To say Kamaru Usman is under-appreciated is an understatement.
Usman’s greatness has been readily apparent almost before his debut. With just six professional fights to his name, Usman handled his competition on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) with ease. His complete command of action inside the cage continued into his official UFC career, where Usman dominated all comers en route to the Welterweight title.
Even early, before Usman was fighting elite, established contenders, his status as a problem for the division was clear. A seemingly inhuman combination of strength and cardio made up for any greenness in skill, allowing Usman to simply wear formidable foes like Leon Edwards and Sean Strickland into tired, mediocre versions of themselves.
Usman’s skill improved as his competition raised, and his dominance remained consistent. Were it not for Georges St-Pierre, his level of superiority would be unparalleled. Instead, he mirrors the Greatest Of All Time candidate ... just look at his last five fights:
- Usman defeats Jorge Masvidal via decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
- Usman defeats Colby Covington via knockout
- Usman defeats Tyron Woodley via decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-44)
- Usman defeats Rafael dos Anjos via decision (50-43, 49-45, 49-47)
- Usman defeats Demian Maia via decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Usman barely loses minutes, let alone rounds. Covington is the only challenger who actually made it a challenge, so “The Nigerian Nightmare” knocked him out for his efforts. If I were to continue tracking back, there would be numerous 10-8 rounds in Usman’s favor, an unreasonable level of mastery over his division and peers.
Undefeated (12-0) inside the Octagon, Usman has already tied St-Pierre’s 170-pound win streak record. He is undeniably great:
223 fighters in UFC history have spent at least 1 hour grappling.— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) February 9, 2021
Only 2 of the 223 have held control positions for over 97% of their grappling time:
Khabib Nurmagomedov - 97.40%
Kamaru Usman - 97.36%#UFC258 @AliAbdelaziz00 @USMAN84kg
Though Gilbert Burns has yet to build the resume of his championship opponent, the worthy UFC 258 challenger has been dominant himself. Since moving to Welterweight, Burns has taken on dangerous opponents on short-notice, shutting down his opponents with heavy strikes and a smothering top game. Sandwiched within those clear-cut decision wins is a 2.5-minute knockout over Sergio Moraes, one of two stoppages on his current six-fight win streak.
Burns is a physical force with knockout power, strong wrestling and elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In summary, we have a champion with an absolutely ironclad grip on the title versus a challenger dangerous to any strap-hanger in Welterweight history. Champions on win streaks as long as Usman tend to struggle to find worthy challengers, but Welterweight’s depth has granted a truly fantastic title match up.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem that anyone really cares.
UFC 258, which takes place this weekend (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021) is unlikely to sell many pay-per-view (PPV) units. When I wrote the first draft of this article just about a week removed from the event itself, UFC’s website did not even have the full card listed. Unlike the upcoming March PPV events with multiple titles on the line, Usman vs. Burns is expected to hold up the event largely on its own.
Since neither man is a proven draw, relatively few fight fans will witness Usman’s continued greatness or the conclusion of Burns’ incredible (and unexpected) rise to the belt. No one is pretending that Usman — a grinding wrestler who cuts awkward promos — should be a superstar.
It’s just unfortunate that a great fight between special athletes will likely go unnoticed.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 258 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 258: “Usman vs. Burns” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.