UFC 258 Fight Card: PPV Schedule, Odds and Predictions for Usman vs. Burns

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2021

UFC 258 Fight Card: PPV Schedule, Odds and Predictions for Usman vs. Burns

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    UFC 258 is anchored by a welterweight title fight that could be an instant classic when former teammates Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns meet in the main event. 

    Usman and Burns regularly trained together up until 2017, when Usman split from his Florida-based gym to move to Colorado and train with Trevor Wittman. After that split, he rose to become champion while Burns has elevated himself to contender status. 

    It's a fascinating matchup that will test Usman as the champion in his third title defense. 

    Elsewhere on the card, Maycee Barber makes her return after her first loss and an ACL tear that sidelined her for over a year. She'll meet Alexa Grasso in the co-main event. 

    It's a fun lineup of fights that should generate a few highlights and provide some new contenders in multiple weight classes. Here's a last-minute look at the cards, odds and predictions for some of the biggest fights. 

Fight Card, Schedule and Odds

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

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

    • (c) Kamaru Usman (-278) vs. Gilbert Burns (+220) – for welterweight title
    • Maycee Barber (+105) vs. Alexa Grasso (-127)
    • Kelvin Gastelum (-225) vs. Ian Heinisch (+175)
    • Brian Kelleher (+205) vs. Ricky Simon (-265)
    • Julian Marquez (-177) vs. Maki Pitolo (+145)

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

    • Anthony Hernandez (+300) vs. Rodolfo Vieira (-400)
    • Dhiego Lima (+325) vs. Belal Muhammad (-455)
    • Mallory Martin (-148) vs. Polyana Viana (+118)
    • Andre Ewell (+120) vs. Chris Gutierrez (-157)

    Early Prelims (ESPN+, 6:15 p.m. ET)

    • Gabriel Green (-137) vs. Philip Rowe (+110)
    • Miranda Maverick (-155) vs. Gillian Robertson (+127)

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

Burns Brings out Best in Usman in Close Title Defense

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Kamaru Usman doesn't always put on the most entertaining performances. His wrestling and constant pressure sometime mean he just controls his opponent for five rounds. 

    His ability to smother opponents makes for an efficient title run, not great theater. 

    The only one who has really challenged Usman in a way that created a Fight of the Night thus far has been Colby Covington. Chaos was able to take Usman to the brink before getting knocked out because his aggression kept him from getting backed up to the fence. 

    Where this fight takes place will be key. Usman is at his best when he forces opponents to the cage. It maximizes his wrestling and clinch game while covering for the shortcomings in his striking. Covington is not an exceptional striker, but his sheer volume of strikes makes him difficult to back up. 

    Burns is a better boxer than Covington and should know Usman better than anyone. As Usman proved in his fight against Covington, he's good enough to win even when his opponent forces him to fight against his natural inclinations. 

    That should be the case Saturday night. Burns is an aggressive puncher-wrestler in his own right and looked similar to Usman in his upset win over Tyron Woodley. 

    It shouldn't be shocking if Burns pulls off the upset. But it's hard to pick against Usman with what he's done against some strong competition. This should be one of Usman's most exciting fights as Burns could get him to fight out in the open at times. 

    Prediction: Usman via decision

Barber Returns to Form Against Grasso

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Maycee Barber's quest to become the UFC's youngest champion hit a major roadblock in January 2020. Not only did she lose her first fight, but the 22-year-old also suffered a torn ACL that sidelined her up to this point. 

    Roxanne Modafferi was supposed to be the archetypal veteran with some grappling chops to test Barber. She did just that, but Barber failed the test. However, the up-and-coming Barber did appear to suffer the injury in the first round which threw off her game plan early. 

    Now she draws an opponent in Grasso who comes in as the slight favorite and looked good after making the jump from 115 pounds to 125 pounds. 

    Unlike Modafferi, Grasso's strengths lie in her boxing. She isn't going to hunt for takedowns and she isn't a major submission threat. 

    That sets up a straight-up striking bout for Barber, which is something she has excelled in. Previous to the Modafferi loss, Barber had won all three of her UFC bouts by TKO. Grasso's defense is far from impenetrable, and while the same can be said for Barber, Grasso doesn't have the same kind of power and athleticism The Future brings to the cage. 

    Prediction: Barber via second-round TKO

Gastelum Proves He's Still a Cut Above Most Middleweights

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Kelvin Gastelum is 2-4 in his last six fights. If you compare that with Ian Heinisch's 3-2 run in the UFC so far, you'd start to wonder why Gastelum is a favorite. 

    Then the reality of Gastelum's four losses coming at the hands of Chris Weidman, Israel Adesanya, Jack Hermansson and Darren Till sets in, and it isn't hard to figure out Gastelum has simply been a victim of facing elite competition every time out. 

    The 29-year-old is already at a massive disadvantage standing at 5'9" in a division where most contenders stand at least 6'0" if not taller. Yet, Gastelum's explosiveness and ability to work in close quarters make him competitive against even the best. 

    To date, he still is one of the few who had any success against Adesanya. 

    Heinisch has shown signs of being able to compete at that level. He's a strong wrestler with enough striking ability to do damage, but Gastelum has the better track record, even if his win-loss record doesn't reflect it. 

    Prediction: Gastelum via decision


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