Kamaru Usman put on a clinical display of precision and power to stop challenger Gilbert Burns in the third round and retain his UFC welterweight title yesterday, February 14, 2021 at UFC 258 in Las Vegas.
Usman and a battered Burns faced off at the center of the Octagon early in the third. Usman then switched to southpaw and knocked down Burns with a right hand jab. As Burns fell backward into the canvas Usman jumped forward and swarmed him with ground-and-pound forcing referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
“It was amazing. This one was a tough one. It was a very, very tough one. You know the whole gym situation and me leaving. You cannot dismiss what Gilbert Burns has done in this division. After being knocked out at lightweight, he regrouped, put it all together, moved up a weight class and started tearing through these guys,” said Usman.
The two were friends and long-time sparring partners working out of Sanford MMA in Florida for years before the showdown. After the fight was announced Usman had to switch gyms and turned to coach Trevor Wittman in preparation for the defense of his title.
“It’s hard to come in without all the emotion. Gilbert is someone I’ve known from the beginning. And I love him. But inside the ring. There are no friends in there. I am the welterweight champ for a reason,” said Usman.
“I knew he (Burns) could hit hard. That was how our sparring went. He caught me in the first round with one of those big hooks. And I caught it. So okay.”
Usman knocked Burns down in the second. He moved forward leading with a jab then cracked Burns with a solid right straight. Burns staggered backward and Usman continued to walk forward occasionally switching southpaw to be able to lead with powerful right hand jabs. Burns barely survived the second round before eventually going out just 34 seconds into the third.
“That was the thing with me. Even when I first kind of started and was striking, it was a lot of that Dutch kickboxing. It gets you tough and lets you defend a lot of shots. I wanted to work that southpaw, and I wanted to work that jab. I just worked it, and worked it a lot,” said Usman.
Burns came out swinging in the first round and connected with a roundhouse right to the temple knocking Usman down. Usman was up almost immediately and Burns was unable to capitalize. Usman composed himself and was traded shots at the center of the Octagon on even terms with Burns the rest of the first round.
In the co-main event Alexa Grasso outboxed and outgrappled Maycee Barber to win by unanimous decision in women’s flyweight division action.
In other fights of the main card Kelvin Gastelum posted a unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch at middleweight; Ricky Simon won by decision over Brian Kelleher at featherweight; and Julian Marquez snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a desperate submission victory over Maki Pitolo with seconds to go in their fight at middleweight.