LAS VEGAS -- Despite an undefeated record in the UFC, Kamaru Usman has occasionally struggled to get the respect he feels he deserves.
Dominating a former UFC champion should help.
Usman (14-1) earned the biggest win of his career on Friday, when he dominated former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos (28-11) over five rounds at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale. The welterweight bout headlined the event, which took place at The Palms.
Fighting out of South Florida, Usman showcased a well-rounded arsenal against dos Anjos. He crowded the Brazilian with offensive pressure on the feet and took him down at least once in every round. Final scores showed a runaway victory: 50-43, 49-45 and 48-47.
"I'm tired of talking," Usman said. "I ask for the fights. Sometimes I get them. Sometimes I don't. Tonight, I hope I showed not only that I can go five rounds, I can dominate -- and I'm next in line for that welterweight strap."
According to Fightmetric, Usman outlanded dos Anjos in total strikes 189-79. He also converted 11 takedowns in 25 minutes.
Dos Anjos, who has now lost two in a row to Usman and Colby Covington, simply could not stop Usman's pressure. He threw some effective kicks to the body and appeared to stun Usman momentarily with straight punches at the end of the third round, but that barely slowed him down.
A former collegiate wrestler at the University of Nebraska Kearney, most of his best work took place on the ground. He landed hammerfists and elbows from top position and calmly worked out of any kimura or guillotine attempts dos Anjos could muster from the bottom.
"I want to say thank you, Rafael. You are a true champion and tough guy," Usman said. "I'm a man on a mission. I got into this sport to make a statement. I'm coming for that welterweight strap. Tonight, I hope I took a step closer to that."
Usman, 31, is now 9-0 in the UFC. All but two of those have gone the distance, but he nevertheless has mostly dominated his competition.
Current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is expected to face Covington next, although there is no official date for that matchup.
Benavidez scores TKO, calls for flyweight title shot
Benavidez, of Las Vegas, finished Perez with strikes to the head, as he was turtled in the center of the cage. It was a strange finish, in that referee Yves Lavigne clearly stopped the bout, only to let it continue another minute. Luckily, the error did not affect the result.
Immediately after, Benavidez spoke in favor of the division, which is currently in jeopardy. The UFC is considering dissolving the weight class next year, following a title fight between Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw on Jan. 26.
Benavidez holds a split decision victory over Cejudo from late 2016. Cejudo is the current flyweight champion.
"I feel like there used to be this wall between me and the title, but since [former champion Demetrious Johnson] lost and I have a win over the champ now, that wall is gone. So, that's what I want next. I want the belt."
Shevchenko sister cruises to first UFC win
Shevchenko, the older sister of flyweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko, won the fight with clinch work and distance strikes. Her offense stalled in the clinch several times, prompting restarts by referee Yves Lavigne -- but she was in control throughout.
Shevchenko snapped Kim's head back with a front kick to the face on multiple occasions. She also took Kim down in the third round.
It was not a highlight-reel debut for Shevchenko, who earned a UFC contract on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series this summer, but it was a convincing result against an opponent who significantly missed weight the day before.
Munhoz dominates Caraway in bantamweight bout
Munhoz, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, defended all of Caraway's takedown attempts, and lit him up on the feet. Caraway landed punches of his own, but they did not have the weight of Munhoz's shots.
He found a home for the jab, and cut Caraway immediately under the right eye. The finish came at the 2:39 mark, after Caraway turtled near the fence and turned his head.
For Munhoz, it's the 12th stoppage of his career. His only loss during this 6-1 run was by split decision to John Dodson. Caraway, who trains out of Las Vegas, falls to 0-2 on the year.