Coming into his UFC 258 title fight against Kamaru Usman last night (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021), few were giving Gilbert Burns the respect he deserved after winning six in a row at Welterweight.
Maybe it was the long layoff. Maybe it was Usman’s dominance against other opponents. Whatever it was, it took Burns just 30 seconds to remind people he was a legit threat. An overhand right landed clean on Usman, dropping him to the canvas. An uppercut sliced through the champ’s defense, staggering him back. A knee landed flush to the solar plexus, Usman’s face wincing in pain.
For that hot minute, it looked like we were about to see a new 170-pound champion crowned. But, Usman survived the round and regrouped, taking his coaches advice to ride his jab through the second round. It worked. Every time Burns stepped in to attack, he ate the jab. Everything Usman threw, he set up with the jab. Soon Burns was the one staggered, falling to the canvas. Thirty seconds into the third and it was over: Kamaru Usman had stopped Burns for the win (watch highlights here).
“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be ... I got overexcited,” Burns said during the post-fight press conference. “I went my guy Cody Garbrandt crazy. As soon as I hurt him, it was the second time, I think I made the same mistake when I fought Dan Hooker. And I got overexcited. To become a champion, I cannot make those mistakes, you know?”
Yes, that’s right: fighters are using Garbrandt’s name as a reference for getting into emotional firefights. Burns said he put too much stock into thinking about the knockout and chased it.
“That was the mistake, I thought about it,” he added. “And then I got caught. So that was the mistake. I know I can hit any one of these guys, but in order to become a champion, I have to be disciplined. I have to be disciplined. I have so much respect for my guy, Cody Garbrandt ... I just went the same way. As soon as I saw he was hurt, forget about the strategy. I just went for the kill.”
Honestly, we think Burns’ biggest mistake was staying on the canvas for more than one minute shortly after hurting Usman. Once “The Nigerian Nightmare” shook out the cobwebs and adjusted his gameplan, Gilbert’s window of opportunity was closed. At least this time. “Durinho” is already visualizing another run at the title.
“The way I see it right now, I just want to do like Robbie Lawler,” he said. “He was the only guy, if I’m not wrong, that lost to Johny Hendricks and then just got right back, got a couple of wins, fought again, and became a champion. That’s exactly what I’m gonna do. I hope I don’t get a crazy suspension, and I go back and rest, stay with my family a little bit. I want to fight as quick as I can. I know I can do it and ... it was almost done. But, I cannot make those mistakes to become a champion.”
As for what he and his former teammate said during their emotional post-fight embrace?
“He just said me, ‘I like you so much, so keep working. You’re the hardest fight I ever had,’” Burns relayed. “I said, ‘I like you so much, too.’ I just want to become champion.”
For complete UFC 258 results and coverage click here.