Two former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight title challengers, Gilbert Burns (No. 2) and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (No. 4) collided in a pivotal welterweight match up tonight (Sat., July 10, 2021) in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 264, which took place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Burns just had a crack at reigning 170-pound champion, Kamaru Usman, and came up short, while Thompson has been telling everyone and everyone that he is a nightmare match up for “Nigerian Nightmare.” Thompson likely had a more realistic path to a title shot with a win, but it wasn’t in the cards tonight, with the Brazilian winning two of three rounds en route to an important unanimous decision victory.
Both fighters met in the center of the cage, with Thompson demonstrating his awkward stance-switching standup, nailing Burns with a right hook early as the Brazilian tried to barrel in and close the distance. About 90 seconds in, Burns got in close and snatched a single-leg, pressing him up against the fence and looking to dump him on the canvas. Thompson, as usual, defended very well, with Burns giving up almost immediately on the double-leg attempt and instead opting for foot stomps much to the chagrin of the restless crowd. Burns switch back to a single-leg and was finally able to get Thompson down with two minutes remaining in the opening frame. He worked himself into half-guard, locking Thompson’s leg down and drilling him with short right hands to the face that were almost impossible to defend. Thompson eventually worked himself up to one knee, but Burns blasted him in the face as he made his way back up to his feet. Burns tried to explode with a barrage with five seconds left, but ended up tripping over his own feet and eating a partially-blocked head kick at the buzzer.
Burns more than likely was up on the judges scorecards heading into the second stanza thanks to the takedown and ground control, but Thompson was certainly in the fight. He peppered the jab and baited Burns to come after him, but he didn’t bite. Thompson began to open up with his kicks, coming from all sorts of odd angles and connecting clean. Burns appeared a bit confused — barely threw any shots for the first 2.5 minutes. Then he started to heat up, attacking Thompson with a series of right hooks and getting him out of his comfort zone. Thompson connected with a one-two combination, with Burns responding with a hard inside low kick. Thompson whiffed on a looping hook, which Burns tried to turn into a takedown, but “Wonderboy” stepped out immediately. Burns fired off a hard right hand and followed it up with another takedown along the cage. He trapped Thompson’s arm behind him and drilled him with short shots to the face. Thompson’s right arm was still free, though, and the pair just punched each other until the bell ended.
Even though Burns did nothing in the first-half of round two, the takedown and ground-and-pound more than likely had him up on the judges scorecards. Burns’ corner pleaded for him to stop messing around and just get the fight to the ground. Thompson picked up the pace, coming out with sideways front kicks and backing Burns into a corner and boxing his ears. Thompson landed a huge spinning back kick that dropped Burns, but he was back on his feet quick and returned fire. In the scramble, Burns latched onto Thompson and pressed him into the cage, looking to score his third takedown of the match. He pulled him off the fence and tossed him to the ground moments later, working Thompson over from side control. Thompson struggled to get back to his feet and ultimately gave up after eating some short shots to the grill. Thompson posted up again trying to get back to his feet, which Burns used as a guillotine choke. He quickly flopped to his back and Burns tried to end the match with a flurry to impress the judges.
Despite Dana White’s comments referring to Colby Covington as the next challenger in line for a shot at Usman’s gold, the bout has yet to be announced. Burns’ bout with Usman was too recent and ended too violently, so he will probably need one more win (or two) to warrant a rematch.
Jorge Masvidal — who he called out during his post-fight interview — is a great start.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 264: “McGregor vs. Poirier 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.