Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back at it with its latest pay-per-view (PPV) offering with UFC 258, which is set to go down later tonight (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021) inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Streaming exclusively on ESPN+ PPV, the event will feature a Welterweight title fight between division champion, Kamaru Usman, and No. 1 contender, Gilbert Burns. In the co-headlining act, Maycee Barber takes on Alexa Grasso.
It took a while, but Dana White finally came around to Kamaru Usman after being critical of him early on in his career. And it’s a good thing, too, because “The Nigerian Nightmare” has proven to be an unstoppable force, winning 16 straights fights, including all 12 inside the UFC cage. And as champion, it’s better to have the backing of your promoter instead of being criticized by him at every turn.
As far as skills go, Usman is a beast as evidenced by his dominant wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington and the aforementioned Woodley. The knock on Usman is that the majority of his fights have gone the distance vis-a-vis Georges St-Pierre in his later years. It’s no secret Usman prefers to grind out a win with his grappling, but his striking is solid and can cause major damage (just ask Covington’s jaw). Usman will need to have all his tools sharp against Burns — a man he knows very well — because the Brazilian bomber is on a mission for gold.
Since 2017, all Burns has known is winning, going 8-1 including his current six-fight win streak. During that span, “Durinho” has shown he can win the fight in any area. He can grind out a decision, knock you out, or having you tapping for dear life with his jiu-jitsu. After knocking out Demian Maia in one round (see it), Burns went on to own Woodley for five rounds to earn his shot at the title. The advantage he will have going into the fight is that he has spent several training rounds with Usman during their days as teammates. While that goes both ways, it good for Burns to know that he knows some of the champion’s tricks.
This will be a tough fight to predict. Usman has proven to be able to dominate when it comes to grappling, but Burns is a big Welterweight once he puts the pounds back on. I’d give the power advantage to Burns just slightly, as well as the jiu-jitsu skills. It will likely come down to how long this fight goes. Usman has gone five straight rounds in his last five fights, while Burns has only been involved in one five-round fight in his entire career. If Usman can impose his wrestling on Burns and tire him out, it could be a long night for the Brazilian bomber.
Let’s face it, for a PPV event it isn’t exactly screaming, “Pay $70 to watch me!” Other than the headlining act, there isn’t another fight on the slate that is crucial to any division. Sure, there are interesting match ups, but when you see UFC 259 with three title fights and UFC 260 with two, it makes you wonder why the promotion didn’t try to move one of those championship bouts here.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The original co-main event was set to feature a rematch between former UFC Middleweight champion, Chris Weidman, and highlight machine, Uriah Hall. After “All American” came down with COVID-19 the fight was scrapped and is now in the works to go down at UFC 261 on April 24, 2021. Also, a rematch between Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz was scrapped after “El Terror” tested positive for COVID-19.
While no injuries were reported for this event leading up to the weigh-ins, a fight between Bobby Green and Jim Miller was yanked from the event after “King” collapsed backstage shortly after he made weight. There is no word if Green suffered an injury upon falling, but after being checked out by medical staff and a Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) official, he was not allowed to compete for precautionary reasons. As a result, Ricky Simon’s fight against Brian Kelleher was bumped up to the PPV main card.
Philip Rowe will be the only UFC newcomer making his debut at this event when he takes on Gabriel Green, who came up short in his own debut at UFC on ESPN 9. Rowe is the owner of seven-fight win streak, earning his way to the big show via “Contender Series.” All seven of “The Fresh Prince’s” wins have come via stoppage — three in the first round — so the man’s main objective is to get in and out as fast as possible and not leave it in the hands of the judges. That will definitely make him a fan-favorite especially if he can shine in his first fight under the bright lights of UFC.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The underbelly of the event isn’t too shabby. One of my personal favorite fights on this card is one between Dhiego Lima and Belal Muhammad, who will collide in what is sure-to-be a hard-hitting Welterweight scrap. Muhammad was won three straight and seven of eight overall, so he is slowly climbing the highly-competitive ranks of the 170-pound division. The only knock on Muhammad is that he can’t seem to finish fights on a regular basis, earning just one submission during his recent run. Still, he gets the win and that is the most important thing at the end of the day. Lima has also won three in a row after a horrid three-fight losing streak. A win over Muhammad will surely help in his efforts to crack the Top 15.
Undefeated (7-0, 2-0 UFC) Rodolfo Vieira will look to keep his momentum going when he takes on Anthony Hernandez, who is coming off a loss to Kevin Holland in his previous bout. Vieira has won all of his fights via stoppage, including one knockout and six submissions. Which is no surprise, really, since he is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet, and he has the medals to prove it. Hernandez’s best bet in the fight is to keep the action on the feet for as long as possible because once Vieira takes you down it’s game over.
