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Guide to UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 258.

UFC 258
Date: February 13, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+ PPV

UFC Welterweight Championship: Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Gilbert Burns

Overall Records: Usman 17-1, Burns 20-3
UFC Records: Usman 12-0, Burns 12-3
Last Fight: Usman def. Masvidal (title fight), UDec, UFC 251 (7/11/20), Burns def. Woodley, UDec, UFC On ESPN 9 (5/30/20)
Last Five Fights: Usman 5-0, Burns 5-0
Rankings: Usman C, Burns #2
Betting Odds: Usman -280, Burns +220
Preview: The battle between the former teammates with UFC Welterweight Championship gold on the line finally takes place in the main event of UFC 258 when Usman defends against Burns. They were supposed to fight last July at UFC 251, but COVID-19 struck, taking Burns out of the fight just a week before the show. Usman ended up fighting rival Jorge Masvidal at that event, where he went on to dominate en route to scoring a unanimous decision win. Burns, who was trying to fight for the third time in less than four months, got a chance to take what may have been a much-needed break, and both men will come into this fight fresh, which should provide for a better match-up.

These two trained together in Florida just less than a year ago, but when it was announced that they were going to be fighting, it was Usman who switched camps, relocating to Colorado to work under Trevor Wittman alongside the likes of Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, though he has also done some preparation in Florida, but not anywhere Burns has been preparing. Burns has been doing his training camp at Sanford MMA in Florida, electing to remain at the previous home of both men, though some of the coaches had said they would abstain from coaching Burns for this one as they expect Usman to come back to the camp afterwards. These two have trained extensively alongside each other over the years, and they know each other better than any opponent either will ever fight. That familiarity should make it comfortable for both, but it also likely answers the biggest question going into the fight, and that is who is going to win.

When it comes to teammates, whether current or former, both fighters usually know going in who is likely going to win the fight, so it is up to the lesser fighter to find a way. In this fight, I sense both know Usman is the better fighter, so Burns is going to need to show him something he’s never shown him before. Burns is a ground wizard, but Usman has never been taken down in his career. Burns has shown some power since moving back to welterweight, but he likely can’t match the power of Usman. Usman has shown better conditioning, especially in five-round fights, and preparing in Colorado should help that.

This one will likely go for a while, and I feel like it is going to go the full 25 minutes. Usman lands more, scores more takedowns, and has a five-inch reach advantage. Everything in this fight points to Usman winning, and I honestly feel this is one of his easier challenges. Burns has had a good run and earned this shot, and he’s good, but not at the level of Usman. Usman is a rather big favorite, and for good reason, and I see him ending Saturday night still the champion.

Women’s Flyweights: Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso

Overall Records: Barber 8-1, Grasso 12-3
UFC Records: Barber 3-1, Grasso 4-3
Last Fight: Modafferi def. Barber, UDec, UFC 246 (1/18/20), Grasso def. Kim, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Barber 4-1, Grasso 3-2
Rankings: Barber #10, Grasso #15
Betting Odds: Barber +105, Grasso -135
Preview: Two young female fighters who have been looking to shed the prospect label and become title contenders find themselves matched up here in an interesting battle. Barber, who is still just only 22-years-old, is returning after being out of action for almost 13 months. She is coming off her first career loss, which came at the hands of Roxanne Modafferi, in a fight where she tore her ACL, and she’s spent the past year rehabbing and getting ready to return. She had won her first eight career fights prior to that, and had at one time vowed to become the youngest UFC champion in history. The combination of the loss and the injury likely derailed any chances of that happening, but she looks to get back into the win column against someone who was hyped as the next big deal before she was.

Grasso had that future champion label attached to her before she even made her way to UFC, coming into the promotion with a perfect 8–0 record. It hasn’t been the easiest road for her since joining the UFC ranks, as she’s rotated wins-and-losses in her seven UFC bouts. She also dealt with weight issues, starting her run as a strawweight but having to eventually move up to flyweight as she started to mature more and gain size. Based on history, Grasso is due a loss in this fight, so she will be looking to break that and go on a UFC win streak for the first time. This is going to be a real interesting test for Barber as this is the first time she’s faced another high-volume striker. Barber tends to throw just a little more than Grasso, but Grasso is an aggressive fighter that comes forward and tends to not get hit.

