UFC 258: Main Event Preview
Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC 258: Main Event Preview

Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (17-1) vs. Gilbert “Durinho” Burns (19-3)
Welterweight Championship
170 LBS


The UFC returns to Las Vegas, Nevada, after their latest run on fight island in January. Welcoming the brand’s return to the US will be a welterweight title fight that pits two former teammates against one another in Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. In what was supposed to happen on December 12th of 2020, all signs point towards the two best welterweights in the world finally able to do battle. After Burns has impressed everyone with his rise to the top, Usman remains confident that no one is on his level.

While the welterweight division is stacked with contenders who are viable for a title shot, this matchup makes the most sense for the time being. There’s no doubt that guys like Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal, and Leon Edwards are waiting in the wings; it’s just time for the 34-year-old Brazilian to finally get his shot at UFC gold. Stylistically, this may be the most intriguing fight to be made at 170 pounds. Which of the “stocky wrestlers with an overhand” will be able to walk out of the octagon on top after tonight’s event?

Kamaru Usman

Since winning the 170-pound strap a little under two years ago, Usman has found himself in nothing but fights that involved bad blood. Burns creates a different type of psychological challenge. Usman will need to have natural motivation against a friend and former teammate come time for his third title defense. Claiming that he “sees no face” while in the octagon, the relationship between the two shouldn’t be a factor. With some believing there was a falling out between the two before Usman moved to a new camp to train with the likes of Trevor Wittman and Justin Gaethje, there are questions to be answered going into UFC 258.

Easily one of the more picked at fighters in the UFC, Usman continuously believes he has something to prove. This could be one of the reasons his gameplan over the years has developed to where he can beat an opponent in whatever way it takes. From dominating Tyron Woodley like MMA fans have never seen before, to breaking Colby Covington’s jaw, to silencing the wave of Jorge Masvidal, “The Nigerian Nightmare” plans on staying on top for years to come. If Usman can stay healthy, the ever-growing hit list for the former Nebraska-Kearney Loper will flourish.

Gilbert Burns

Getting ready for the toughest challenge of his professional career, Burns has one thing in mind heading into UFC 258. That’s to shock the world and culminate his lightning-fast rise to the top with a win over the man who used to serve as a mentor for “Durinho”. With his first title shot coming against a man whose kids hung out with his own, Burns will test his mental sharpness against a man to claims to have the strongest mind in the division. At the end of the day, the better fighter will come out on top, but the fact that these two used to spar together every day will certainly be a factor.

With Burns oddly being the older of the two men competing in the main event of UFC 258, it seems like he is the young gun with something to prove. While the media could chalk this up to slower development, Burns believes he is unstoppable at this point in his career. Since the Brazilian became a force on the feet, it’s become nearly impossible to pick out a hole in his game. Defeating foes like Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, and Gunnar Nelson Burns is more than prepared for a shot at the champ. He’s come a long way since being stopped by Dan Hooker at 155 pounds.

Breakdown

Eerily similar to the build of Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, this fight has an underlying intrigue. Is there a bone to pick between the two men? Not necessarily. Do both men have something to prove? Absolutely. There is always something special looming in the air when two fighters who used to spend every day together compete for a title. With both men shaping their game around each other, the question of who benefits from their choice of camp will be answered.

At first glance, there are a couple of scenarios that would benefit the challenger. One would be Usman neglecting to use his wrestling and standing up with the quicker, more powerful Burns. The second would have to rely on Usman getting lazy while on the mat with Burns. Before “Durinho” made headlines by cracking competitors with his right hand, he was known for his deadly groundwork, meaning he could take advantage of a lackadaisical champion. If Usman is his normal self, don’t hold your breath on any of these potential scenarios happening.

While Burns may be the most explosive challenger to date for Usman, every challenger has posed a similar threat up to this point. The extra energy that the challenger has had by not cutting down to 155 is noticeable, but Usman has grown used to seeing the “best version” of everyone he has faced. With Burns confident in his grappling ability, it may not be enough to overcome a man who pushes elite fighters to the limit with his clinch work and an overwhelming top game.

The potential for Usman to meet his match has the tension high for tonight’s main event, but the champion has gained enough notoriety for it to seem foolish picking against him.

Usman def. Burns via Unanimous Decision

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