Kamaru Usman Retains Title Belt Via 3rd-Round TKO of Gilbert Burns at UFC 258

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2021

FILE - In this March 2, 2019, file photo, Kamaru Usman celebrates after his win against Tyron Woodley in a welterweight mixed martial arts title fight at UFC 235 in Las Vegas. Usman and Gilbert Burns were teammates only a year ago, and their children were fast friends. After Usman's split from their gym and Burns' impressive rise in the welterweight division, they'll meet for Usman's title belt at UFC 258 this weekend. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
John Locher/Associated Press

Kamaru Usman added another name to his growing resume Saturday at UFC 258 with a third-round TKO win over Gilbert Burns to close out the show from the Apex facility in Las Vegas. 

Burns and Usman engaged in a back-and-forth chess match that turned into one of Usman's best performances yet. 

Usman initiated an intense staredown with his former sparring partner before the fight. With some speculation about the relationship between the two former teammates, the stage was set for an epic showdown.

It was Burns who came out with intensity from the opening, though. He landed an overhand right that landed flush and wobbled the champion and set the stage for a slugfest. 

Usman adjusted in the second round, though. After fighting with his jab as his primary weapon in the first round he finally picked a spot to uncork a right hand of his own and he had Burns hurt. 

That turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come in the third and final round. Usman once again caught Burns and floored him but this time went for finish. He swarmed with strikes until Herb Dean was forced to call an end to the bout 34 seconds into the round. 

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He is quickly proving his status as the welterweight division's best fighter, as he's put on three consecutive title defenses. Since beating Tyron Woodley to capture the championship in March 2019, he's topped Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal and Burns. 

This win has to mean something extra, as Usman and Burns have a history of training together. The two were teammates at the Florida-based Blackzilian and Sanford MMA gyms before Usman left to train in Colorado with coach Trevor Wittman. 

The Nigerian Nightmare's reign of terror over the division extends beyond his title run, though. He is 13-0 in the UFC and hasn't lost a fight since his second career bout in 2013. 

When Burns and Usman were training together, Burns was a lightweight and Usman was fighting at his active 170 pounds. Burns' move to welterweight changed things, but Usman believes his move to training with Wittman was a driving force for his title run. 

He told Bleacher Report's Scott Harris earlier this week:

"The change in my overall game as far as benefits [from Wittman] are the fundamentals, the little things. When I was with a big team before, I never got that one-on-one time to pay attention to my movement, my footwork or the way I was punching. Now I have to pay attention to that. I like it at this part of my career. This is the kind of attention I need in order to be able to hold on to that belt."

Usman is quickly running out of interesting welterweight challengers. He already holds wins over the top four fighters in the latest UFC rankings

There is speculation that one interesting opponent could emerge. Usman recently told TMZ Sports that he would be open to a fight with former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre. GSP hasn't fought since 2017 and officially retired from the sport in 2019. 

However, combat sports retirements often have a way of ending when there's a big fight to be made. 

A battle between the division's greatest of all time and its current dominant champion would certainly be a fight worth promoting.