Barber does hit hard, as five of her eight pro wins have been by knockout, but Grasso has never been knocked out in her career. Grasso likes to pressure and grind fights, and Modafferi showed that Barber has trouble against opponents that pressure her. This will also likely stay on the feet as neither are heavy grapplers. I feel like this is a very evenly matched fight, and the betting odds favor it. Flyweight is definitely the right fit for Grasso, and she is probably the more skilled fighter at this stage. Both still have chances to be title contenders, and the winner of this fight will take a step towards that, but I like Grasso in this one.

Middleweights: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ian Heinisch

Overall Records: Gastelum 15-6 1 NC, Heinisch 14-3
UFC Records: Gastelum 10-6 1 NC, Heinisch 3-2
Last Fight: Hermansson def. Gastelum, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 30 (7/18/20), Heinisch def. Meerschaert, R1 TKO, UFC 250 (6/6/20)
Last Five Fights: Gastelum 2-3, Heinisch 3-2
Rankings: Gastelum #9, Heinisch #15
Betting Odds: Gastelum -230, Heinisch +180
Preview: Gastelum finds himself in a must-win situation as he looks to end a three-fight losing skid when he takes on Heinisch in an important middleweight fight. Gastelum hasn’t won a fight in almost three years, when he beat Jacare Souza in May 2018, but he’s had a tough run of opponents in his last three, losing to Israel Adesanya in a title fight, Darren Till and Jack Hermansson. Heinisch is a step back from fighting perennial top-five competition, but he is still a ranked fighter who has been up-and-down right outside the top ten. Heinisch started his UFC career off with two strong wins, but then dropped back-to-back fights against Derek Brunson and Omari Akhmedov, both of whom were ranked at the time. He bounced back with a win over Gerald Meerschaert, and now he looks for a win over a ranked opponent this time out.

This feels like a fight made for Gastelum to bounce back, as both men are pretty much mirror images of one another. Gastelum fights in the southpaw stance and has a powerful left hand, and he can eat some shots as well as he’s never been knocked out in his career. They land roughly the same amount of strikes per minute, though Heinisch is more accurate on his strikes. They absorb roughly the same amount of strikes per minute, and both are good at not getting hit that much. Gastelum is a more accurate takedown fighter, though he doesn’t go for takedowns as much as he used to. He may be better off applying a takedown strategy in this one, because he needs the win.

Gastelum’s days as being a title contender hinge on the outcome of this fight, as middleweight is a thriving division with a lot of new faces and contenders emerging. If Gastelum wants to keep his name up there with the rest, he has to win this one. A win over Heinisch would be a quality win and get him back on track. I like Gastelum to win this fight as he is better than Heinisch, and it should be a good fight.

140-lbs. Catchweights: Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez

Overall Records: Ewell 17-6, Gutierrez 15-3-2
UFC Records: Ewell 4-2, Gutierrez 3-1-1
Last Fight: Ewell def. Rivera, SpDec, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20), Gutierrez DRAW Durden, UFC On ESPN+ 31 (8/1/20)
Last Five Fights: Ewell 3-2, Gutierrez 3-1-1
Betting Odds: Ewell +125, Gutierrez -155
Preview: A fight that was put together on Monday gets the bump up to the main card due to the cancellation of the fight between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera was cancelled after Rivera tested positive for COVID-19. Ewell was supposed to compete on last weekend’s card, but he was removed after testing positive, but he’s back after two negative COVID-19 tests and a brief quarantine, and Gutierrez steps in. This is actually an interesting fight, especially when you consider how quickly it came together.

Ewell has won two straight and three of his last four, though one of those wins was a very controversial decision over Jonathan Martinez. As luck would have it, Gutierrez is a teammate and close friend of Martinez, so he and his coaches and team will be looking for a measure of revenge. Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last four fights, and there is a strong case to be made that he actually won his last fight, which was ruled a draw with Cody Durden in August. Both are good on the feet, though Gutierrez mixes it up more and is a more accurate striker. Gutierrez has good footwork while Ewell likes to pressure. Neither often goes for takedowns though both can score them.

Ewell is going to have a nice eight-inch reach advantage, which he’ll need to utilize to keep Gutierrez out of kicking range. This is a very solid fight, especially considering the circumstances, and really a fight that could go either way, with the winner creeping closer to fighting ranked opposition at 135 lbs. It should be a good one.

