It wasn't easy, but Kamaru Usman survived a stiff challenge from former teammate Gilbert Burns to retain his UFC welterweight championship in the main event of UFC 258 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. Despite being badly rocked in the opening round, Usman turned the fight around to score a third-round TKO in another successful defense of his 170-pound crown.
Burns came out fast and hard, winging powerful shots and clipping the champion to put Usman on rubber legs. Burns tried to follow up and did connect with several heavy strikes, but Usman was able to weather the storm and survive an opening round that tilted strongly in favor of the challenger.
Usman established a piston-like jab in the second round, and the punch quickly became a difference-maker in the fight. With Burns unable to close the distance as consistently, Usman took over the fight behind the straight shots from his lead hand. The jab then opened up a huge right hand from Usman that took the legs of Burns.
"That was the thing with me," Usman said of the jabs following his victory. "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. [Coach Trevor Wittman] said, 'You need to stay on that jab. you have a freaking good jab.'"
The champion was patient, continuing to land big strikes but not going all out for the finish in the round. Instead, the finish came just 34 seconds into Round 3 when Usman dropped Burns with a straight right hand and followed up with ground-and-pound to force the stoppage.
Burns was highly emotional following the defeat, openly weeping in the center of the Octagon and again when he embraced Usman following the fight. The two men were longtime training partners at Sanford MMA in Florida before Burns established himself as the top title contender. When the fight was made between the two, Usman made the switch to train with Wittman, and the new partnership appears to have already added new dimensions to the striking game of the champion.
"This was a tough one," Usman said. "It was very, very tough for me because of the whole gym situation and me leaving. First and foremost, guys, 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.
"We started together. We started this journey together and he showed it tonight. ... But, I said it, man. I'm the varsity guy. My fight IQ is different. It's different when you're in the gym with me. But, when you get in here with me, it's a different ballgame. It's different. I'm a whole 'nother savage, and he saw that."
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The win boosted Usman's career record to 18-1, including a 13-fight winning streak in the UFC. That 13-fight streak is an all-time record at welterweight in the promotion, with Usman passing longtime record-holder Georges St-Pierre in the victory over Burns.
Following his victory, Usman turned his attention to Jorge Masvidal, whom he defeated in a clash at UFC 251 this past June. That fight was made the week of the event after Burns was forced out of his first planned date with Usman after testing positive for COVID-19. Usman won a wide decision in that meeting, but Masvidal has continued to trash talk the champion, and Usman seemed to want to step in the cage with the former title challenger one more time.
"We got this little street thug thinking he's Jesus," Usman said. "We tried to make that fight several times. They tried to make that fight, but he kept backing out. The only reason this man took the fight was because it was on six-days notice and he had a built in excuse. He's still running his mouth talking about he broke my nose and it was only on six days. Guess what? It's not done. I'll give you a whole training camp. I guarantee you won't sign on that dotted line because this time I'll finish your ass."
CBS Sports will be with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from the UFC 258 below.
UFC 258 card results
- Kamaru Usman (c) def. Gilbert Burns via third-round TKO (punches)
- via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Kelvin Gastelum def. Ian Heinisch via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ricky Simon def. Brian Kelleher via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Julian Marquez def. Maki Pitolo via third-round submission (anaconda choke)
- Anthony Hernandez def. Rodolfo Vieira via second-round submission (guillotine choke)
- Belal Muhammad def. Dhiego Lima via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Polyana Viana def. Mallory Martin via first-round submission (armbar)
- Chris Gutierrez def. Andre Ewell via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)