striker, but based on the gym he trains in, his coaches, and training partners it would be surprising if Usman didn't turn into a really excellent striker.

Usman doesn't really have a submission game. His lone loss comes by rear naked choke, but defensive grappling doesn't seem to be a huge issue for him as he has shown great progression in that respect, but only facing elite submission fighters will really make it clear if that hole has been closed up. My own personal biases is that all MMA fighters would benefit from having a go-to submission or two in their game that allows them to end fights in a instant, but it isn't a requirement in modern MMA.

Zane Simon: Weaknesses? HA! Usman has no need of human weakness... But really, he has a great UFC ready game already. The big points to address, and ones he looks like he's already been addressing, are his combination striking, and his ground aggression, re: not getting too aggressive on the ground and getting submitted. It would be nice, as Tom points out, to see him develop a couple of go to submissions, especially from the front headlock position where he did well in his wrestling career, hopefully that's something that Jorge Santiago can target.

Otherwise, and this is a minor quibble and fear, I do worry a little that his wrestling takedown game is a little less effective than it could be, in that he tends to muscle things a bit more than he has to. At points in some of his early fights, it looks like he just tries to dump opponents and gives them a few too many opportunities to scramble. This may be an over-confidence thing, or not having quite synced his wrestling and MMA game yet, but it's not something I'd lose much sleep over.

Overall Development

It really seems like the sky is the limit with this kid. Both I and Zane fully expect him to contend for the UFC Welterweight title at some point in his career, and very possibly hold the belt for extended period of time. Usman looks like he is already an elite MMA wrestler and is ready to feast on some UFC prelim fights and if his current rate of skill progression holds steady he will be a Top 5 fighter. His career path could be something of what would-have-been if Yoel Romero had started his career 10 years ago. Usman could end up being very similar to his Blackzilian teammate Anthony Johnson. If everything clicks for Usman as he moves forward he could experience a rise that would bring out Jon Jones comparisons.

2015 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report

Flyweight Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight Welterweight
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#1. Usman
#2. Mustafaev
#3. Nurmagomedov
#4. Khaliev
#5. Scope
#6. Vartanyan
#7. Kadestam
#8. Piraev
#9. Amosov
#10. Tokov
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Stay tuned for Extra Welterweight prospects and the Light Heavyweight list, to look up other articles in this series click on the Stream link up and to the right. For comments, questions, or suggestions head down to the comment line or reach out to T.P. and Zane on Twitter: @TP_Grant and @TheZaneSimon