walked an unlikely path in combat sports, from
unsanctioned brawls in the same steamy Miami boatyards that spawned
“Kimbo Slice” Ferguson
to the blazing limelight of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
. His was a journey wrought with
success, failure and everything in between.

Now 35 years of age and 48 fights into his professional career,
Masvidal has positioned himself as the No. 1 contender at 170
pounds and the likely challenger for undisputed welterweight
champion Kamaru
whenever the UFC resumes its schedule. The
American Top Team
export has rattled off three consecutive
victories, all by finish against increasingly difficult opposition.
Masvidal sports a 12-6 record in the UFC, his resume highlighted by
wins over Darren Till,
, Michael
, Tim Means and
several other accomplished contemporaries.

In a career already full of defining moments, here are five that
stand out:

1. A Glimpse of the Future

One of Masvidal’s early-career conquests has aged quite well upon
further review. “Gamebred” put away the previously unbeaten
—both men were 20 years old at the time—with punches in
the second round of the Absolute Fighting Championships 12 main
event on April 30, 2005 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida. Lauzon, who accepted the fight on less than a
week’s notice, succumbed to blows 3:57 into Round 2. Masvidal
nearly ended it inside the first few minutes, as he delivered a
powerful slam that left his counterpart teetering on the brink of
unconsciousness. Referee Troy Waugh
for reasons that remain unclear paused the action briefly to warn
“Gamebred” and afford Lauzon time to recover. Masvidal spent the
rest of the first round outscrambling and outgrappling the
Brockton, Massachusetts, native on the mat. Once the middle stanza
commenced, a winded Lauzon had little to offer. Masvidal assumed
top position, cued up his ground-and-pound and prompted the
stoppage with a volley of unanswered punches. Both men later made
their way to the UFC.

2. Building Awareness

A 22-year-old Masvidal accelerated his ascent under the Bodog Fight
banner on July 14, 2007, when he wiped out the highly regarded
with a head kick and follow-up punches 2:59 into the
second round of their clash at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton,
New Jersey. Edwards—who was 30 at the time and had 44 pro bouts
under his belt—controlled many of the initial exchanges with kicks
to the leg and body, pinpoint jabs and effective counters. Masvidal
disrupted his rhythm in the second round, where he executed a
takedown, applied his ground-and-pound and opened a cut near the
veteran’s right eye. Edwards grew increasingly aggressive once he
returned to his feet. Masvidal resisted his advances, created the
necessary space and fired a rear-leg head kick from the orthodox
stance. His shin struck Edwards’ skull, sent him crashing to the
canvas and left him defenseless against subsequent punches.
Suddenly, the MMA became far more aware of the young, talented and
charismatic Masvidal.

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3. Deadly Inversion

It can only be described as jaw-dropping. Toby Imada
choked Masvidal unconscious with a standing inverted triangle in
the third round of their Bellator
Season 1 lightweight tournament semifinal under the
Bellator 5 banner on May 1, 2009 at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
“Gamebred” was ahead on the scorecards heading to Round 3 and
appeared ticketed for a tournament final against Eddie
. Imada had other plans. A wrestling exchange saw
Masvidal attempt to slam the journeyman. However, he failed to
control Imada’s legs while attempting to stand, allowing him to
move to an upside-down rear waist lock. Imada also snaked his legs
into a figure four around the Miami native’s neck. Masvidal showed
no real signs of distress—until he toppled over unconscious 3:22
into the third round, his face having turned a grotesque shade of
purple due to lack of blood flow.

4. Flight Plan

Masvidal at UFC 239 recorded the fastest knockout in Ultimate
Fighting Championship history, as he cut down former Bellator and
titleholder Ben Askren
with a flying knee in the first round of their featured
welterweight pairing on July 6, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las
Vegas. Masvidal sent the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and
onetime Olympian into another dimension five seconds into Round 1.
Askren shot for takedown right out of the gate and paid an
unimaginably steep price. Masvidal took flight, beat him to the
spot and connected with full force, the impact of the concussive
blow echoing through a stunned arena. Askren fell to the ground
stiff and unconscious before being met with a few follow-up punches
from the ruthless Floridian.

5. Meet the BMF

Jagged elbows and scar tissue set the stage for a decisive but
anticlimactic finish, as Masvidal was awarded a technical knockout
against Nate Diaz in
the UFC 244 headliner on Nov. 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in
New York. The cageside physician called for the stoppage due to
cuts in between the third and fourth rounds, much to the dismay of
the two combatants and those in attendance. Understandably, neither
Masvidal nor Diaz seemed satisfied with how the situation played
out, though history figures to show “Gamebred” was the vastly
superior fighter. He decided when and where to engage, taunted Diaz
with wry smiles and tore into him with virtually every weapon in
his arsenal. An elbow strike from the clinch opened the first cut,
and by fight’s end, it stretched across almost the entire length of
Diaz’s right eyebrow. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner also
sported a horizontal gash below his eye on the same side—further
evidence that his 15-minute clash with Masvidal had not gone as he
had hoped. The victory brought with it the symbolic BMF title.

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