Kamaru Usman to fight Burns Saturday night
Nigerians waiting for one of their UFC Champions to fight again are set to have their prayers granted as the Nigerian Nightmare and UFC Welterweight Champion of the World, Kamaru Usman (MMA: 17 Wins, 1 Loss) is set to do battle with Number 2 ranked contender, Gilbert Burns (MMA: 19 Wins, 3 Losses).
Kamaru is one of two Nigerian born champions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) today. The other is the Middleweight king, Israel Adesanya. Born in Auchi, Edo State, Kamaru moved to the USA aged just 8. He started wrestling in the US where he won Bronze, Silver then Gold in Collegiate Wrestling.
This title defence vs Burns has been a long time coming as 2 previous title bouts between the two hard-hitters ended up getting cancelled for health reasons. There’s really no bad blood here as both fighters are friends and teammates at Sanford MMA. But as Burns would tell you, the Welterweight belt is highly coveted and both fighters just have to handle business.
The champion Kamaru Usman is a nightmare in every sense of the word. Long before he became champ, he was always quick to remind whoever cared to listen that he is a problem. And in the octagon, he proves to be nothing short of that; a problem no one in the UFC has been able to solve. Colby Covington did come close though.
Both Usman and Covington are good wrestlers with excellent takedown defences. The champ has never been taken down in his MMA career while Colby has been taken down only once. Yet after yapping about wrestling for a full week, when both fighters met at UFC 245, it ended up a kickboxing affair with neither man attempting a single takedown. Colby was slightly a better boxer and the fight was even until the 5th round when Usman showed he was a cardio monster and finished off Colby with less than a minute to go.
Burns might want to borrow a leaf from Colby Covington. Usman would likely have become a better boxer since when he faced Colby but he won’t be stupid enough to throw down with a legit boxer like Jorge Masvidal for instance whom he scrapped and grappled with for the full 5 rounds. Burns has the slight boxing advantage and packs a very powerful punch, ask Tyrone Woodley’s left eyebrow if you doubt me.
But his biggest asset is his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappling in which he’s a black belter. He’s a submission specialist with 8 submission wins. He has 6 KO’s and 5 decision wins which means submissions are his favourite finishes. But against a guy like Usman who has never been taken down, he would need to seek ways of vertically administering his submissions.
Kamaru is also a Jiu Jitsu black belt with very sound grappling, one of the best in the game. But his submission game is quite poor as he has only managed one win via submission. So taking the fight to the mat might not be a very bright idea as Burns could also manipulate him on the ground and being a submission specialist, could take him out. Note that Usman’s only loss in MMA is via submission. Thus, we might be watching a remake of Usman vs Covington where both grapplers stood and threw punches and kicks instead for nearly 25 minutes because each knew it was the best chance of defeating the other.
I expect Burns to mix it up a bit though. Throw those hard punches, catch Usman unawares and attempt a take down and submission. Usman might want to adopt same strategy except if he gets Burns on the ground, he might look to grind and pound. But ultimately, it would come down to cardio and who has the largest tank. The fact that Usman has more decision wins (9) than by any other method means he is a cardio freak who probably enjoys going all the way.
But with 5 decision wins, Gilbert Burns is definitely no pushover in this regard. Welterweights naturally have excellent cardios and when the two in the top 2 collide, you can expect a marathon of a fight.
- Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas USA
- Date: February 14 (Nigeria)
- Time: 4am (Main card)