UFC 258 Rundown:
Ultimate Fighting Championship Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman (18-1), returned to the Octagon Feb. 13 to defend his belt for the third time. Usman defeated his former teammate, and then-No.1 Welterweight contender Gilbert Burns (19-4) via a third-round knockout.
Burns defeated former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) May 30, rocketing “Durinho” to the top of the division, and immediately into title contention. With Burns’ name next on Usman’s list, Usman trained for his title defense with Trevor Wittman at Elevation Fight Team.
The match was originally scheduled for July 11 to debut the UFC’s Fight Island on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Burns pulled out of the supercard main event when he contracted COVID-19. Usman defended the 170-pound strap against Jorge Masvidal (35-14) on six days notice. Usman won via a dominant unanimous decision.
The matchup of the two Sanford MMA products was rescheduled for Dec. 12, but was scratched months prior because of Usman’s undisclosed injuries. Given the extra months to recover, the Nigerian Nightmare was ready for his former teammate last Saturday.
The fight opened with Usman refusing to touch the gloves of his former teammate, coupled with a chilling staredown. Burns’ game plan clearly included starting fast and blitzing Usman, as he dropped the champion early with a heavy right hook.
Usman had a very strong second round, returning the punishment to Burns, and eventually finishing him via knockout in the third round. Once the fight had concluded, the two fighters embraced, concluding their pre-fight gripe.
Usman adds another impressive name under his welterweight dominance. With wins over Rafael Dos Anjos (29-13), then champion Woodley, Colby Covington (15-2), Masvidal and now Burns — Usman has emerged as a well-established champion at 170 pounds.
Usman had choice words in his post-fight interview, calling for a rematch with Masvidal, who had taken to Twitter before the fight to discredit their scrap in July.
By defeating the top contenders at welterweight, a rematch with one of Covington or Masvidal seems in order. Other contenders that could meet the champion in the cage are also Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) and Leon Edwards (18-3).
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Lewis Preview:
Heavyweight contenders No. 2 Curtis Blaydes (14-2) and No. 4 Derrick Lewis (24-7) are set to do battle Saturday after a previous canceled bout Nov. 28.
Blaydes and Lewis are two heavyweight veterans both vying for a title shot in the future. Blaydes has been on a tear with recent wins over Alexander Volkov, former champion Junior Dos Santos and heavyweight legend Alistair Overeem.
Lewis has fought in the UFC since 2014 and has accrued his most recent win over longtime heavyweight veteran Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1). Known for impressive power, Lewis will look to keep the fight standing against Blaydes, an astute wrestler.
How Blaydes can win: “Razor” Blaydes brings impressive wrestling to the Octagon. In his last time out, Blaydes bullied Alexander Volkov, completing 14 takedowns en route to a unanimous victory [48-46, 48-47, 49-46]. Blaydes wins Saturday if he takes Lewis to the ground and keeps constant pressure with his strong ground and pound technique.
Blaydes is 29 years old, which is relatively young for a heavyweight, and will likely earn himself a title shot in the coming years. His prowess on the ground is rare in a current field of powerful strikers and will offer an overwhelming skill set for Lewis to deal with. A win over Lewis will almost certainly set him up for the winner of Miocic v. Ngannou II, or the subsequent matchup after the next HW champ faces Jon Jones.
How Lewis can win: Lewis and his camp will enter this fight looking to be wary of Blaydes’ strong ground game. Lewis, relying on his one-punch power, will need to keep the fight standing and catch Curtis on his chin. Lewis only needs to land one clean punch to see his arm raised.
With his striking and competent ground game, Lewis can use this fight to display that he is a well-rounded fighter. Blaydes has two losses on his record, both knockouts at the hands of fellow power-punching heavyweight Francis Ngannou. Lewis can add another TKO to Blaydes’ stat sheet this weekend if he closes the distance with the taller Blaydes and turns this fight into a brawl.
Charlie’s Prediction: Blaydes def. Lewis via unanimous decision
Peter’s Prediction: Lewis def. Blaydes via R3 KO/TKO
Other fights to watch: This fight night card also boasts some good scraps from up and coming fighters.
Hawes vs. Imavov: Dana White’s Contender Series alum Philip “Megatron” Hawes (9-2) is looking to follow up his impressive first-round knockout of Jacob Malkoun (4-1) against Frenchman Nassourdine Imavov (9-2). Hawes has established power, but his ground game and striking technique is still a mystery. Imavov will look to use his quick striking technique and respected ground game. This fight will be fireworks between both middleweights’ power.
Vieira vs. Kunitskaya: A clash of top-10 bantamweight women will host strong displays of jiu-jitsu. The No. 6 ranked Ketlen Vieira (10-1) is eyeing a run at the champion Amanda Nunes, while the No. 7 ranked Yana Kunitskaya (12-5) stands in her way. This fight will be a fun display of grappling.
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