Kamaru Usman set to Defend Welterweight Title Against Gilbert Burns
UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will defend the welterweight title against former teammate and No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 this weekend.
Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 • 5:01 PM ET
Las Vegas will host this weekend's UFC 258 event.
The UFC will return to the Apex in Las Vegas this Saturday for UFC 258 with a main event featuring a welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns.
Usman and Burns were previously scheduled to meet last July at UFC 251, but the UFC pulled Burns from the contest after he and his coach, Greg Jones, tested positive for COVID-19. Fan favorite Jorge Masvidal replaced Burns on extremely short notice and lost to Usman by unanimous decision. The victory was Usman’s second title defense after defeating Colby Covington in his first defense at UFC 245 in 2019.
Usman and Burns were also briefly targeted to headline UFC 256 in December, but Usman pulled out of that event because he needed “a little more time,” according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. The two fighters are former training partners, but Usman switched his training routine prior to UFC 251. They know each other well and will enter the fight with no animosity and much respect. Despite the respect, though, Usman says he’ll be just as motivated as he was against previous opponents.
“In a sense they’re all different, but when it gets closer to the fight, they’re all the same,” Usman said during a recent virtual interview. “These guys all sit there and look at what I’ve earned and what I’ve worked for and say ‘I want that. I want to eat his food. I want to take his plate.’ So at the end of the day, I have to be that same savage to go in there and defend each and every time. It’s a little different in a sense but at the same time, I see no face. When we get in there, they’re all the same.”
Usman (17-1) has won 16 straight fights and has yet to lose in the UFC (12-0). He’s one of the best grapplers in any division and uses that skillset to push his opponents to the fence where he wears on them, much like he did against Tyron Woodley and Masvidal. To the surprise of many, the battle with Covington stayed on the feet, but it could take a mix of striking and grappling to defeat Burns.
Burns has won six straight fights, most recently dominating Woodley by unanimous decision last May. He moved back up to welterweight in 2019 after an inconsistent run at lightweight and has looked the best he has in his career.
Including Woodley, Burns has key wins over Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson, but he’ll face the biggest challenge of his career on Saturday against a dominant champion. Burns believes the history he has with Usman will help him become a champion.
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“Me and Kamaru had over 200 rounds sparring, at least,” Burns told MMA Junkie. “We started training together in 2012 in the Blackzilians. Then Blackzilians kind of broke down, they disappeared, so we moved to Henri Hooft. Then we went to a place called Combat Club, and then we were there for almost a year, and then we opened up the Hard Knocks. We were at Hard Knocks for two years. Then we moved to Sanford (MMA) and then we been in Sanford for a total of two years. So total I trained with Kamaru was seven years, and we both love to train.
“He was a good partner for me, and I was good partner for him. Just sparring sessions, over 200, plus the grappling sessions, plus the wrestling sessions. For sure, I have so many hours on the mat with Kamaru. We know each other very well.”
While Burns respects Usman, he knows they are both in a for a fight because that is what it has always been about.
“I have so much respect for Kamaru,” Burns said. “I like him a lot, and it’s going to be just a competition. I’m going to go out there and give my best, no bad blood, no nothing. I have nothing against him. He’s been a great champion, a good teammate when we were together. We were never close friends like calling each other, texting each other but when we had to, it was always about fighting.”
Burns could have an advantage on the ground, as he is a second-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He’s one of the better submission artists in the welterweight division, but he only has two submission finishes since 2016. Burns has primarily been a standup fighter, but it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll truly have the edge if the fight goes to the canvas. Conversely, will Usman be able to use the takedown to control position without being submitted?
The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST
Women’s flyweight bout - No. 10 Maycee Barber vs. No. 15 Alexa Grasso
Middleweight bout - No. 9 Kelvin Gastelum vs. No. 15 Ian Heinisch
Middleweight bout - Maki Pitolo vs. Julian Marquez
Lightweight bout - Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green
Prelims on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST
Middleweight bout - Rodolfo Vieira vs. Anthony Hernandez
Welterweight bout - Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego Lima
Women’s strawweight bout - Polyana Viana vs. Mallory Martin
Catchweight bout (140 pounds) - Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Featherweight bout - Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher
Welterweight bout - Gabriel Green vs. Philip Rowe
Women’s flyweight bout - Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick