UFC 258 Preview & Predictions: Usman vs Burns

UFC 258 Preview & Predictions: Usman vs Burns

By Cathal Geeney

Gilbert Burns finally gets his chance to compete against former teammate, Kamaru Usman, with the UFC welterweight title on the line.

Burns was previously set to face off back in June of last year before he was forced to withdraw from the event having contracted Covid-19, leaving Jorge Masvidal to step in on only six days’ notice.

Usman is yet to taste defeat in the UFC octagon and will be confident that won’t change this coming weekend. The Nigerian born athlete has all the attributes to determine where the fight takes place. Generally, he looks to his sheer power and wrestling abilities to tie up his opponent and dominate them.

The welterweight champion can generally dictate where the fight takes place. His wrestling experience leaves him in a position where he can take the fight to the mat at will or else lean on his defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing. He applies the pressure in the clinch, tying up his opponent and resorting to all means (including toe stomps) to control.

In terms of striking, the Nigerian has a long reach at 76 inches, and utilises this with straight punches primarily from an orthodox stance but often switching to southpaw.

Kamaru will look to his jab to maintain the range as Gilbert will be dangerous up close. Kamaru has also been working with the highly regarded coach, Trevor Whitman, in recent months so it will be interesting to see if he brings any surprises to the table.

In Kamaru’s title defence against Colby Covington, another strong wrestler, Usman relied entirely on his striking and won via TKO so he can also stand and strike. What makes this a much more interesting fight than a lot of Usman’s previous match ups, is that in Gilbert Burns, he has an opponent who can compete in all areas.

In terms of striking, Burns is explosive and demonstrated this in his last two outings, dropping Tyron Woodley in the first round and becoming the first fighter to ever knockout Demain Maia at welterweight. He also mixes in an array of kicks to the legs, body and head. While in the grappling stakes, he has an extensive background in Submission Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with gold medals at World competitions in both fields. Of his eighteen professional MMA victories, eight have come by submission.

But beyond being a good striker and a good grappler, the Brazilian mixes his attacks very fluently. His aggressive striking sets up opportunities for different take down attempts and he can alternate his attack effectively making him a very complete MMA fighter.

Prediction:

This is a very interesting match-up. Usman is the more established fighter; he has been more consistent and dominant than Burns for a longer period. In his UFC career, he has never really come close to tasting defeat.

Burns on the other hand has had stints at lightweight before finding his best form at welterweight, he has three previous UFC defeats and he is still improving in certain areas.

The logical pick here, and the rightful favourite going into this, is Kamaru Usman. However, I’m going to go for a surprise.

Confidence will be high in the Henry Hooft camp with Michael Chandler landing a stunning knock out last month, and I am picking Burns to continue this run of form for Sanford MMA.

I can see the Brazilian challenger implementing a high-pressure game-plan, landing a lot of early leg kicks and fighting off the takedown attempts to earn the title.

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