Andrew Ewell will look to collect his third straight win when he takes on Chris Gutierrez in a Catchweight bout of 140 pounds. Ewell has done well for himself at 135 pounds, but a third straight win will really put him on the map and set him up for bigger things moving forward. And after Rivera versus Munhoz was scrapped, he now gets the chance to show off his stuff on the main card. It won’t be a walk in the park, however, since Gutierrez has won three straight, though he did fight to a draw in his last bout against Cody Durden.
In women’s Strawweight action, Mallory Martin will look for her second straight win inside the Octagon when she faces off against Polyana Vianna, who recently halted her three-fight skid after taking out Emily Whitmire. Also, Miranda Maverick will look to earn her fifth straight win (second inside the Octagon) when she takes on Gillian Robertson, who is in need of a win after losing to Taila Santos in her last fight.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Kelvin Gastelum was at one point considered to be a future UFC champion at either Welterweight or Middleweight, but never quite reached the pinnacle of the sport. He came close at UFC 236, giving Israel Adesanya all he could handle before losing a unanimous decision and the chance to become the promotion’s interim Middleweight kingpin. That was the start of Gastelum’s fall, losing two more after that at the hands of Darren Till and Jack Hermansson. Despite the loss, the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner opted to stay at 185 pounds instead of running back down to Welterweight.
He will have another tough matchup against Heinisch, who is coming off a first round knockout win over Gerald Meerschaert. If Gastelum loses his fourth straight, I doubt the promotion will cut him and give the chance to head to Bellator or elsewhere, but he still needs a win to stay relevant and avoid slipping further down the ranks.
Interest Level: 6.5 of 10
If I am being honest, fight for fight, last weekend’s UFC Vegas 18 event was a bit better on paper. And you didn’t have to cough up a lot of dough to watch it. UFC 258’s main event should be fire, we’ve established that, but a co-main event between Maycee Barber and Alexa Grasso co-headlining a PPV event is a move that I’m still scratching my head over. It’s clear that despite getting worked by Roxanne Modafferi in her last fight, Barber is still one of the fighters UFC is trying to push and make into its next big cash cow. Barber is talented, no doubt, but the promotion has a habit of sticking to its goal of trying to make a fighter a star by any means necessary once it locks in on them, and a loss won’t deter that (see: Sean O’ Malley).
Two straight losses, however, will definitely spoil the promotion’s plans and Grasso is more than capable of doing that to Barber. Sure, the Mexican-born fighter hasn’t exactly lit the MMA world on fire since making her UFC debut in 2016, collecting a 4-3 record since, but she has the skills to give Barber some fits and send her home with another loss. But Barber can do the same to Grasso. Maycee has the wrestling advantage while I’ll give a slight edge to Grasso in the striking. This fight is 50-50 for me.
Ricky Simon and Brian Kelleher are highly-talented men who just have been unable to string together enough wins and generate enough buzz to make some moves in the Bantamweight division. Simon has won two straight and is 4-2 so far inside the Octagon. His lone two defeats came at the hands of Urijah Faber and Rob Font, two of the absolute best in the sport. Kelleher, meanwhile, is 3-1 in his last four and has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his three-year UFC run, but hasn’t caught Dana White and Co.’s eyes enough to get a bigger push. If he can take out Simon impressively and rack up a nice win streak, things could change for “Boom.”
Rounding out the main card is a fight between Julian Marquez and Maki Pitolo. Yes, really. Pitolo is one a two-fight losing streak and has gone just 1-3 so far inside the Octagon, but the promotion felt he deserved a spot on the main card of a PPV event. Marquez, meanwhile, is coming off a loss to Alessio Di Chirico, and is looking for just his second win inside the eight-walled cage.
UFC 258 Full Fight Card:
UFC 258 PPV Main Event On ESPN+:
170 lbs.: UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns
UFC 258 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso
185 lbs.: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ian Heinisch
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Jim Miller CANCELED
185 lbs.: Julian Marquez vs. Maki Pitolo 145lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs Ricky Simon
UFC 258 Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Rodolfo Vieira
170 lbs.: Dhiego Lima vs. Belal Muhammad
140 lbs.: Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez
115 lbs.: Mallory Martin vs. Polyana Viana
UFC 258 Early Prelims Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Gabe Green vs. Phil Rowe
125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Gillian Robertson
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
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.