UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2021

UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    UFC 258 features a crucial welterweight championship bout as Kamaru Usman takes on former teammate Gilbert Burns in the main event from the UFC's APEX Facility in Las Vegas. 

    Usman and Burns essentially grew up as fighters together before the welterweight champion eventually took his talents to Colorado to work with Trevor Wittman. Since then, Burns has come into his own as a legitimate threat in the welterweight division. 

    The former lightweight has won four straight since moving up to the 170-pound division. A dominant win over Tyron Woodley sets up an intriguing challenge for the champ. 

    In the co-main event, 22-year-old Maycee Barber returns to the Octagon after taking a little over a year to recover from an ACL tear. She'll see Alexa Grasso in a fight that should shape the future of the women's flyweight division. 

    Here's what the whole card looks like along with the biggest storylines heading into the night.

Fight Card and TV Info

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

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

    • (c) Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns - welterweight championship fight
    • Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso
    • Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ian Heinisch
    • Maki Pitolo vs. Julian Marquez
    • Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green

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

    • Rodolfo Vieira vs. Anthony Hernandez
    • Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego Lima
    • Polyana Viana vs. Mallory Martin
    • Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez

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

    • Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher
    • Gabriel Green vs. Philip Rowe
    • Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick

Does Burns' Familiarity with Usman Give Him a Chance?

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The welterweight title fight between Burns and Usman is truly the main event because it's the most interesting fight on the card. Usman has established himself as the top welterweight even if it's only his third title defense.

    His latest wins have come against Rafael dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. Even by today's rankings, that's four top 10 fighters, and with the exception of the Covington fight, none of the bouts have been close. 

    Usman is a classic power wrestler. He puts on relentless pressure that few are capable of handling. But Burns has an inside track on the Usman problem. The two were training partners for years before Usman's move to Colorado. 

    There are those who believe Burns' experience with Usman in their Blackzilian and Sanford MMA days could be the difference. 

    "I got Gilbert Burns," UFC fighter Drakkar Klose told BJPenn.com. "They were training partners, and I think Gilbert got the best of him, which is why Usman left."

    Burns and Usman are similar in the way they put pressure on their opponent. Burns isn't quite the takedown technician that Usman is, but in a battle of able grapplers, this one could see the fighters spend a lot of time on their feet. 

    This has the makings of a classic, but it's tough to pick against a champion in Usman who has handled every challenge with relative ease thus far. 

    Prediction: Usman via decision

Can Maycee Barber Reignite the Hype?

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Going into 2020, Maycee Barber was tracking to be the next big thing in women's MMA. Her "The Future" moniker hit a major roadblock in January of last year, though. 

    A loss to Roxanne Modafferi and a torn ACL spoiled her undefeated record and left her on the shelf until now. Previous to the injury and loss, she had won six straight fights by knockout or submission, including her first three in the UFC. 

    Given her age and athleticism, there weren't any prospects who were more exciting. 

    Now, she gets the opportunity to gain all of that back. But the UFC didn't set her up with an easy return match. Alexa Grasso comes into the bout with a decision win over Ji Yeon Kim in her debut in the flyweight division. 

    Her only losses have come to Carla Esparza, Tatiana Suarez and Felice Herrig. That's a respectable trio with a lot of grappling chops between them. 

    This is a fight that will test Barber as a striker. If she's anything less than 100 percent, she's in for a long night. However, if she is the fighter she was before the Modafferi bout, we could be in for a reminder of why she was so highly hyped to begin with. 

    Prediction: Barber via second-round TKO

Can Kelvin Gastelum or Ian Heinisch Put Themselves in Middleweight Contention?

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    The middleweight division is in a state of flux right now. Current champion Israel Adesanya is set to go up to light heavyweight to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the title formerly held by Jon Jones. 

    The track record of champions leaving their home division coming back after winning a second belt isn't great. Henry Cejudo notwithstanding, most decide to stay in their new home if they are successful in capturing the belt. 

    So with Adesanya potentially gone, it leaves the middleweight title picture littered with some names that we've seen plenty of already. Former champion Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Jared Cannonier and Darren Till are among the top names, but they've all either recently had a title shot or aren't all that separated from a bad loss. 

    That leaves room in the title picture for someone to emerge. With three middleweight fights on the card, someone is bound to stand out and improve their place in the division. 

    Gastelum and Heinisch have the biggest stage of the three. Serving as the lead-in to the co-main event there should be the most eyes on this fight. 

    The 29-year-old Gastelum has more experience against the upper echelon of the division. He's lost three fights in a row against Adesanya, Till and Jack Hermansson. But the shifting nature of the middleweight division could have him back in the mix with a win. 

    Heinisch stands to gain even more in a win over Gastelum. After fighting generally mid-tier options in the division, he is finally getting a chance to prove himself against a more well-known opponent. Win here and it's likely a top-five guy is on his horizon. 

    Prediction: Gastelum via decision