By Brad Christensen
The buildup to UFC’s 258th pay per view event had all the hallmarks of a classic, with two former teammates meeting in the main event for Kamaru Usman’s welterweight world title.
His opponent, a former world champion in both wrestling and jiu-jitsu, Gilbert Burns represented arguably Usman’s toughest opponent to date. Having also displayed vicious knockout power, Burns believed he could win the fight whether it stayed on the feet or went to the ground. Usman acknowledged he was well aware of his opponent’s skills before the fight, explaining the two had sparred over 100 rounds together as teammates.
Before the main event, middleweight Kelvin Gastelum seized an opportunity to get back in the win column, with a dominant performance against American, Ian Heinisch. Gastelum became well known to fight fans after his war with kiwi, Israel Adesanya, which was recognised as the UFC’s 2019 fight of the year. However, after being defeated by Adesanya, Gastelum went on to lose two more fights, dropping significantly in the rankings. However, it was clear he still belongs among the elite as he easily dictated pace against Heinisch, landing four takedowns by the end of the second round. Gastelum began finding a home for the left hand in the third round, and his relentless pressure saw him land two more takedowns as Henisch shot flying knee attempts. A unanimous shutout win for Gastelum.
The co-main event was a female flyweight fight between number 10 ranked, Maycee Barber, and 15 ranked, Alexa Grasso. Barber’s forward pressure was apparent from the outset, walking Grasso down looking to establish range. However, Grasso remained calm to pick some sharp and accurate shots that landed clean. Barber acknowledged her opponent’s success on the feet as she looked to change levels and take Grasso down. Grasso successfully defended the takedown to clearly win the first round.
Barber was badly stung by a big shot in the second round which appeared to have her on wobbly legs. She managed to survive by looking for the clinch, and eventually landed a big punch of her own to temporarily temper her opponent’s onslaught. Her reprieve was short-lived as the women wound up on the ground and Grasso gained top position. The underdog displayed outstanding grappling skills, coming close to submitting Barber before she was saved by the bell.
Being two rounds down did not discourage Barber as she put together a flurry of punches, once again putting Grasso on the back foot, before taking her down. Grasso looked tired, but comfortable as she managed to get the fight back to the feet. After the 15 minute distance, Alexa Grasso was the clear victor. She will now look to move into the Flyweight top 10.
Kamaru Usman’s long-anticipated scrap with Gilbert Burns was quickly underway after the men refused to ceremoniously touch gloves during the announcement. Burns had early success with a massive right hand that had the champion scrambling. Burns pressed forward throwing massive shots, looking to end the fight there and then. Usman did extremely well to recover while in the clinch, seeming to have his feet back under him before at the end of the first.
Usman got back to the fundamentals in the second round, establishing a sledgehammer jab. Slowly taking control, Usman landed a big right hand off the jab to hurt Burns. The champion continued to pepper his opponent with his jab as Burns’ confidence seemed to dissipate towards the end of the second. Looking at both men in their corners before the third round, it was clear the tide had shifted in favour of the champion.
The end came early in the third, as Usman switched to Southpaw he landed a heavy jab that put Burns on the canvas. The champion finished the job with some devastating ground and pound to take the record for most consecutive wins in the UFC’s illustrious welterweight division.
Emotions spilled over for Burns as he cried for several minutes on the mat after the fight was called. Usman sat nearby, watching his former teammate, appearing somewhat sympathetic.
Usman called for a rematch with Jorge Masvidal in his post-fight-interview, saying he was sick of hearing the American talk. Usman defeated Masvidal via decision in July of 2020, after Masvidal stepped in to replace another opponent on six days’ notice. Masvidal is the current owner of the UFC’s special BMF (Baddest Motherf****r) belt and represents a massive payday for Usman. The American has been outspoken about the fact he couldn’t be stopped by Usman, despite only having six days to train. Usman vowed he will do just that if granted the opportunity.