Gilbert Burns was upset by Michel Prazeres in his last fight at UFC Fight Night 95 last September in his native Brazil, surprising himself and many others.
Burns, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, had troubles getting Prazeres to the mat for most of the three-round affair, and was forced to strike with Prazeres. Burns’ standup game is his biggest flaw, and he was subsequently outpointed on the feet, resulting in a decision defeat.
Burns walked away unhappy that evening, but more importantly, he learned so much. He said he was incredibly confident in his wrestling and grappling going into the fight, but after being unable to take Prazeres down, he realized multiple parts of his game needed work.
“The fight started good, but I couldn’t take him down, I couldn’t keep my pace,” Burns told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “It was a learning experience. I changed a lot of things after that loss. I made mistakes, we paid for it, but I’m fortunate to learn.
“I put a lot of time into my striking now. I’m doing a lot more wrestling; I have to take people down to use my jiu-jitsu. And to do my wrestling, I need to punch my way into the takedowns. My submission game is always on point, it’s always there. But to be a better mixed martial artist, I need to be able to take people down.
“And another thing that I changed was my conditioning. I want to make sure I’m not going to gas in my fights. The two fights I lost, I felt tired. I don’t want that to happen again.”
Burns admitted that he “underestimated” his opponent — something he won’t do again.
“I was confident I was going to beat this guy, but he surprised me a little bit in the fight,” he said. “I thought he was gonna be strong, but I thought he was gonna get tired. And then I got tired — that was the biggest surprise.”
Recovered from a recent elbow injury and surgery, which scrapped a fight with Paul Felder at February’s UFC 208, “Durinho” expects he’ll step back inside the UFC’s Octagon this summer, perhaps at one of the two International Fight Week events.
He doesn’t have an opponent yet, but one man on Burns’ mind is his last opponent, Prazeres. Burns wants to avenge that loss, but not right away.
“I’m looking forward to the rematch. I want to fight him again. First I’m going to correct everything I did wrong,” Burns said, “but I think I’m way better than how I fought and I think I can beat him. Maybe two more fights I want to fight him again.”
Burns isn’t happy that he’s already had an eight-month layoff, but there isn’t much he can do about it. He was forced to pull out of a fight due to injury earlier this year, but said that it hasn’t been too easy to get scheduled, particularly because he’s coming off a loss.
“I want to fight three or four times in a year,” he said. “But I understand, too. If you win, if you’re coming up in the ranks, it’s easy to book you a fight. And then when you lose, it’s not that close. I asked a couple times — I have only two losses in my career — I asked to fight again really soon, but they always told me to [sit out] for four or five months.”
While he waits for his UFC return to be booked, Burns is set to compete in a grappling match opposite John Combs at Submission Underground 4 on Sunday evening in Portland, Ore. This is familiar territory for Burns, who regularly competes in jiu-jitsu, most recently at Polaris and NoGi Worlds.
For Burns, competing in grappling is better than not competing at all while he waits for his next mixed martial arts bout to be scheduled.
“Chael Sonnen contacted me when I had a fight coming up on Polaris, and eventually, he invited me to the next one,” Burns said. “I love to compete. And if I don’t have UFC scheduled yet, what’s a better way to keep competing than a super-fight?”
Though Burns has lots of experience on the jiu-jitsu mat, the Combat Club fighter will experience something new at Submission Underground 4 — Eddie Bravo Invitational rules. Instead of also being able to score points and win by decision, competitors must submit their opponents in regulation, submit their opponents in overtime, or, at the very least, escape the quickest in overtime if all submission attempts are failures.
Burns believes he’ll shine under these rules.
“I like those rules a lot,” he said. “A couple fights are boring — guys just want to make a couple points and hold the fight and stalling. EBI rules come to fix that and to entertain. EBI rules are better because you cannot win by points. And if you don’t finish, you go on the back or side control (in overtime), where it’s easier to get a submission, and you go from there. I think it’s gonna help a lot for my game and my style. I like to move forward and pressure. So it’s very positive for my game, and the way I like to watch, as well.”
Submission Underground 4 streams live on FloGrappling on Sunday, May 14 at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.