UFC 258: Usman vs Burns Preview

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Not too many marquee names in action, but this weekend's UFC event boasts a lot of quality on a stacked card.

Kamara Usman and Colby Covington are separated by the UFC referee.

The UFC’s pay-per-view offering for February goes down this Saturday night from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlined by a UFC Welterweight Championship fight, the fight card might be bereft of other “big name” fights, but it rates highly in terms of having quality fighters from top to bottom. This despite COVID wreaking havoc on it and causing two previously scheduled main card fights to get cancelled.

Usman Looks to Make it 17 in a Row

The UFC Welterweight Championship spoken of would be the one currently held by Kamaru Usman, winner of 16 straight fights (he dropped his second pro fight eight years ago and hasn’t lost since). He’ll be going up against former teammate Gilbert Burns, winner of six straight. While Usman has since decamped from Sanford MMA in Florida and taken up in Colorado with renowned coach Trevor Wittman, the fact that these two were former teammates and sparring partners adds an extra level of intrigue to this fight.

Usman, like in pretty much any 170-pound fight, will be the bigger and stronger combatant in the cage on Saturday night. He’s two inches taller and will enjoy a five-inch reach advantage over Burns. He’s masterful at dictating how a fight unfolds and where the action takes place. However, his preferred path to fighting – taking down his opponent with his beastly wrestling and mauling them for five rounds – might not be the best strategy here. This would be because Burns is a jiu jitsu master, and is dangerous on the ground, even off his back.

Burns can also really crack on his feet, capable of turning any fighters lights out with his strikes. So, if Usman decides to keep it on the feet, that could be dangerous for him too. Despite all this, I still expect the champion to retain on Saturday night. He’s got a great chin which should allow him to absorb any shots from Burns, and his strength and dominant wrestling should be able to carry him to another victory. However, taking him at a number as high as 20/59 might not be wise.

The co-main event is an interesting choice for this slot given other more prominent names further down the card. It features two young women’s flyweight fighters in the 22-year-old Maycee Barber and the 27-year-old Alexa Grasso. Barber took the sport by storm, winning her first eight pro fights (only one via decision) before being stopped by veteran Roxanne Modafferi and getting her knee chewed up in January of 2020. Grasso, meanwhile, was considered a blue-chip prospect herself, but has never gotten any traction in the UFC, never winning back-to-back fights (she won her last fight, so….). I’m taking Barber at 1/1 due to her strength and athleticism.

More Underdog Picks

Barber isn’t the only underdog I’m liking this week, so let’s go get some more plus money. Maki ‘Coconut Bombz’ Pitolo is currently at 27/20 for his fight against Julian ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ Marquez. Marquez has been out of action since July of 2018 and Pitolo has the reach and the superior striking skills, so I’m going with him. This one has Fight of the Night written all over it.

Elsewhere, grizzled veteran Jim Miller (48 pro fights, in the UFC since 2008) relies on his wrestling and great grappling and submission skills to win fights, and his opponent on Saturday, Bobby Green, gets taken down every fight he gets in. This leaves a clear path to victory for Miller and makes the 2/1 line on him look like a steal (however, as all degenerates know, there is no ‘easy money’ when it comes to gambling).

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Jeff Fox offers expert insight into the world of MMA & UFC betting from his years of experience in the industry. His work has appeared in publications such as SI.com, St Louis Post-Dispatch, SLAM, Fighters Only Magazine & FIGHT!, among many others. Jeff shares his UFC betting tips with MansionBet readers on a weekly basis.

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