Kamaru Usman once again proved he is the best welterweight in the world with a third-round TKO of Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC 258 from the UFC's Apex Facility in Las Vegas.
Burns didn't go down without a fight. The contender who has a long history of training with the current champion got off to a hot start with an overhand right that rocked the champion and had the upset alarms getting warmed up.
But part of being a champion is rising above some adversity. Usman came back in the second round and unfurled a right hand of his own that evened the score and set up what was shaping up to be an epic.
Eating big right hands from Usman proved to be unsustainable, though. Usman came out in the third round as the most aggressive version of himself in the fight, and it signaled a quick end for Burns. The Nigerian Nightmare saw the opportunity to finish and pounced until referee Herb Dean was forced to call the stoppage.
The win marks Usman's 13th consecutive victory in the welterweight division, breaking a record held by Georges St-Pierre. As for what's next, the champion is going to have a hard time finding a compelling opponent.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, he called out Jorge Masvidal, but he already holds a decision victory over him, although Masvidal took the fight on six days' notice.
Here's a look at how the whole card went down with a closer look at each of the main card fights.
- Kamaru Usman def. Gilbert Burns by TKO at 0:34 of Round 3
- Alexa Grasso def. Maycee Barber by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Kelvin Gastelum def. Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ricky Simon def. Brian Kelleher by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Julian Marquez def. Maki Pitolo by submission (anaconda choke) at 4:17 of Round 3
- Anthony Hernandez def. Rodolfo Vieira by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:53 of Round 2
- Belal Muhammad def. Dhiego Lima by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Polyana Viana def. Mallory Martin by submission (armbar) at 3:18 of Round 1
- Chris Gutierrez def. Andre Ewell by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
- Gabriel Green def. Philip Rowe by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Alexa Grasso def. Maycee Barber
The co-main event was a revealing fight for two young fighters in the women's flyweight division. We learned a lot about both Alexa Grasso and Maycee Barber in their three-round fight that Grasso took by decision.
First, Grasso's boxing is legit. She dealt with an unpredictable Barber for the better part of three rounds and was the more effective fighter mostly because of her strong boxing game. She stayed composed and threw with good accuracy.
As for Barber, she may never realize her goal of becoming a UFC champion, but she's going to be an exciting fighter no matter what. The Future is raw, to put it nicely, but she was willing to throw with reckless abandon like few do when she was behind on the cards.
Barber swung for the fences in the third round, trying to get the finish, and it led to a fun fight.
Barber has now suffered back-to-back losses after starting her career 8-0. The 22-year-old has plenty of time to develop her skills, including getting a better feel for distance, as she was swinging at air often.
Grasso appears to be ready for the big time now. Not only was her boxing strong, but she also showed off some good jiu-jitsu, nearly sinking in a rear-naked choke.
She should get an even better opponent next time around and isn't far from a title shot.
Kelvin Gastelum def. Ian Heinisch
Kelvin Gastelum has had his struggles in recent fights, but he took the opportunity against Ian Heinisch to remind fans of how good a wrestler he can be. The 29-year-old racked up six takedowns en route to a decision win.
Heinisch fought hard and even landed a pretty flying knee, but Gastelum even turned that into a double-leg opportunity that ended with him on top.
Heinisch made a small comeback in the third and final round, giving him the round on two of the scorecards. But it was a case of too little, too late for Heinisch, who was trying to break into a new tier of the middleweight division.
That will have to wait. Gastelum came into the fight on a three-fight skid, but that was against some great competition including current champion Israel Adesanya.
He proved that while he may not be able to beat the biggest names in the division, he's still good enough to beat anyone who may be looking to break into the top tier.
Ricky Simon def. Brian Kelleher
Ricky Simon is going to be just fine should he choose to remain at featherweight. The traditionally 135-pound fighter made the move up to featherweight in his second UFC fight of 2021. Once again, he got his hand raised in a comprehensive win over Brian Kelleher.
Simon swept all three rounds on each judge's scorecard in a fight that showcased both his striking and wrestling game.
Kelleher is always dangerous, especially with his ability to latch on to a guillotine in a scramble. However, Simon showed plenty of savvy in his risk management, fought off all the submission attempts and mixed things up enough to keep his opponent guessing.
The win makes three in a row for Simon. After starting his UFC career on a three-fight win streak, he lost back-to-back bouts against Urijah Faber and Rob Font.
Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN
Ricky Simon is good, man. UFC was very high on him early on, he stumbled in back-to-back fights, but the potential is coming through big time right now. It might not make sense in rank yet, but Pedro Munhoz would be a really fun matchup ... Just throw that on next week's card?
If Simon continues to perform at this level, those losses will be a distant memory and Simon will be ready to make some noise.
Julian Marquez def. Maki Pitolo
It's been over two years since Julian Marquez has been inside the Octagon, but he got plenty of experience to make up for it in his return against Maki Pitolo. Marquez locked in an anaconda choke to get the tap in the final minute of the final round.
Marquez's win didn't come without adversity, though. Both fighters engaged in a high-output battle with each holding the upper hand throughout the bout.
Pitolo nearly locked in a submission attempt of his own at one point and scored a knockdown with a leg kick. However, Marquez weathered the storms and locked on to the choke that drew the tap with just 43 seconds left in the fight.
The last time we saw Marquez in the cage he dropped a split decision to Alessio Di Chirico, so it was good to see him battle back and win a grueling fight.
What he can do if he remains healthy is the next big question.