Kamaru Usman retained his Welterweight title for the third consecutive time with a TKO third-round win over the number one contender Gilbert Burns. The pair were training together just less than a year ago and finally met for the belt since their first matchup was cancelled back in July when Jorge Masvidal stepped in on short notice. The champion now holds the record for the longest winning streak in UFC Welterweight history with 13.
The bout wasn’t plane sailing for Usman to begin with, as Burns rocked him with a clean right hook that dropped the Nigerian native to the canvas momentarily within the opening 30 seconds. Usman bounced straight back up and started exchanging back with Burns, but the 33-year-old was still noticeably wobbly before eating a kick to the face which inflicted further damage.
Burns was favourably winning the battle on the feet, adding a strong knee to the body of Usman and a couple of low leg kicks. The champion replied with some low kicks of his own and worked the jab well towards the end of the first, however, the challenger was the one on top after five minutes of action.
It was more of the same from Burns at the start of round two when another right hook dazed Usman that landed over his jab. Although, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ started to grow into the contest from this point on despite the damage from his opponent when he continued to work the jab to huge effect and stun Burns himself when a right hand caught him flush. Usman was looking for the finish as he swung a flurry of hooks, but Burns stood strong as Usman’s punches were connecting and finding a rhythm to turn the tide.
Moments later, Usman dropped Burns from yet another jab but allowed the Brazilian to return back to his feet as he noticed he was starting to take over the fight in the striking department. It was a terrific few minutes of fighting from the champion to win the second round and build momentum leading into the third.
Just 20 seconds into the third, Usman dropped Burns again with another right jab before adding the ground and pound where Burns was in huge trouble. It took several seconds of ground damage until referee Herb Dean called a stop to the bout that earned Usman an impressive stoppage to add to his resume.
For a fighter so well recognised for his wrestling credentials, Usman proved dangerous on the feet and overcame early adversity to maintain his status as one of the UFC’s greatest Welterweight champions. Burns showed he is still a problem in this division since his move up from Lightweight, and will no doubt have another crack at undisputed gold in the future.
In the co-main event, Alexa Grasso defeated Maycee Barber via unanimous decision (29-28×3) in the Women’s Flyweight division. It was the Mexican’s second win since moving to Flyweight last year and in contrast a second consecutive defeat for the 22-year-old Barber.
Barber opened the first round with a big right hand as she had Grasso against the fence before getting her opponent into the clinch. Grasso took control in this position, waring Barber out until they met in striking distance again. Barber was growing into the fight with elbows and hooks that connected, but the high volume of strikes left her susceptible to counter strikes from the powerful Grasso.
It was Grasso who stepped it up in the second round, showcasing her boxing skills and power when she stunned Barber with a big overhand left. The American had her moments with a brutal body kick and a rapid takedown, but the efficiency and effectiveness of Grasso was doing more damage to Barber despite using less energy when executing strikes.
Barber turned it up in the final round, tripping up her opponent in a takedown and landing more heavy shots that Grasso was unable to defend. Barber was at moments swinging aimlessly looking to end the fight, but her opponent weathered the storm and won on points throughout the 15 minutes. It won’t be the last time we hear about these two young fighters in the UFC octagon.
Rest of the card
Number nine ranked Middleweight Kelvin Gastelum beat Ian Heinisch via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28×2) to snap a three-fight losing streak. The 29-year-old American has struggled with wrestlers in the past but showed no signs of that in this fight in what was a convincing display.
Heinisch executed a takedown at the start of the fight, in which he looked for a kimura submission that Gastelum squirmed out of to showcase his jiu-jitsu defensive skills. As a result of the escape, Gastelum turned into full mount to take control of the fight on the ground.
Gastelum was also winning the exchanges on the feet, a range of body kicks caused concern for Heinisch in addition to the level changes that earned him numerous takedowns throughout the contest. As his opponent began to tire out in the final round, the left hand of Gastelum began to break through the guard to gain a crucial career win.
There were multiple submission wins on the UFC 258 card, starting with Julian Marquez’s anaconda choke to defeat Maki Pitolo in the third round. Marquez wrapped his arm around the neck of Pitolo from the back position in the final minute of the bout to secure the choke in what was his first fight since 2018, and it’s fair to say the 30 year old announced his return in style.
Meanwhile, Anthony Hernandez beat Rodolfo Vieira via submission in the second round of their Middleweight bout to secure the ‘Performance of the Night’ award. The 27-year-old had Vieira hurt on the feet before taking the fight to the canvas, taking advantage of the exposure to his back and executing a guillotine choke to end the contest.
In the Women’s Strawweight division, Polyana Viana defeated Mallory Martin via submission in the very first round in another ‘Performance of the Night’ bout. The Brazilian initiated an early takedown to dominate on the ground and lock in an armbar that gave Martin no option but to tap in an instance.