Middleweights: Maki Pitolo vs. Julian Marquez

Overall Records: Pitolo 13-7, Marquez 7-2
UFC Records: Pitolo 1-3, Marquez 1-1
Last Fight: Kasanganay def. Pitolo, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20), Di Chirico def. Marquez, SpDec, TUF 27 Finale (7/6/18)
Last Five Fights: Pitolo 2-3, Marquez 4-1
Betting Odds: Pitolo +140, Marquez -170
Preview: A middleweight bout featuring two fighters looking to get back into the win column opens the main card as Pitolo looks to end a two-fight losing skid, while Marquez is trying to avoid back-to-back losses when he makes his long-awaited return to action. Both men are veterans of the Contender Series, as Pitolo earned a contract after appearing on the show in July 2019, while Marquez was one of the early standouts of the show, earning a contract in the first season after a memorable head kick knockout of Phil Hawes. Pitolo has struggled to gain traction in UFC since earning his contract, as he has lost three of four UFC bouts. Usually, the Contender Series fighters start on a four-fight deal, and many are surprised Pitolo is still on the roster with a 1-3 record, but his availability to take short-notice opportunities worked out in his favor to get at least one more shot, but he finds himself in a must-win fight.

Marquez has only fought twice since his July 2017 win on the Contender Series. He won a grueling fight over Darren Stewart in his UFC debut in what was the Fight Of The Night, but he dropped a decision to Alessio Di Chirico in his last bout in July 2018. He has been sidelined for most of that time due to injuries, but he also had what was supposed to be his return fight cancelled when his opponent botched his weight cut in November. He has been eager to return and show that he can still be a future title contender. Pitolo is a guy who likes to throw a lot, but also gets hit often, and he has a good takedown game. He has ten wins by finish, but has also been finished five times.

Marquez is a tactical striker not really known for his takedown game, and he can be taken down, but he is no slouch on the mat. All seven of his wins have come by stoppage, and his two losses have been by decision. Both men have something to prove in this fight, but I sense with the long layoff that he’s been on that Marquez is eager to prove a ton, and that will likely will him to victory. This should be an exciting fight and a good way to kick off the main card.

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Lightweights: Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green

Overall Records: Miller 32-15 1 NC, Green 27-11-1
UFC Records: Miller 21-14 1 NC, Green 8-6-1
Last Fight: Pichel def. Miller, UDec, UFC 252 (8/15/20), Moises def. Green, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20)
Last Five Fights: Miller 3-2, Green 3-2
Betting Odds: Miller +205, Green -265
Preview: Long-time veterans who were originally scheduled to fight nearly seven years ago will finally square off when Miller and Green meet in the featured prelim. They were scheduled to fight at UFC 172 way back in April 2014, at a time when both men were ranked and on nice unbeaten streaks, but it fell apart after Green was injured. Both mens’ paths have been similar, with both having lost more than they’ve won since the original booking. Green has often flirted with retirement, and Miller has been dealing with Lyme disease, but both had a very active 2020 despite the pandemic, though they should both be coming into this fight fresh despite it being booked less than two weeks before the event.

Green went 3-1 in 2020 and Miller went just 1-2, but Miller looked competitive in all of his fights and is still a hard-nosed fighter. Green is a big-time pressure fighter who lands a lot of strikes, but he also tends to fight down to the levels of opponents and keep it close in the eyes of the judges. He tends to not do anything to distinctly win rounds, and it has cost him fights in the past, including his last fight against Thiago Moises, which most thought Green won. Miller is good on his feet, lands good left hands from the southpaw position, but his bread-and-butter is the takedown and grappling game.

When he gets opponents to the mat, he is constantly after submissions, and he has 18 wins in his career by submission, including ten in UFC, third-most all-time. This will also be Miller’s 37th UFC fight, putting him back in sole possession of first-place in UFC history. Miller may have trouble submitting Green, who hasn’t been submitted since 2009, but it is still his best chance of victory. Green is a rather sizeable favorite in this one, but I tend to lean a little more towards Miller in this match-up as it feels like a favorable fight for him. This could be very good.

Middleweights: Rodolfo Vieira vs. Anthony Hernandez

Overall Records: Vieira 7-0, Hernandez 7-2 1 NC
UFC Records: Vieira 2-0, Hernandez 1-2
Last Fight: Vieira def. Safarov, R1 SUB, UFC 248 (3/7/20), Holland def. Hernandez, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN 8 (5/16/20)
Last Five Fights: Vieira 5-0, Hernandez 2-2 1 NC
Betting Odds: Vieira -400, Hernandez +300
Preview: An undefeated fighter, who may be the absolute best submission fighter in MMA today, looks to make it eight straight to start his career as Vieira takes on Hernandez in this middleweight bout. Vieira is a four-time jiu-jitsu world champion and a seven-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Cup champion, the most-decorated jiu-jitsu fighter in the sport today. He is known for having a fast guard and huge physicality, and has been called the most-dominant jiu-jitsu artist in recent years. It has translated well to his MMA career, as six of his seven wins have come by submission, but he has also shown power in his hands as well. He has been past the first-round only twice in that time frame, and he has tons of potential to be a huge threat at 185 lbs.

