LAS VEGAS -- One fight removed from a TKO loss in his unsuccessful bid for the UFC welterweight championship, Gilbert Burns appears to have placed himself directly back into title contention.
Burns (20-4) relied on his grappling skills -- and was showered in boos by the UFC 264 crowd for doing so -- on Saturday to edge former title contender Stephen Thompson via unanimous decision. All three judges inside T-Mobile Arena scored it 29-28 for Burns. CBS Sports also had it 29-28 for the 34-year-old native of Brazil.
"Sorry guys, every time I expect to try and get a finish but it's a complicated thing," Burns said, as the sellout crowd shared their displeasure.
With the fight seemingly up for grabs entering Round 3, Burns was briefly dropped early with a spinning high kick. He rose to his feet quickly, however, and traded hard punches with Thompson on the feet before shooting in for a takedown.
Burns spent the remainder of the final round in top position and hit a flurry of short punches following an unsuccessful guillotine attempt to steal the round and the victory.
Thompson (16-5-1) also spent much of the opening round on his back and ate a flurry of shots in the final seconds after working back to his feet. But the second round was largely dominated by the 38-year-old native of South Carolina as he used distance and precision strikes to keep Burns away.
The win was a sweet one for Burns after he was stopped in the third round by champion Kamaru Usman in February. The loss snapped a six-fight win streak although Burns dropped Usman in the opening round with a big right hand.
After the victory over Thompson, Burns called out anyone in the division before specifically mentioning fellow top contenders Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards.
"Anyone can get it, anyone," Burns said.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of UFC 264 live from Las Vegas below.