Kamaru Usman defends his Welterweight Championship belt against Gilbert Burns in the UFC 258 main event. Is ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ on course to finish off his Brazilian challenger quickly

Unbeaten since joining the UFC in 2015, Usman puts his title on the line for the third time. Burns has earned his shot on the back of six straight wins over the past couple of years.

More records beckon for streaking Usman

The 33-year-old Usman boasts a 17-1 record, his only loss coming eight years ago when his MMA career was in its infancy under the CFA banner. He joined UFC in 2015 and has won 12 straight fights.

Usman took the UFC Welterweight Championship from Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision in 2019 and has successfully defended it twice: a fifth-round TKO of Colby Covington in December 2019 and a decision over Jorge Masvidal last July, dismantling the dangerous brawler with his trademark grappling ability.

He is one of just three fighters to start 12-0 in the UFC, after legends Anderson Silva and Khabib Nurmagomedov. His 12-fight winning streak is tied for the longest in UFC welterweight history with the great Georges St Pierre.

Usman is a hot $1.36 favourite to make Burns his unlucky 13th straight victim.

But the 19-3 Burns’ stocks have soared in a busy two years since returning to welterweight after his last defeat to Dan ‘Hangman’ Hooker in July 2018. The 34-year extended his winning run to six with a Round 1 TKO of Demian Maia and a unanimous decision over Woodley in the space of two and half months last year. Both wins earned Performance of the Night honours.

It’s been quite the rise for a fighter that lost three of his first nine bouts under the UFC banner. There’s plenty of punters who will be tempted by Burns’ $3.18 underdog price.

Similar styles makes for epic fight

Usman and Burns bring similar skill-sets to the Octagon, best known for their explosive wrestling styles and expertise in building pressure to snuff out their opponents’ attacking strengths. They’re also former teammates who have spent a lot of time sparring.

Both are outstanding on the ground – offensively and defensively – and this has the makings of a classic tussle. The technical ability on show makes this one of the more fascinating UFC headliners of 2021.

The pair are more than prepared to go the distance. Nine of Usman’s 12 wins since arriving in the UFC were via decision, while four of Burns’ last six victories were by decision – though his defeat of Woodley last May was the first time he’s been five rounds.

The win by decision options in the Method of Victory markets will be the way many UFC punters are heading.

Tempting value for early KO

These fighters’ shared grappling styles and outstanding defensive capabilities don’t take a knockout finish out of the equation. Usman and Burns both boast tremendous power and striking ability that has improved markedly in recent years.

Only two of Usman’s UFC wins came by KO/TKO, but he set a UFC championship fight record by out-striking Woodley 336-60 – though most of his work went to the body. But the dominant way he finished off Covington is hard to forget.

The more aggressive Burns has knockout power in both hands, chalking up three KO/TKO wins in the UFC. He stunned Maia with a lightning-quick left before ending the fight in under three minutes with a barrage on the ground.

But the first-round loss to Hooker may play on his – and Usman’s – mind ahead of this clash. Meanwhile, Usman has never suffered a knockout loss.

The UFC Fav Fill Up provides a juicy $7.00 price for punters willing to back Usman to put Burns away with a KO/TKO victory in the first two rounds.

However it shakes out, Usman looks almost unbeatable. We could see a more economical victory from the champ at UFC 258 after going into the fifth round in all of his last five fights.