As one-sided as the first fight ended playing out, there are a few building blocks that Masvidal can use to formulate an intriguing approach coming into Saturday’s rematch. We can start with the obvious (and the most discussed) aspect: Masvidal’s conditioning.
Taking the first fight on such short notice placed a clear cap on how well he could physically perform on Fight Island last year, which could be seen in his overzealous attempts to land an early finish, knowing he couldn’t sustain a five-round pace.
You would expect Masvidal to be far stronger from a cardiovascular standpoint this time around which even in the absence of an adapted game plan, would be conducive to a stronger showing. If it wasn’t obvious pre-fight, it should certainly be obvious to him now that he cannot win with his back against the fence.
Throughout his career, the Miami native has had a tendency to zone out, for lack of a better term, and concede ground to an opponent without being given a clear reason to do so. Whether or not this trait is mentally or physically induced is unknown, but it’s been a consistent feature of a very long career.
Masvidal is a good defensive wrestler and is notoriously difficult to hold down and Usman had more trouble imposing his wrestling game on Masvidal than he did with any other opponent, but his lack of intensity in the later rounds of their first fight found him constantly stuck in neutral spaces with Usman on top of him.
While he wasn’t being beaten up, per se, Masvidal wasn’t able to initiate any meaningful offence either. The way he wins on Saturday is by using his jab and his footwork to ensure as many extended exchanges in open space as possible and, at all costs, keep his back off the fence.
Unfortunately for him, keeping his back off the fence against a committed pressure fighter would be explicitly against the norm for "Gamebred", despite him having the requisite tools to do so. His best route to victory here is via KO, which you can find as big as 4/1.