- Date & Location: Saturday, February 13, 2021 @ UFC Apex, Las Vegas
- Odds: Kamaru Usman (-275) vs. Gilbert Burns (+215) via Bovada
- Prediction: Usman via decision
The first UFC title fight of 2021 in Las Vegas takes place on February 13 when welterweight champion Kamaru Usman faces Gilbert Burns in the main event of the UFC 258 pay-per-view card.
Usman, who has a perfect 12-0 record in the UFC (17-1 overall), captured the 170-pound crown in March 2019. He has defended that title on two occasions. He stopped Colby Covington via TKO late in their December 2019 matchup and defeated Jorge Masvidal via decision in July. Usman took a breather after the Masvidal fight to spend time with his family and recover from injuries. His matchup opposite Burns is his first fight since he defeated Masvidal.
Burns, who is the No. 2 ranked fighter in the official UFC rankings, is 4-0 (19-3 career) since he returned to welterweight in August 2019. He has three decision wins and one TKO during that run, all of which took place in the UFC. Those victories rocketed Burns up the 170-pound rankings and earned him this title shot. Burns last fought in May when he defeated former welterweight titleholder, Tyron Woodley, via decision.
The UFC booked Burns and Usman meet in July, but that fight fell through after Burns tested positive for COVID-19. The UFC then tried to get the two together in December, but Usman pulled out of that matchup, saying he needed more time off to recover from injuries.
This bout has been a long time in the making.
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USMAN vs. BURNS ODDS
USMAN vs. BURNS PREDICTION & PICK
Both these fighters started as specialists and have rounded out their games very well. Usman used an overwhelming wrestling style early in his UFC career, but he has developed his striking to the point where he has become an effective and dangerous volume striker. In his wins over Demian Maia, Rafael dos Anjos, Woodley, Covington, and Masvidal, Usman outstruck his opponents 606-332.
Burns used his world-class grappling early in his MMA career, but he too has become a better striker. While his output does not rival Usman’s, Burns has displayed impressive power in his hands since he started to rely more on his striking.
Everything considered, my feeling is that Usman has the tools and big-fight experience to keep his UFC record perfect.
BETTING VALUE WITH USMAN
The welterweight champ has nine decision wins, seven knockouts, and one submission on his record. Only two of those knockouts have come while he has been under the UFC banner. His submission win came while Usman fought for the UFC, but that win was in his first fight with the promotion, which took place in 2015.
The odds say if Usman wins, it will be via decision. When you couple those odds with Burns’ toughness and grappling skills, it seems even more likely that Usman will win on the scorecards.
Burns is a live dog. His ground skills and power punches could earn him a victory, but I think that those outcomes only occur if Usman makes a mistake and since he hasn’t lost in nearly eight years, that seems unlikely.
Prediction: Usman via decision -280 at Bookmaker.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Usman and Burns both began their MMA careers in 2012, so the experience is pretty much awash in this bout, but that experience is not of equal quality. Over his past five fights, Usman has fought some of the best fighters in the division and he went into the fifth round in each of those outings. The champ knows what it takes to perform at the highest level and go the distance.
Burns’ biggest fight came against Woodley, but the Woodley of today is a far cry of the Woodley that won the welterweight title in 2016.
I think the experience in high stakes fights as well and his ability to fight in tight gives Usman the advantage in this matchup between former teammates.
FIGHT STATS: USMAN vs. BURNS
|Kamaru Usman||Category||Gilbert Burns|
|4.50||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.15|
|2.23||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.74|
|3.38||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||2.21|
|0.1||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.7|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
I expect Usman to win this fight. He has been calling for a rematch with Jorge Masvidal, saying he wants a shot to knock out the man he defeated via decision. While that fight might not make much sense, the UFC could aware Usman of his wish as Masvidal is a draw, and people would tune in for that contest. As for Burns, a win over Usman wouldn’t be the biggest upset victory in a UFC title fight, but it would be notable, especially since Burns has not been fighting at welterweight that long.