Back at UFC 235 in 2019, Din Thomas was preparing then reigning champion Tyron Woodley for what was his fifth title defense at the time, and his opponent was surging contender, Kamaru Usman. Usman came into the fight relatively under the radar with a 13-1 record, with his most notable wins at the time coming over Rafael dos Anjos and Demian Maia, respectfully.
It would be a one-sided affair in the UFC 235 welterweight title bout which saw Usman claim the title from Woodley, and it would begin a reign that now has many people talking about the greatness of Kamaru Usman’s championship run. As Usman has laid waste to every challenger he’s faced since becoming champion, he’s been brought into the conversation as the greatest welterweight of all-time. Now that he’s watching as a coach, fight veteran, and analyst, Din Thomas is starting to point out what makes Usman so great.
After another title defense of his welterweight title at UFC 261, Usman is not only defeating opponents, he’s dominating them, and he’s coming to a point where rematches will have to happen because he’s beaten all the top contenders already. With the conversation turning from who will be next to who, if anyone, can beat Usman, the main question is, just how good is the welterweight champion?
As he served in an analyst role at UFC 261, Thomas was up-close and personal to Usman’s second-round TKO of Jorge Masvidal, and during an appearance on On The Mic podcast, he spoke about what makes the welterweight champion so dominant and most of it comes from the fact that he continues to get better.
As someone who has coached and put together an opposing gameplan for his fighter to take on Kamaru Usman, I asked @DinThomas what makes Usman so good?
“He’s getting better and he’s proving that he’s getting better”
— Mike Pendleton (@MP2310) April 29, 2021
“It’s cliche, the cliche that MMA fighters use all the time is that ‘I’m getting better’ because they’re training. But they don’t really get better, they just get in better shape. Most fighters don’t get better, most fighters are typically the same fighter they were a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. But I think what makes Usman so difficult is that he is getting better and he’s proving that he’s getting better. Why that’s difficult to really put a finger on, is because everybody was still underestimating him.”
When he first came into the UFC, Usman had a respected wrestling background and pedigree about him and to that point, Din Thomas said his striking skills have been overlooked ever since.
“They were underestimating his power. They were understiming his ability to strike. Even a couple years ago he [Usman] didn’t have a lot of power. He was primarly a dominant wrestler who would control guys. I don’t even think that it was he didn’t have power, he just didn’t have an emphasis on punching technique, and now he has that emphasis on punching technique and he’s putting focus on the small areas on where he can improve.
I think that’s the biggest reason why Usman is as dominant as he is. One, guys have underestimated him in certain areas and he worked on those areas and got better at it so it’s easier to take advantage of people. He’s getting better and I think that’s the most important reason why he is having the success that he’s having today because he’s getting better and most guys are still looking at him from a couple years ago and we have to be careful not to do that.”
Leading up to UFC 261, Jorge Masvidal called out Usman’s punching power and attempted to downplay the champion’s ability to strike, which was all laid to rest when Usman knocked him out in the second round. From a dominant wrestler to a dominant fighter all around, Din Thomas has recognized the changes made by Kamaru Usman to help elevate his career and championship reign.
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews, BJPenn.com, and TheScrap.Co while also hosting his “On The Mic” podcast and works as an Associate Producer on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation channel.
With a special passion for interviewing and talking to some of the very best around the fight game, you can read or listen to Mike’s work across his multiple outlets.
Follow me on Twitter: @MP2310