Kamaru Usman further cemented his legacy at UFC 258, obliterating top contender Gilbert Burns to extend his reign as welterweight champion.
Usman (18-1) now has the longest win streak in UFC welterweight history with 13. The finish will officially go down as a TKO victory for Usman, yet that does not adequately capture the manner in which he dominated Burns (19-4).
This was a fight that opened with Burns seizing immediate control, drilling Usman with a right hand. For a moment, it looked like a new champion was about to be crowned, but Usman gained control in the second round. He then finished the fight in round three, shattering Burns’ face, as well as his championship aspirations.
In the co-main event, Alexa Grasso gave Maycee Barber her second straight defeat, winning the fight by unanimous decision. After going undefeated in her first eight bouts, Barber (8-2) has now dropped two in a row. And while Grasso (13-3) is known for her striking, the difference in this bout was her grappling. Grasso’s jiu-jitsu caused constant problems for Barber, and this victory should propel Grasso to a top ten spot in the women’s flyweight division rankings.
Another impressive performance took place in middleweight action, as Kelvin Gastelum picked up a victory by unanimous decision against Ian Heinisch. The win allowed Gastelum to snap a three-fight losing streak, taking a significant step to reinserting himself into title contention in the middleweight division.
UFC 258 lacked big names, but it delivered some fantastic fights. Ricky Simon (18-3) picked up a statement win against Brian Kelleher (22-12) in a featherweight bout, and Julian Marquez (8-2) fought his way to an outstanding victory against Maki Pitolo (13-8). Late in the fight, Marquez needed a finish to win, which is exactly what happened, as he locked in an anaconda choke with under a minute remaining in the final round.
UFC 258 had its share of highlights, though none greater than the dominating performance put forth by welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Looking ahead, it appears that Leon Edwards will be Usman’s next opponent, with Jorge Masvidal another realistic option. But after this dominating performance against Burns, it is beginning to appear that Usman has no peers in the welterweight division.
WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT: KAMARU USMAN VS. GILBERT BURNS -- 12:41 AM ET
Kamaru Usman put forth a dominant performance in the main event of UFC 258, defeating an extremely dangerous opponent in Gilbert Burns with a third-round TKO.
With the victory, Usman (18-1) wins his 17th straight fight. He is quickly becoming the most recognizable welterweight champion since the legendary Georges St-Pierre, and showed versatility, range, and power in this win.
Usman struggled in the opening moments, taking a powerful right hand from Burns that appeared to rattle him. Burns (19-4) claimed the first round, but that did not last long. Usman seized control in round two, capitalizing upon a patient approach and landing multiple hard shots that nearly ended the fight. Round three was all Usman, connecting with his jab, even switching stances and working southpaw, ultimately putting Burns in a position where he could no longer defend himself.
The victory elevates Usman to an even higher tier among UFC champions. His biggest problem now is that he is running out of opponents. Usman has cleared out the top of the welterweight division, though he saved some of his strongest words in his post-fight interview for Jorge Masvidal.
Usman already defeated Masvidal this past July, winning by unanimous decision when Masvidal took Burns’ spot after he was forced to miss the fight due to COVID-19. If they meet again, Usman promised he would finish Masvidal.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT FIGHT: MAYCEE BARBER VS. ALEXA GRASSO -- 12:03 AM ET
Alexa Grasso picks up the biggest win of her career at UFC 258, making a statement over No. 10-ranked Maycee Barber.
Grasso (13-3) is known for her striking, but it was her grappling that stood in this bout. Her jiu-jitsu was overwhelming for Barber (8-2), and this is a win that should elevate Grasso into the flyweight division’s top 10.
The two flyweights traded shots in the opening round, with Barber taking a vicious shot beneath her left eye. Grasso drilled Barber again in the second round, and though Barber landed a couple impressive shots, Grasso showcased some phenomenal grappling in the final minute of the round. Grasso’s ground game and transitions gave her full control, ending the round with a choke.
Barber closed the distance in round three, coming out aggressively before Grasso pinned her against the cage. She then attacked Grasso with a relentless flurry of shots, throwing from every position. But the damage was done, as Grasso delivered a convincing performance in the opening two rounds, and she did enough to hold on in the final round.
This was a grueling bout. Though a tremendous gap still exists between women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and every other fighter in the division, the win helps Grasso establish herself as a flyweight.
MIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT: KELVIN GASTELUM VS. IAN HEINISCH -- 11:28 PM ET
Kelvin Gastelum claimed all three rounds, winning his fight against Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision.
Gastelum (16-6, 1 NC) entered on a three-fight losing streak, yet less than two years removed from taking Israel Adesanya the distance in a five-round fight in 2019. This victory was critical for Gastelum, causing a bevy of issues for Heinisch (14-4).
Before UFC 258, the last time Gastelum won a fight took place at UFC 224 in May 2018. But this was an elite performance for the 29-year-old Gastelum, showing off some elite grappling and taking down Heinisch on six different occasions.
Post-fight, Gastelum name-dropped top middleweight contenders Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker. Though he still has considerable ground to cover before elevating himself to the top of the division, the win against Heinisch is a massive step in the right direction.
FEATHERWEIGHT FIGHT: RICKY SIMON VS. BRIAN KELLEHER -- 10:57 PM ET
Ricky Simon defeated Brian Kelleher by unanimous decision.
Right from the beginning, Simon (18-3) controlled the bout. He dictated the pace and busted Kelleher (22-12) open above the right eye early in the opening round. Kelleher hit a couple of flush leg kicks, but this was otherwise a dominating, relentless performance by Simon.
The 28-year-old Simon, who is a beloved former middle school wrestling coach, looked outstanding, earning his third straight win and making his claim to break into the top 15 of the division.
MIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT: MAKI PITOLO VS. JULIAN MARQUEZ -- 10:18 PM ET
Julian Marquez needed a finish in order to defeat Maki Pitolo. With less than a minute remaining in the fight, that is exactly what Marquez got, forcing Pitolo to tap to an anaconda chokehold.
This was a back-and-forth, compelling fight featuring multiple components of MMA. Pitolo (13-8) pivoted from brawling to grappling, causing constant problems for Marquez (8-2) throughout the first two rounds while working for takedowns. He avoided the brunt of big blows from Marquez, but that changed when Marquez finally caught Pitolo with a right hand in the third round, beginning a sequence that included a barrage of shots that ended when Marquez applied the choke to finish the fight.
The loss is especially damaging for Pitolo, who has now dropped three in a row, as well as four of his past five. For Marquez, this was his first fight since July 2018, and his first win since December 2017.
UFC 258 is a chance for Kamaru Usman to prove that he is the undisputed king of the welterweight division. Standing in his way is Gilbert Burns, a former teammate who seeks to claim the top of the division and start his own run with the belt.
There have been changes to the card, but the top three fights remain intact. Usman-Burns is the main event for the Welterweight Championship, and the co-main sees the returning Maycee Barber return from a 13-month absence to meet an incredibly tough challenge in Alexa Grasso. Another must-see fight is between middleweights Kelvin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch, which is a chance for Gastelum to end a three-fight losing streak, while Heinisch needs a win to build toward a top ten ranking.
The opener is another middleweight fight, pitting Maki Pitolo against Julian Marquez, which will be followed by Ricky Simon-Brian Kelleher in featherweight action. While lacking the hype of prior fight cards, especially the past headliner that featured Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, UFC 258 is a solid card that will look to exceed expectations.