Hernandez looks to be his toughest test to date, but also should be a fight that Vieira wins. Hernandez is no slouch on the mat, as five of his seven wins have come by submission, but he has yet to face anyone even in the atmosphere of jiu-jitsu skills that Vieira presents. He is just 1–2 in UFC, with both of the losses coming by finish. He does land a lot of strikes, but he gets hit with more than he lands. Both have a lot of takedowns, but Hernandez will unlikely be able to take Vieira down, while Vieira should have no issue getting this to the mat.

This is set up to be a showcase win for Vieira, and I expect him to show off his submission skills and finish Hernandez on the mat, and it should be a thing of beauty to watch him compete.

Welterweights: Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego Lima

Overall Records: Muhammad 17-3, Lima 15-7
UFC Records: Muhammad 8-3, Lima 4-5
Last Fight: Muhammad def. Good, UDec, UFC On ESPN 11 (6/20/20), Lima def. Jumeau, SpDec, UFC 243 (10/5/19)
Last Five Fights: Muhammad 4-1, Lima 3-2
Rankings: Muhammad #13
Betting Odds: Muhammad -370, Lima +280
Preview: A fight that was originally scheduled to take place in December before COVID-19 took out Muhammad gets re-scheduled here. Muhammad has been methodically moving his way up the welterweight rankings, breaking into the top fifteen for the first time in recent months. He has put together one of the better runs at 170 lbs., winning seven of his last eight fights. He has just three losses in UFC, one of them coming to Alan Jouban in a fight he took on short-notice, but the other two coming to Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal, who are top-10 fighters.

He is a guy who will give you a really tough fight and drag you the full distance. He is always active on his feet, landing a lot of strikes, and not someone you’d want to go to the ground with as he is underrated on the mat. Lima fights for the first time since a decision win over Luke Jumeau in October 2019. He is in his second UFC stint, and after having trouble finding continued success, he has won his last three, showing solid improvement. He, of course, trains alongside one of the best welterweights in the world, his brother, Douglas, the Bellator Welterweight Champion.

He is a tall and rangy fighter, and he might be more patient on the feet than most, but he is capable of explosive finishes. I see this fight primarily playing out on the feet, where I like Muhammad’s timing and pressure to be the key factor here. This is a real solid fight.

Women’s Strawweights: Polyana Viana vs. Mallory Martin

Overall Records: Viana 11-4, Martin 7-3
UFC Records: Viana 2-3, Martin 1-1
Last Fight: Viana def. Whitmire, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20), Martin def. Cifers, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Viana 2-3, Martin 4-1
Betting Odds: Viana +130, Martin -160
Preview: A women’s strawweight fight featuring two women trying to work their way up the ladder takes place here as Viana and Martin both look to score their second straight win. Viana got back into the win column in her last fight, submitting Emily Whitmire in the first round, which snapped a three-fight losing skid. It was a relief for her to get back into the win column, as she started her career with a 10–1 record, including being the first person to ever defeat Amanda Ribas, and all eleven of her wins have come via stoppage, with four by knockout and seven by submission.

Martin is another highly-touted prospect who got back into the win column in her last fight when she submitted Hannah Cifers. It eased the sting of a loss in her UFC debut, which had ended a five-fight win streak she had put together. She has had a fair mix of wins in her career, with two each by knockout and submission and three via a decision. Martin is a more-polished striker, but she also tends to get hit a lot. She is also a better takedown artist, more accurate with her takedowns, but she also has trouble defending them.

Viana is someone who likes to look for the submission when it hits the mat, so Martin will need to be on the lookout for that if and when it goes to the ground. This should be an interesting fight, and is close on paper, but I’m leaning towards Martin taking this one.

Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+

Featherweights: Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher

Overall Records: Simon 17-3, Kelleher 22-11
UFC Records: Simon 5-2, Kelleher 6-4
Last Fight: Simon def. Pirrello, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21), Kelleher def. Rodriguez, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Simon 3-2, Kelleher 3-2
Betting Odds: Simon -260, Kelleher +200
Preview: A fight that has been scheduled twice before looks to be finally happening on Saturday as Simon and Kelleher meet on short notice in a featherweight fight. They were originally scheduled to fight in September, but it was called off when one of Simon’s cornermen tested positive for COVID-19. They were then going to fight last month in Abu Dhabi, but Kelleher tested positive for COVID-19. Simon still fought in January, where he scored a dominant submission win over late replacement Gaetano Pirrello, and with taking no damage at all in the fight, he was able to make the quick turnaround to fight Kelleher, albeit up a weight class, to finally get this fight that has been targeted for months done.

