Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight rivals Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021) at UFC 258 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Not even the famed former-teammates-turned-enemies market strategy can sell this fight. The two simply refuse to be less than cordial, merely asserting their respective beliefs as the best in the world. Fortunately, it’s a great fight regardless. Usman may not be wowing the average fight fan, but he’s at a nearly unprecedented level of dominance, and there appears to be very signs of weakness to his title reign. On the other hand, Burns has a great deal of knowledge about Usman’s stifling style, and the Brazilian is a far more potent finisher on both the mat and on the feet.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 251), Tyron Woodley (UFC 235), Colby Covington (UFC 245), Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 129), Rafael dos Anjos (TUF 28 Finale), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Sean Strickland (UFC 210)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Usman has a level of physicality that is simply unmatched at 170 lbs. His grinding wrestling is technical and shows plenty of experience sure, but what really makes him so successful is the unique pairing of incredible strength and a seemingly endless gas tank.
Against Burns, Usman wants top position. Burns is a world-class grappler, sure, and he’s probably pretty good at landing sweeps and throwing up submissions from his back. In MMA, however, that’s very seldom a winning strategy, particularly against a wrestler with the balance and strength of Usman.
It also helps that “Nigerian Nightmare” likely knows his opponent’s go-to techniques from bottom position.
More than that, there’s precedent for Burns getting controlled from top position. Michel Prazeres shut “Durinho” down back in 2016 with an endless stream of takedowns, and while that is an older result, Usman’s superior skill set and abilities should help account for all the improvement to Burns’ defensive wrestling and scrambling.
The longer Burns is forced to fight from his back, the less dangerous the grappling ace becomes.
Key Wins: Tyron Woodley (UFC on ESPN 9), Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 170), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 160), Alexey Kunchenko (UFC Fight Night 156), Alex Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 62), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (UFC 231)
Key Losses: Dan Hooker (UFC 226), Michel Prazeres (UFC Fight Night 95), Rashid Magomedov (UFC Fight Night 77)
Keys to Victory: Fighters that rely on physicality do not always do well upon moving up a weight class; they can lose advantages they are accustomed to. Burns, on the other hand, only seems to be more overwhelming, as his punches pack major power, and his takedowns has been more consistent.
Burns needs to go into this bout with a mentality that the clinch is a deadly position. Even if the reality isn’t quite so dramatic, it’s very possible that Usman contains all Burns’ violence from that position, drawing him into the miserable, soul-sucking experience that is fighting Kamaru Usman.
Burns wants a kickboxing battle. Top position is cool too, but only if it comes as the result of a knockdown.
At range, I’d really like to see Burns letting his kicks fly. It’s true that the risk of having a kick caught exists, but hell, the same is true for Usman ducking under punches, and Burns cannot win without throwing something. Depending on Usman’s stance — Orthodox = calf kick, Southpaw = body kick — Burns should be ripping kicks, as hard kicks are more difficult to catch than flicks.
Otherwise, Burns has to throw hard whenever Usman steps forward. If he can scare Usman off his forward pressure even a bit, it will really improve the odds Burns can land big shots and score the upset.
It may not sell very many pay-per-views (PPV) units, but this is a quality Welterweight title match up.
Usman deserves to be looked at as one of the very best fighters on planet. Unbeaten in UFC and riding a 12-fight win streak, he’s already won the title and defended it twice. Burns is one of the final fighters that seems to present a very serious challenge, so if Usman handles him like usual, his reign is likely to continue for a long time.
At some point, people will have to accept just how dominant Usman has become.
On the other hand, Burns’ Welterweight run has been hugely impressive, finding his correct weight class just as everything else clicked into place technically. Dethroning a true kingpin like Usman would be an incredible final note to his unexpected resurgence, and it would really open up the Welterweight division to some incredible match ups.
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.
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At UFC 258, Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns will battle in the main event. Which man leaves with Welterweight gold?