Friends Become Foes, UFC 258 Predictions
Well, here we are. After months of push backs and delays, former teammates Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns will finally square off for the Welterweight Championship of the world. The ups and downs this pairing has had to go through is quite a story in itself. Originally scheduled to headline the massive 251 card, Burns and his coach contracted COVID opening the door for Jorge Masvidal's shot instead. Seven months later, it's finally happening.
Say what you will, but Usman has been as dominant as he's been entertaining. Pace, fury, and passion are just a few characteristics of his current title reign and with two defences under his belt already, the Nigerian is up against a man he knows very well in Gilbert Burns. Burns, a former 155er, has been a wrecking ball at 170 and will absolutely push Kamaru to his limits. A great card that should provide bang for your buck, or well worth streaming risk...
Quick shout out to Bobby Green. After collapsing backstage after his weigh in, his fight with Jim Miller was scraped. Tough news for fans, but hope he gets back to 100%.
Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns
To say Kamaru has been dominant since his arrival in the UFC would be an understatement. The man has amassed a 16-fight win streak dating back to 2013, and in my opinion is only behind Jones and Khabib for the title of best on the world. Sound boxing, punishing wrestling, unrelenting pace, and as we saw in the Covington fight, a heart of lion. Yes, I'm a fan. However, in front of him is a man who has seen and felt all of his tricks first hand.
The last time I predicted a Burns fight I said Woodley would steamroll him, I couldn't have been more wrong. Burns is explosive, quick, and a wizard on the ground. His BJJ could cause Kamaru a ton of trouble if they land in the right position. That is really what makes this fight so interesting. Do I think Burns can stop Usman's pace and pressure? No, no I don't. The bigger question is how confident is Kamaru in his ability to stop the submission?
Personally, I think Usman's wrestling is air tight, and by the time the third rolls around he'll be in complete control. I'm not going to count Burns out like I did when he fought Woodley, but this is a whole other beast and no matter how much they play up the familiarity, I don't anything can prepare him for the Saturday night. Usman will be the predator looking for his prey, will Burns be a lamb or a lion? I guess we'll find out.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman, 3RD RD TKO
Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso
Still on her quest to become the UFC's youngest champ ever, Maycee Barber steps back into the octagon after blowing out her knee over a year ago. It almost seems as though the UFC gave her a pass for her last appearance, I'm not saying I blame them Barber is clearly a star, but a loss is a loss. Alas, she jumps right back into the fray against a game opponent in Alexa Grasso.
Grasso has been hot and cold during her time in the big show. Yet, she's still arguably Baber's toughest opponent to date (the Roxanne disrespect is real!). I don't know if Barber is the real deal, but I'm something of a dreamer myself so I'll drink the kool-aid.
Prediction: Maycee Barber, Decision
Kelvin Gastelum vs Ian Heinisch
Despite rocking the soft body, Gastelum is clearly the superior fighter in this matchup. Yeah he's lost three in a row, but Hermansson, Till, Adesanya is murderer's row at 185. Where does Heinisch hold an advantage? I don't know. I do know he'll have to grind his ass off if he hopes to have any chance.
Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum, Decision
Brian Kelleher vs Ricky Simon
These two dudes are just dogs! Kelleher had a breakout 2020, and Simon had a bounce back year in his own right after a rough 2019. I think I give Simon the edge based on pace. Kelleher is a guy who doesn't seem to like fighting backwards so it'll be interesting to see how he combats Simon's ridiculous output. Should be a back and forth affair and I am very much looking forward to it.
Prediction: Ricky Simon, Decision
Julian Marquez vs Maki Pitolo
Just to put it bluntly, these two guys have the best nicknames in the UFC. The Cuban Missile Crisis? Coconut Bombz? Incredible stuff. This will most likely just be a good old fashion brawl.
Prediction: 2ND RD TKO, Maki Pitolo
Rest of the Card
Vieira def Hernandez
Muhammad def Lima
Viana def Martin
Ewell def Gutierrez
Rowe def Green
Robertson def Maverick
2021 Predictions Record: 19-11