Simon is looking to score his third-straight win and get himself back into the bantamweight rankings, and he’s actually shown himself to be one of the better fighters in the division. His only losses have come to Urijah Faber and Rob Font, a legend and a rising contender. He’s shown good overall skills, and a 17–3 record is no small feat. Kelleher has been a fighter who’s gotten over to the public based on his personality, but he too has had some impressive showings, winning three of his last four fights. Kelleher is a guy who likes to go for the finish, as 18 of his 22 career wins have come by stoppage, but he’s also been submitted six times in his career.

Wrestling and submissions are one of Simon’s strong points, as he averages over seven takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting. Kelleher may have the slight edge on the feet, but he also tends to get hit quite a bit, though Simon does have trouble with his striking defense. Simon is a big favorite in this fight, and it is largely based on his wrestling and submissions. I have the feeling Simon wins this by submission, but Kelleher is a fighter to never count out. This should be a good scrap.

Welterweights: Gabe Green vs. Phil Rowe

Overall Records: Green 9-3, Rowe 7-2
UFC Records: Green 0-1, Rowe 0-0
Last Fight: Rodriguez def. Green, UDec, UFC On ESPN 9 (5/30/20), Rowe def. Shahbazyan, R3 TKO, Dana White’s Contender Series 25 (8/20/19)
Last Five Fights: Green 4-1, Rowe 5-0
Betting Odds: Green -135, Rowe +105
Preview: In a battle of relatively unknown welterweights, Green will be making his second Octagon appearance while Rowe makes his debut in this prelim battle. This will be Green’s first chance at a full training camp, as he debuted on short notice in May, coming up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision loss to Daniel Rodriguez. Rowe will be fighting for the first time since earning a contract on the Contender Series with a knockout of Leon Shahbazyan in August 2019. He was scheduled in three different fights in 2020, but due to the pandemic and injuries, they were all cancelled. Rowe started his professional career losing his first two fights, but he has since won seven straight as he heads into his official UFC debut.

This has the makings of an exciting fight as Green and Rowe have both won all of their fights by stoppage, and both have been finished before in their losses. They both land a lot, but Rowe is a more accurate striker. Rowe is also going to have a five-inch height advantage as well as a seven-and-a-half inch reach advantage, and he knows how to use those to his benefit.

Green also tends to get hit a lot, as Rodriguez landed 175 strikes on him over fifteen minutes in Green’s first UFC fight. If he allows Rowe to hit him that much, it isn’t going to be pretty. I’m surprised Rowe is the betting underdog in this one, though the odds are close, as I think he runs away with this one. It should be exciting while it lasts.

Women’s Flyweights: Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick

Overall Records: Robertson 9-5, Maverick 8-2
UFC Records: Robertson 6-3, Maverick 1-0
Last Fight: Santos def. Robertson, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20), Maverick def. Jojua, R1 TKO, UFC 254 (10/24/20)
Last Five Fights: Robertson 3-2, Maverick 4-1
Betting Odds: Robertson +120, Maverick -150
Preview: Two young female flyweights open the show in one of the better match-ups on the card. Robertson continues to remain very active as she fights for the fourth time in the span of less than eight months. Maverick makes her second Octagon appearance, and is coming off a very impressive win over Liana Jojua in her debut in October in a fight that was stopped after the first round. Maverick has won four straight fights and at just 23, many are already touting her as someone who will be fighting for a title in the coming years.

Both of these women have been impressive in their young careers, with Robertson scoring seven of her nine wins by stoppage, and Maverick winning six of her eight fights by stoppage. Maverick hasn’t been stopped in her career, while Robertson has been both finished by punches and submitted by armbar in UFC. Striking is definitely not Robertson’s foray and she will be wanting to get this fight to the mat as quickly as possible.

Maverick is excellent on her feet, showing raw power in her left hands, but she also has a good submission game if it needs to be called upon. Robertson has UFC experience, as nearly two-thirds of her career has come inside the Octagon. Maverick is the more impressive fighter overall, and Robertson’s need to stay active may catch up to her here (she’s also been doing grappling matches between fights). I like Maverick in this fight and her potential is very high.

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