Current Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman has not lost in over eight years and while he will look to extend his 16-match winning streak, it cannot get any tougher than Gilbert Burns, a former sparring mate of Usman - who himself is on an impressive six-fight winning streak and finally in contention for his first title shot - this Saturday night in the main event of UFC 258 in Las Vegas.
Ahead of the fight News18.com caught up with Usman as he talked about his previous fight with Jorge Masvidal, improvements he is looking to make and on Burns and what the fans can expect.
After your dominant win over Jorge Masvidal, fans and expert are talking about you being best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, your thoughts?
My strategy is just to take it one fight at a time. You know, when you start looking ahead, and not paying attention to what's in front of you, that's when you actually trip over what's in front of you, so I try to take it one fight at a time. And if I'm able to get my job done against the one guy that's in front of me, each and every time, then by the time I'm done with my career I'll be able to sit back and say, "Wow, look at all that I accomplished."
Finally, you are opposite Burns, in the third attempt. He is someone you know so well; how tough is it to prepare for someone you trained with and know each other's styles, strong points, weakness (if any)?
Yeah, he's definitely been growing, he's on the path that I've been following, and he has taken the lessons that I've learned. He's gotten a lot better, he's improved. So he's tough he's a well-rounded, he's good everywhere. But I just think I'm better, and on Saturday night, I will go out there and I will show that I'm better.
Not many have been able to take you down and you have not spent much time on the bottom in grappling exchanges, but now you are against a grappling specialist in Burns - anything, in particular, you have trained to counter this?
Look, I fought Demain Maia. He is the most dangerous grappler in the history of mixed martial arts. That's the guy that can choke anyone out, and I was able to control that. And that's one thing that I do best: I can dictate where the fight takes place, how the fight happens. And until anyone is able to stop that, I'm going to continue to be dominant for as long as I reign.
Masvidal fight was your only one of 2020 and you had a shaky start -- is it something your camp talked about and looking to improve against Burns?
I was a little disappointed in myself. Having taken the fight on such short notice, I didn't have adequate enough time to really hone in and do all the things that I would have liked to do. But still I was able to dominate the fight. So I was upset with myself because even though I dominated the fight without adequate time to prepare, I could have finished him. That's the only take away from that fight: there is more that I can do, and I know it. If there was ever a second fight, I would get the opportunity to show it.
What's next for Usman if you still remain the champion after Burns' fight? Who will be the next guy on your list?
Its wide open, it's up to all the other contenders to be able to stick out and present themselves as a worthy opponent and a worthy challenger. Because, after this fight I would have been through everyone in the top 10. But there is no shortage of contenders, people are always going to present themselves, so I'm looking forward to that.
Longest Active UFC Win Streak
UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman’s 12-fight UFC win streak is the longest active streak in the UFC (Note: this excludes Nurmagomedov’s 13-fight win streak, as he is inactive). It’s also tied for the longest win streak in UFC welterweight history with Georges St-Pierre’s 12-fight win streak at welterweight that lasted from 2007 to 2013. Usman has earned three title fight wins, already tied for 4th most in welterweight history.
Third Longest Active UFC Win Streak in Welterweight Division
Gilbert Burns has had his hand raised after six consecutive fights dating back to 12/8/18, including four welterweight victories and two lightweight victories. Combining a welterweight victory in his UFC debut in 2014, he’s won five consecutive welterweight fights, a run ranked third among active UFC win streaks in the division. One of the most helpful boosts to his
overall success has been his efficiency with strikes. In Burns’ first nine UFC fights, he connected with 39.3% of his significant strike attempts; in his six most recent fights, he’s landed 54.3% of his significant attempts, an increase of 38%.
UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns Fight Card Main Card
1. Welterweight title bout: Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Gilbert Burns
2. Women's Flyweight bout: Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso
3. Middleweight bout: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ian Heinisch
4. Catchweight (140 lb) bout: Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez
5. Middleweight bout: Maki Pitolo vs. Julian Marquez
1. Lightweight bout: Bobby Green vs. Jim Miller
2. Middleweight bout: Rodolfo Viera vs. Anthony Hernandez
3. Welterweight bout: Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego Lima
4. Women's Strawweight bout: Polyana Viana vs. Mallory Martin
5. Featherweight bout: Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher
6. Welterweight bout: Gabriel Green vs. Philip Rowe
7. Women's Flyweight bout: Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick