Skip to main content
Fight Coverage

UFC 258: Fight By Fight Preview

We Break Down Saturday's PPV Card Featuring A Championship Showdown Between Friends Turned Foes: Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns at UFC 258

KAMARU USMAN VS. GILBERT BURNS

The third time is the charm for this welterweight title pairing, as champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Gilbert Burns will finally stand opposite one another inside the Octagon with the welterweight strap hanging in the balance.

Twice delayed, this clash between former teammates and training partners kicks off an outstanding couple months of title fights slated to transpire inside the UFC cage.

Usman is undefeated in the UFC — 12 up, 12 down — and successfully defended his title for a second time last summer, when he dominated Jorge Masvidal on short-notice when “Gamebred” filled in for Burns on Fight Island. The 33-year-old has relocated to Colorado to work with Trevor Wittman since the matchup with Burns first came together, and it will be interesting to see what new wrinkles that pairing and training at altitude produce on Saturday night.

Burns’ ascent to the top of the list of contenders in the 170-pound weight class started on a whim when he accepted a short-notice fight in Montevideo, Uruguay against Aleksei Kunchenko. But after handing the Russian his first loss and earning a similar result in another short-notice assignment against Gunnar Nelson a month later, the standout grappler relocated to welterweight full-time and continued his charge, adding victories over Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley to emerge as the No. 1 contender.

This is an interesting clash of styles with unusual twists as Usman and Burns trained together for a number of years, which means they’re familiar with one another’s setups and entries and preferred positions. Though both are best known for their grappling acumen, each has shown consistent improvement on the feet throughout their careers, with Burns thus far displaying a little more pop.

READ: The Lineage of UFC's Welterweight Title

Both men have been looking forward to this date for quite some time now and how it plays out will not only set the course for the division, but also light the fuse on what should be an explosive year of championship fights in 2021.

Kamaru Usman Post-Fight Interview | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
Kamaru Usman Post-Fight Interview | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
/

MAYCEE BARBER VS. ALEXA GRASSO

Flyweights looking to take a big step forward in the 125-pound hierarchy get the co-main event spotlight on Saturday as Maycee Barber returns to action against former Invicta FC standout Alexa Grasso.

Barber entered 2020 with designs on getting closer to achieving her goal of breaking Jon Jones’ record for being the youngest champion in UFC history, but things went south almost immediately, as she suffered a torn ACL and the first loss of her career against Roxanne Modafferi at UFC 246 and spent the remainder of the year on the sidelines.

Order UFC 258 For Any Device

Prior to that loss, the 22-year-old Contender Series graduate (Class of ’18) had earned three straight stoppage wins to push her record to 8-0, so it will be interesting to see if she can get right back into the win column in this competitive showdown with Grasso on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

In some ways, Grasso was Barber before Barber — a highly-regarded, undefeated fighter who showed a ton of promise, but stumbled in a couple different difficult matchups on her way up the divisional ladder. After dealing with weight cutting issues at strawweight, the 27-year-old Grasso finally made the move to flyweight last summer and looked strong in her divisional debut victory over Ji Yeon Kim.

Can Barber prove that she remains “The Future” or will Grasso earn her second straight victory while handing the young American her second consecutive defeat?

Alexa Grasso of Mexico prepares to fight Maycee Barber in their flyweight fight during the UFC 258 event at UFC APEX on February 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Alexa Grasso of Mexico prepares to fight Maycee Barber in their flyweight fight during the UFC 258 event at UFC APEX on February 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

KELVIN GASTELUM VS. IAN HEINISCH

Kelvin Gastelum looks to right the ship and snap a three-fight slide while Ian Heinisch aims to build on his 74-second knockout win over Gerald Meerschaert last summer in at the UFC APEX in this clash of middleweights aiming to establish their place in the pecking order.

If you needed another example of why you have to look beyond just the results in this sport, look no further than Gastelum, whose three-fight slide began with his outstanding interim title fight with Israel Adesanya, which was followed by a split decision loss to Darren Till; two fights that were ultra-close and where he was ultra-competitive and things just simply didn’t go his way.

