UFC 258: Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns Preview, Tips & Prediction

Kamaru-Usman-Gilbert-burns-odds

UFC 258 Prediction

The UFC is back in Las Vegas for its first pay-per-view in the United States since UFC 256 and whilst the card itself isn't the most appealing, one of the most anticipated welterweight fights in recent memory will take place in the main event as champion Kamaru Usman faces Gilbert Burns.

The two have been pencilled in to fight each other previously at UFC 251, but after Burns contracted COVID-19, Jorge Masvidal stepped forward to eventually lose to the Nigerian through a dominant points victory from the champ.

Now, eight months on, Burns finally gets his chance and we take a look at how both fighters can win the bout and our prediction for who can take home the 170 lbs title.

UFC 258 Preview: How Usman can beat Burns

Similar to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman is a dominant champion who emits somewhat of an aura of invincibility. You might not immortalise him in the way you do with Khabib, but the "Nigerian Nightmare" is good in most phases of MMA and is one of the toughest tests in the sport.

In fact, there’s a very legitimate argument to be made in favour of him being the UFC’s current pound for pound best in the wake of Khabib’s retirement, and as arguably the best welterweight of all-time after the great Georges St-Pierre. Rest assured, it will take a very, very good fighter to beat him in what is currently his fighting prime at the age of 33.

In addition to being one the best around in the sport, Usman possesses an endless gas tank and poses a significant threat in both open space and up against the cage, and both on the feet and from top position. These attributes all contribute towards him holding what is a fairly significant physical and technical advantage over this weekend’s opponent, Gilbert Burns.

Usman has two, maybe even three routes to victory in this fight. The first, and probably the most sensible, is to back Gilbert Burns up against the cage, control him there and batter him in the clinch, as the Nigerian-born has done so to many big names in the sport, such as Jorge Masvidal in his last fight in July. Burns showed some vulnerability in the clinch against Gunnar Nelson, a fighter not known for competency in that area, so it’s difficult to imagine a scenario whereby Usman, an extremely powerful and capable clinch fighter, wouldn’t dominate such an exchange.

Additionally, Burns’ fights with Nelson and Alexey Kunchenko were exemplary of very rudimentary cage craft on the part of the Brazilian, who showed nothing but linear retreats in the face of pressure, so Usman should have no issue backing his man up against the walls of the cage. Since the departure of Khabib, Usman is arguably the best wrestler in the UFC right now and the option of taking Burns down, both in open space and against the cage, and dominating him from the top position in the way did against former champion Tyron Woodley is where this fight could be one or lost.

Burns was taken down multiple times by Nelson who, again, isn’t a considerable wrestling threat. People might be quick to point out the ostensible dangers of that game plan, mostly arising from Burns’ supposed submission threat - largely stemming from his ADCC days - but the truth is that Burns is not that type of grappler; he’s not particularly potent off his back.

The Brazilian is very much an aggressive top player so if he wants to impose that part of his game on Usman he’ll have to be the man initiating the wrestling exchanges to take the fight to that area. The third game plan, and the riskiest, is to simply strike with Burns in open space - the same way he did with Colby Covington. While it wouldn’t be a smart plan, it’s still a game plan that could favour Usman. Burns is faster and is arguably the more ‘natural’ looking striker, but Usman is technically sounder. Usman has a considerable cardio edge, which will be consequential regardless of the game plan he employs, and consciously works the body a lot, which for a fighter like Burns - who’s shown a propensity to slow down in the later stages of a fight - is a considerable threat.

UFC 258 Odds: Usman v Burns Prediction

skybet betting tip

USMAN TO WIN ON POINTS @ 13/10

UFC 258 Preview: How Burns can beat Usman

At risk of waffling on needlessly, we’re going to keep this short and sweet: Burns’ best chance of a win here is to catch Usman in open space and knock him out. Burns is a solid, improved fighter who’s in the midst of a career-best run at 170 lbs, and both a knockout victory over Demian Maia and a dominant decision over Woodley have catapulted him into a maiden career title shot here.

But the brutal honesty is that those two wins aren’t elite wins, given how Woodley has not been the same since losing to Usman, and how Maia is far from the threat he was once when they fought 11 months ago. Against Usman, this is both a significant step up and a bad stylistic matchup. For Burns to knockout Usman, he’ll likely have to hope that Usman chooses to strike with him in open space, which, for Usman, would not be the most intelligent choice. The Nigerian did so against Covington, but the vengeance running through his veins and the overall bad blood in this bout practically turned that fight into a slugfest in the fourth and fifth round.

While a technically inferior striker, Burns has faster hands than Usman and the 170 lbs champion showed himself to be vulnerable to counters in the pocket against Covington and Masvidal, which is expected for a fighter so focused and dominant in the wrestling side of things.

This is an area Burns must look to exploit. It’s also worth mentioning the caveat that Usman and Burns are long-time training partners, which does have the potential to throw a spanner in the works. Who knows what’s happened in sparring sessions; who got the better of who when one of the two was feeling fatigued or having an off day.

Both fighters will know the other’s game inside out, and will be running each previous session back through their minds. This does have the potential to lead to either man overthinking their game plan and consequently inflating the other’s capability in a given area or two. As far as Burns’ submission threat is concerned, as previously mentioned, Burns really isn’t the most proficient grappler off his back and even if he was, a good wrestler with a good sense of position, which Usman is, likely won’t make themselves vulnerable to a submission from top position.

Regardless, you can get Burns to win via submission at 15/2. In order to beat Usman, you need a very particular set of skills that are generally only possessed by the elite of the elite in MMA: strong anti-wrestling, elite cage craft and a proficiency in the pocket being the most essential. These aren’t Burns’ strengths and it very much feels as though he doesn’t have the requisite tools to take advantage of Usman’s limited weaknesses.

The first two rounds or so should be competitive on the feet, but Usman should gradually wear on Burns and take full control of the fight come to the championship rounds.

UFC 258 Odds: Usman v Burns Prediction

skybet betting tip

BURNS TO WIN VIA TKO/KO @ 6/1

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