UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Preview

The welterweight title is on the line on Saturday night in the UFC’s latest PPV instalment. Kamaru Usman defends his 170-pound belt against Gilbert Burns in the main event of the evening. Maycee Barber will return from a layoff when she takes on Alexa Grasso in the co-main event, a fight that will take place in the flyweight division.

The last person to get their hand raised over Kamaru Usman was Jose Caceres, that was in the year 2013. That was Usman’s second ever professional fight, and “The Nigerian Nightmare” has been on a wicked tear since that defeat.

Usman went 5-1 on the regional scene, winning a place on the TUF 21 season, a season he went on to win overall when he beat Hayder Hassan in the finale. Early wins over Leon Edwards, Sean Strickland and Sérgio Moraes moved Usman into title contention.

Two victories over Brazilian MMA royalty Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos saw Usman get a title shot over then champion Tyron Woodley. Usman went on to dominate Woodley enroute to winning his first ever world title. Usman went on to defend the title two times with wins over Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.

Usman’s third defence will come against current number two contender at 170 pounds, Gilbert Burns. Burns, a former training partner of the champ has gone 4-0 inside the welterweight division since his move up in weight class. The Brazilian took out Alexey Kunchenko before picking up wins over Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley.

That run lead him right into this bout with Usman on Saturday night. I feel that a key for success in this fight for Burns will be a fast gritty start. He will have to put a pace on early. Letting a fighter like Usman take control of the octagon(especially the small cage) is bad news. Problem for Burns if he chooses that route, is that Kamaru Usman is a cardio machine.

If Burns tries to be patient, Usman will push forward and have Burn moving backward towards the cage. Usman does have some nice clinchwork off the cage, where he likes to wear down his opponents. The fight itself, is kind of a double edged sword for the challenger. Burns does have one punch knockout power and that will have to be respected by the champion.

I fell that Usman is massively underrated, we have never seen him remotely in trouble in any of his UFC fights. The majority of his fights go the distance, I feel that he has a great opportunity to make a real statement in this fight. I would like to see Usman fight with a finishing mentality, go out there and get a highlight knockout. A submission against a world class grappler would be a massive statement from the champ. Will it happen? I guess we’ll soon find out.

Maycee Barber makes her return from a long injury layoff when she takes on Alexa Grasso in the co-main event. UFC are not messing around putting her in that slot so early in her career against a very good opponent. It show’s how highly the promotion thinks of the 22 year old Barber, she will have it all to do against a fighter of Grasso’s calibre. Both fighters will catapult themselves into the title picture in the flyweight division with a win.

Kelvin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch will go to battle in the middleweight division. Maki Pitolo will welcome back Julian Marquez from a long layoff, that fight will also happen at 185 pounds. Unfortunately the fight between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera fell off the card early in the week, a fight between two lightweight veterans clash in it replacement, as Bobby Green gets set to throw down against Jim Miller, both fighters have 80+ fights between them.

BJJ juggernaut Rodolfo Viera will go toe-to-toe with Anthony Hernandez at 185 pounds, that fight will headline the prelims section on the card. A strawweight encounter will see Polyana Viana and Mallory Martin collide. Gabe Green will square off against Phil Rowe at 170 pounds, also in the 170-pound division an intriguing battle between Belal Muhammad and Dhiego Lima is set to go down. Andre Ewell and Chris Gutierrez is also set to open up proceedings on the prelims section of the card.

A fight that has fallen somewhat under the radar is a featherweight fight between Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher. That fight will be a contender for FOTN for sure. Rounding off the card is a flyweight encounter between Gillian Robertson and Miranda Maverick, both fighters are known for there high level grappling so that will be an interesting fight to watch unfold.

Main Card (ESPN / ESPN+)

Welterweight: Kamaru Usman (17-1) vs. Gilbert Burns (19-3)

Women’s Flyweight: Maycee Barber (8-1) vs. Alexa Grasso (12-3)

Middleweight: Kelvin Gastelum (16-6) vs. Ian Heinisch (14-3)

Lightweight: Bobby Green (27-11-1) vs. Jim Miller (35-15)

Middleweight: Maki Pitolo (13-7) vs. Julian Marquez (7-2)

Preliminary card (ESPN / ESPN+)

Middleweight: Rodolfo Vieira (7-0) vs. Anthony Hernandez (7-2)

Welterweight: Belal Muhammad (17-3) vs. Dhiego Lima (15-7)

Women’s Strawweight: Polyana Viana (11-4) vs. Mallory Martin (7-3)

Catchweight 140lbs: Andre Ewell (17-6) vs. Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2)

Early preliminary card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)

Featherweight: Ricky Simon (17-3) vs. Brian Kelleher (22-11)

Welterweight: Gabriel Green (9-3) vs. Philip Rowe (7-2)

Women’s Flyweight: Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs. Miranda Maverick (8-2)

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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