UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Odds, Predictions and Pre-Weigh-in Hype

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2021

UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Odds, Predictions and Pre-Weigh-in Hype

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Kamaru Usman headlines UFC 258 as he goes for his third consecutive defence of the welterweight championship against Gilbert Burns in the main event from the UFC's Apex Facility in Las Vegas. 

    The Nigerian Nightmare has proven himself to be one of the most dominant fighters in the UFC right now. He has never lost in the Octagon and boasts an unbeaten stretch that runs back to 2013 when he lost his second professional fight. 

    Burns will be looking to play the role of spoiler, something he has done in the past. He's coming off an upset win over Tyron Woodley that legitimized his own six-fight win streak. Since moving back up to welterweight from a trip to the lightweight division he has been on fire. 

    It's a fun matchup that should test Usman's abilities and status as the top dog in the class. 

    An important women's flyweight matchup will serve as the co-main event with Maycee Barber looking to rebound from her first loss against Alexa Grasso. Here's a look at the complete card along with odds and the latest comments from the fighters heading into the weekend. 

Fight Card, Schedule and Odds

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

    • (c) Kamaru Usman (-278, bet $278 to win $100) vs. Gilbert Burns (+220) - welterweight championship fight
    • Maycee Barber (+110) vs. Alexa Grasso (-134)
    • Kelvin Gastelum (-225) vs. Ian Heinisch (+175)
    • Maki Pitolo (+140) vs. Julian Marquez (-177)
    • Jim Miller (+215) vs. Bobby Green (-278)

    Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET)

    • Rodolfo Vieira (-400) vs. Anthony Hernandez (+300)
    • Belal Muhammad (-335) vs. Dhiego Lima (+251)
    • Polyana Viana (+135) vs. Mallory Martin (-167)
    • Andre Ewell (+130) vs. Chirs Gutierrez (-167)

    Early Prelims (Fight Pass at 6:15 p.m. ET)

    • Ricky Simon (-275) vs. Brian Kelleher (+207)
    • Gabriel Green (-130) vs. Philip Rowe (+105)
    • Gillian Robertson (+115) vs. Miranda Maverick (-143)

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

Burns Warns He's Improved Since Woodley Fight

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Gilbert Burns and Kamaru Usman are more than just a little familiar with one another. It's well-documented at this point that both fighters came up through the rankings as members of the Blackzilians and later Sanford MMA in Florida. 

    The two have plenty of experience sparring with one another before Usman left the team in 2020 to train at the Grudge Training Center in Colorado under head coach Trevor Wittman. 

    Burns still trains with the core of coaches the two fighters blossomed under in their early days. For Burns, all of that training led to a breakout moment against Tyron Woodley in his last fight. 

    Durinho had a five-fight win streak, but those came against relatively unknown opponents or two older submission artists in Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson. None quite were to the level of a former champion in Woodley. 

    He quickly proved he was up to the challenge, though, beating Woodley in a similar fashion to Usman. He won every round on all of the judges' scorecards including two who gave him one 10-8 round. 

    Burns insists that he's actually become even better in the nearly nine months since that fight. 

    "If people like the way I looked against Woodley, they have no idea how I'm going to show up now," Burns said, per Damon Martin of MMA Fighting. "I'm way faster, stronger, quicker, the cardio's right there, jiu-jitsu's been improving so much, wrestling, striking, I cannot wait. I think I'm dangerous everywhere, and I can finish the fight everywhere."

    While this one has the makings of a barnburner, especially if Burns really has improved, it's hard to pick against Usman. At this point, he's just put in dominant performances more consistently against better competition than Burns. 

    Prediction: Usman via decision

Barber Ready to Bounce Back from Loss and Injury

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    In the typical journey of a fighter, the first loss of a prospect is a make-or-break moment. So much of fighting is based on confidence and self-belief. Some fighters never quite recapture the momentum they had before that first loss, while others use it to become an even better version of themselves. 

    At just 22 years old, Saturday night's fight is a big deal for Maycee Barber. 

    She suffered a humbling defeat against Roxanne Modafferi. The Happy Warrior is a savvy veteran perfectly suited to play the role of gatekeeper in the division. Barber, who had previously overwhelmed her opponents, struggled with Modafferi's ability to latch on and control her for almost the entire fight. 

    To make matters worse she suffered a torn ACL that she says happened in the first round. After more than a year away from the cage, Barber says she's learned a lot about herself and is ready to go again. 

    "I'm only 22, but I feel like this entire experience made me wiser and more experienced. I came off a loss, and I showed a lot to myself in that fight when I tore my leg," she told Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. "I never once felt super bitter towards that loss—I proved that I'm not just going to quit when something doesn't go my way."

    It's worth noting that Barber's five previous fights before the loss all ended in a TKO victory. She's a ferocious volume striker when healthy who clearly has confidence in herself. 

    Going against Alexa Grasso we will see how much the injury impacted her loss to Modafferi. Grasso is a high-volume fighter herself, and this fight should bring the fireworks. 

    Still, Barber at her best is a scary sight. 

    Prediction: Barber via second-round TKO

Heinisch Looking for Fast Start in Bout with Gastelum

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    Leo Correa/Associated Press

    Ian Heinisch believes he has the tools to keep Kelvin Gastelum on a serious losing streak. The 29-year-old has lost three fights in a row heading into Saturday's card, but that doesn't mean Heinisch should be looking past him.

    The first of those losses was against Israel Adesanya in a bout that was one of the closest the middleweight champion has ever had. The Last Stylebender clearly won, but Gastelum had more success than most. The next was a split decision to Darren Till, and the last was a first-round submission to Jack Hermansson, which isn't exactly an easily replicated result. 

    The point is that Gastelum has been in the cage with much tougher competition than Heinisch to this point. He believes he's ready to step to that level, though. 

    "He's on a three-fight skid, his back's against the wall and that's when people usually fight the hardest," Heinisch said, per Farah Hannoun and Nolan King of MMAjunkie. "So that's what we're expecting, but I feel stylistically it's gonna be a very fun fight to watch, especially the first three minutes."

    It's interesting that Heinisch mentions the first three minutes as especially fun. That might be an indication he's looking to make like Hermansson and end the fight early. 

    That's easier said than done, though. Gastelum is nothing if not durable, and the only times he has been finished are by submission. He made it five rounds with Adesanya without getting knocked out, so it's unlikely that Heinisch will be able to get him out of there that early. 

    Look for Gastelum to show that reports of his career's demise have been exaggerated. 

    Prediction: Gastelum via decision

         

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