Last time out, however, the former Ultimate Fighter winner appeared to be caught off guard when Jack Hermansson quickly laced up a heel hook, and he’ll need to be sharp and ready to fire right out of the chute if he hopes to earn his first victory in almost three years on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

MORE UFC 258: How To Watch UFC 258Kamaru Usman: Warrior Code | Bonus Résumé: Gilbert Burns

Another member of the Contender Series Class of ‘18, Heinisch rocketed into the middleweight rankings on the strength of consecutive decision wins over Cezar Ferreira and Antonio Carlos Junior to begin his UFC career, then stumbled with back-to-back decision losses to divisional mainstays Derek Brunson and Omari Akhmedov.

He returned to action last summer at UFC 250 and made quick work of Gerald Meerschaert, dropping the veteran with a clean shot just over a minute in to get back into the win column.

I say it all the time in this space, but the middleweight division is still undergoing renovations, and with champion Israel Adesanya set to venture up to light heavyweight, now is the time for fighters with championship aspirations like these two to begin building their respective cases for contention.

MAKI PITOLO VS. JULIAN MARQUEZ

Middleweights looking to get things moving in the right direction meet here as Maki Pitolo faces off with fellow Contender Series alum Julian Marquez in the main card opener.

Just 1-3 since his impressive, contract-winning turn on Season 3 of the summer talent search series, Pitolo looks to snap a two-fight slide as he steps in for his first appearance of 2021 this weekend. The undersized, but feisty Hawaiian is at his best when he’s using his quickness and letting his hands go, as he did against Charles Byrd in his lone UFC triumph to date.

This weekend marks Marquez’ first appearance since July 2018 when he dropped a split decision to Alessio Di Chirico. Kansas City’s “Cuban Missile Crisis” has spent the last couple years recovering from a gruesome latissimus dorsi muscle injury that required multiple surgeries, but looks to recapture that form that led him to victories over Philip Hawes and Darren Stewart in 2017.

Which Contender Series graduate will get back in the win column and which one will be forced to deal with another defeat?

UFC 258: Inside the Octagon - Usman vs Burns
UFC 258: Inside the Octagon - Usman vs Burns
/

 

In this episode, John and Laura preview the UFC 258 main event, Usman vs Burns. Two former teammates go head to head as welterweight champion Kamaru ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman looks to continue his undefeated streak in the UFC when he takes on challenger Gilbert ‘Durinho’ Burns.


BOBBY GREEN VS. JIM MILLER

Lightweight veterans with a combined 87 pro fights under their belts clash in the final preliminary card pairing as Bobby Green and Jim Miller continue on their tandem quests to fight literally everyone that competes in the 155-pound weight class.

After only fighting once in 2019, Green fought four times in five months last year, registering victories over Clay Guida, Lando Vannata, and Alan Patrick before dropping a close decision to Thiago Moises on Halloween. The Inland Empire native has slick boxing, strong wrestling, and quality takedown defense, which makes him a perennial tough out in a division laced with perennial tough outs.

Miller will once again have top spot on the list of fighters with the most UFC appearances all to himself as of Saturday, as he makes the walk for the 37th time, one more than Donald Cerrone. He also looks to move into a tie for second place on the all-time wins list with Demian Maia by securing his 22nd victory, one fewer than Georges St-Pierre.

The fact that he’s in such illustrious and exclusive company should tell you everything you need to know about Miller’s durability, competitiveness, and class inside the cage, and should get you pumped to see these two divisional staples trade blows this weekend.

WHAT YOU MISSED FROM #UFCVegas18: Cory Sandhagen Gets Flying Knee Knockout | Alexander Volkov Post-Fight Interview | UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov Photo Gallery 

RODOLFO VIEIRA VS. ANTHONY HERNANDEZ

The first of three middleweight pairings to hit the Octagon on Saturday night is a matchup of divisional hopefuls moving in opposite directions, as Rodolfo Vieira looks to secure his third straight UFC win, while Anthony Hernandez aims to bring his record to 2-2 with a return trip to the win column this weekend.

A truly world-class jiu-jitsu player, Vieira has made a smooth, though not seamless, transition to mixed martial arts, amassing a perfect 7-0 record to begin his career. He’s earned submission finishes in each of his two previous UFC appearances, but faced some resistance in both fights, so it will be interesting to see what types of improvements and advances he’s made since his lone appearance of 2020 at UFC 248.

Hernandez began his UFC career with two fights that ended via anaconda choke — the first was a loss to Markus Perez, and the second was a victory over Jun Yong Park seven months later. In his only outing last year, “Fluffy” lasted just 39 seconds against Kevin Holland, getting doubled over by a knee to the midsection right out of the gates in Jacksonville, Florida.

Vieira has shown intriguing potential through his first two UFC starts and Hernandez flashed upside on his way to the Octagon, which makes this preliminary card clash of 185-pound hopefuls one of the more intriguing and potentially instructive bouts of the evening.

Kamaru Usman: Journey to Champion | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
Kamaru Usman: Journey to Champion | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
/

Take a look back at Kamaru Usman's path to the UFC welterweight title.


BELAL MUHAMMAD VS. DHIEGO LIMA

Welterweight competitors riding three-fight winning streaks finally cross paths as Belal Muhammad and Dhiego Lima go head-to-head in this pairing that was held over from the end of last year.

The 32-year-old Muhammad is one of the most unheralded talents on the UFC roster, brandishing a 7-1 record over his last eight fights and an 8-3 mark overall. He’s indefatigable inside the Octagon, using his conditioning as a weapon to push the pace and stay in his opponent’s face from start-to-finish, pulling away the later each fight goes.

A two-time TUF finalist, Lima went 1-5 over his first six UFC starts, but has rattled off three straight victories since. Injuries and fight cancellations have kept him on the sidelines since registering a split decision win over Luke Jumeau, but he looks to bring his UFC record back to even with a victory over Muhammad this weekend.

There is always a ton of attention focused on the top of the welterweight division — rightfully so — but this pairing illustrates just how competitive the weight class is, even outside of the Top 15.

 

POLYANA VIANA VS. MALLORY MARTIN

Strawweights looking to build off their submission victories earned on the same fight card last summer lock horns here as Brazilian Polyana Viana squares off with American Mallory Martin in an intriguing clash in the 115-pound weight class.

Viana snapped a three-fight slide with a first-round submission win over Emily Whitmire last summer in Las Vegas. The key for Viana, who struggled in matchups against JJ Aldrich and Hannah Cifers before getting tapped out by Veronica Macedo in a flyweight appearance in 2019, was coming out and being aggressive, as she took the fight to Whitmire and capitalized on her mistakes to secure the finish.

Martin didn’t earn a UFC contract following her decision win on Season 3 of the Contender Series, but picked up a fifth straight victory upon returning to the Invicta FC cage before running into a tough matchup against Virna Jandiroba in her short-notice promotional debut. Last time out, she showed incredible resilience in rallying to tap Cifers, landing on the wrong side of an ugly first round before shifting the momentum and catching a submission early in the second.

Both women have shown promise in the past and looked impressive in their last outings, so expect a spirited back-and-forth when these two kick off the televised prelims this weekend.

ANDRE EWELL VS. CHRIS GUTIERREZ

This late addition to the UFC 258 lineup has the potential to be explosive, as bantamweights Chris Gutierrez and Andre Ewell square off in a 140-pound catchweight engagement.

Gutierrez looks to extend his unbeaten run into a third year as he makes his first start of 2021 riding a four-fight streak. After losing to Raoni Barcelos in his promotional debut, “El Guapo” collected a pair of wins in 2019 and began 2020 with a second-round stoppage win over Vince Morales before rallying to salvage a draw against Cody Durden in his second appearance of the year.

Now the Factory X Muay Thai product looks to push that positive run to five as he squares off with the always-entertaining Ewell this weekend.

Ewell went 2-0 last year but was one round on one card in each of those fights away from an 0-2 campaign after edging out Jonathan Martinez and Irwin Rivera in close, competitive, entertaining scraps. “Mr. Highlight” has quietly put together a 4-2 record in the Octagon and is 8-2 in his last 10, including a first-round stoppage win over Gustavo Lopez, so it’s possible that the California-based showman has found is footing and beginning a push towards the Top 15.
 

CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH: A Timeline of African American and Black UFC Athlete Accomplishments | How Din Thomas Became The Role Model He Looked For | #UFCVegas18 Athletes Reflect on Black History Month
 

RICKY SIMON VS. BRIAN KELLEHER

Initially scheduled to square off last September and delayed again earlier this year, Ricky Simon and Brian Kelleher will finally face off in the Octagon this weekend and business promises to be booming in this fight.

The 28-year-old Simon earned three straight wins to begin his UFC tenure, but then dropped back-to-back appearances against Urijah Faber and Rob Font to get knocked back a peg in the pecking order. After getting back into the win column with a victory over Ray Borg last spring, the Pacific Northwest native has augmented his usual training with sessions alongside the crew at Team Oyama and the first impressions were promising as he manhandled newcomer Gaetano Pirrello last time out.

The explosive Kelleher has struggled to find consistency thus far in his UFC career, sporting a 6-4 record through his first 10 starts. After registering an impressive second-round stoppage win over Hunter Azure last spring, he dropped a featherweight contest to Cody Stamann less than a month later but bounced back in September with a quick finish of Ray Rodriguez after Simon was forced out of the matchup.

These two have been on a collision course for some time and there seems to be some fun competitiveness between the two, so don’t be surprised if this one establishes the baseline for Fight of the Night at UFC 258.

Gilbert Burns Fighter Trailer | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
Gilbert Burns Fighter Trailer | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
/

Before he makes his first challenge for UFC gold, take a look at Gilbert Burns' best work inside the Octagon.


GABE GREEN VS. PHILIP ROWE

After giving a good accounting of himself in his short notice debut last spring, Gabe Green gets his first “full camp” start in the UFC this weekend as he squares off with Contender Series grad Philip Rowe.

The 27-year-old Green had his six-fight winning streak snapped at the end of May when he accepted a short-notice opportunity against Daniel Rodriguez. Though he landed on the wrong side of the cards, Green made Rodriguez work for the victory and impressed in defeat, so it will be interesting to see what he can bring to the table for his sophomore appearance now that he’s had time to adequately prepare for his trip into the Octagon.

Rowe collected his UFC contract with a third-round stoppage win over Leon Shahbazyan on the penultimate episode during Season 3 of the Contender Series, extending his winning streak to seven in the process. Tall and rangy for the welterweight division at six-foot-three with an 80.5-inch reach, the 30-year-old will look to shake off the rust as he finally makes the walk to the Octagon for the first time this weekend.

Will Green spoil Rowe’s debut and get his first UFC win or will “The Fresh Prince” do his best Uncle Phil impression and toss Green aside like he was Jazz hitting on Hilary?

 

GILLIAN ROBERTSON VS. MIRANDA MAVERICK

Business gets underway with an absolute banger in the flyweight division as Gillian Robertson looks to rebound from a loss on the last card of 2020 with a victory in her 2021 debut against hard-charging, highly regarded prospect Miranda Maverick.

Through her first three years on the UFC roster, Robertson has fallen into a pattern of results, earning two wins before ending the year with a loss. Last year, she rebounded from a first-round stoppage defeat at the hands of Barber with victories over Cortney Casey and Poliana Botelho before getting outworked on the ground by Taila Santos in December.

The 25-year-old Din Thomas protégé has flashed potential, but still hasn’t been able to put it all together consistently enough to make real progress up the divisional ladder.

Maverick carried her momentum from 2019 into last year, beginning 2020 with a unanimous decision victory over Pearl Gonzalez before registering a stoppage win over Liana Jojua in her promotional debut at UFC 254 in October. The 23-year-old is a fluid athlete with solid striking, a strong grappling background, and a ton of upside, so it will be interesting to see how she matches up against the more experienced Robertson on Saturday.

As much as the flyweights in the co-main event are going to garner the lion’s share of the attention — understandably so — don’t sleep on this pairing, as the winner of this one should earn a step up in competition and make a case for a place in the rankings with an impressive victory in the kickoff to this weekend’s card.