Besting Kamaru Usman is something that no fighter has managed thus far in the UFC, but Gilbert Burns is in a unique position to upset the reigning welterweight champion—and his former team-mate.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” (17-1) has been an unstoppable force since joining MMA’s major promotion, amassing an 11-0 record ahead of what will be his third UFC title defense. Burns (19-3) has slightly more experience with the promotion and has suffered three losses from his 15 bouts since joining in 2014, but there’s a sense that the winds of change could be blowing come Saturday (February 13).
It’s understandable William Hill USA has cast Usman as the -280 moneyline favorite given his world-class wrestling foundation more often than not provides the path to victory. However, +230 underdog “Durinho” boasts a key dose of insider knowledge from his years training alongside the titleholder, and the +500 odds for him to top a five-round thriller look especially appetising.
UFC 258 Info
Date: Saturday, February 13
Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada
Viewing Info: ESPN, ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass
Early Prelims: 6:15 p.m. ET (11:15 p.m. GMT)
Prelims: 8 p.m. ET (1 a.m. GMT)
Main Card: 10 p.m. ET (3 a.m. GMT)
UFC 258 Prediction: Burns via decision (+500)
Less than one month after Dustin Poirier finished Conor McGregor to throw some chaos into the lightweight division, No. 2 welterweight Burns has the potential to unravel things in his own class.
It’s well-founded by now that he and Usman spent a number of years training under the same roof, both with the Blackzilians and as part of Sanford MMA, while the duo also share a manager in Ali Abdelaziz.
Fight week! Let’s go 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/Y5yej8SyMV— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) February 8, 2021
The principal point in projecting an upset here stems from Burns being a stylistic nightmare for the welterweight champ on paper, on top of the fact his challenger already holds extensive experience going against him in the gym. Durinho is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt of the highest quality and one that holds a major threat to Usman should he opt to wrestle, but he also holds knockout power from multiple positions, whether that’s standing, in the clinch or from the ground.
Usman is still the more frequent, accurate striker with peerless takedown defense (h/t MMA By The Numbers), but that’s against opponents who have, by and large, been very hesitant to go to the floor with him:
FIGHT WEEK!— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) February 8, 2021
Here's a look at the advanced stats for the #UFC258 main event
Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns pic.twitter.com/Rp8eDyLJlD
Burns is very unlikely to hold the same fear as he finally gets his shot at the welterweight belt, a bout that was postponed and delayed on several occasions in 2020. Admittedly, this fight represents the most difficult date of Burns’ career to date, but he’s more equipped to get the better of Usman than any opponent the latter has faced up until now.
Usman’s only loss to date happened to be a submission defeat to Jose Caceres in May 2013, but his quality has developed so much since then that it bears little significance here. That being said, it’s difficult to ascertain where he’ll envision his advantage given Burns’ threat in all areas.
Both fighters have a unanimous-decision win over an aged Tyron Woodley in their recent fights, but Usman undoubtedly has the higher quality of recent foes on his side. That being said, Burns has ramped up his quality in a big way of late and has that unquantifiable advantage of being the hungry title contender running firmly in his favor.
Usman vs. Burns Odds
Kamaru Usman: -280
Gilbert Burns: +230
Odds via William Hill NJ