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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Pittsburgh: Rockhold vs. Branch - Saggo vs. Burns preview

Get the inside scoop on the lone contest on Fight Pass for UFC Pittsburgh this weekend, featuring lightweights Jason Saggo and Gilbert Burns.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Burns vs Sajewski Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, when there is a single contest on the Fight Pass prelims, injuries have hit the card in some form and the UFC was unable to find suitable replacements in time. In a bit of an oddity, that wasn’t the case this time around. The lone fighter forced off the card by injury was promptly replaced. For some reason, the UFC only booked eleven fights for the card. It seems the UFC had trouble finding fighters willing to fight in Pittsburgh, though for what reason I can’t state. Maybe it was timing. Maybe some fighters wanted a trip to Japan… hard to say. Whatever the reason, there is only one contest on Fight Pass. Though they aren’t big names, Jason Saggo and Gilbert Burns should put on a good scrap.

The lone contest on Fight Pass begins at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Jason Saggo (12-3) vs. Gilbert Burns (11-2), Lightweight

Burns was very hyped upon his entry into the UFC. Disappointing losses in two of his last three contests have cooled the expectations to where he is largely an afterthought now. Then again, injury forcing him to have a delay of a year between contests doesn’t help keep anybody in the public eye either….

Perhaps the time away will do Burns some good. He’s never shown the strongest mental physique, perhaps due to the expectations placed upon him. Able to get out of the limelight and train and fight without public expectation, could we see the best Burns yet? Given that he is likely entering his fighting prime at 31, it wouldn’t be a surprise. The highly decorated BJJ expert has made a smooth transition into MMA from his competitive grappling days, securing armbars in his last three victories. He shows good form in both his wrestling and striking, but hasn’t been able to fit the pieces together in a cohesive unit within either field.

Whereas it would be accurate to say Burns is less than the sum of his parts, Saggo is the opposite… at least at first glance. Saggo is a better athlete than most give him credit for with an underappreciated grappling game. Sure, he lacks power in his striking and strength in his wrestling, but he has found ways to make up for those deficiencies. On the feet, Saggo has adapted by relying heavily on low kicks and taking improved angles. His wrestling is more enthusiastic than anything else, but his ability to scramble helps him to get the top position when that’s ultimately his goal. From there, Saggo has displayed ground-and-pound that belies his weak punching power on the feet to compliment his deep bag of chokes.

A fun fact is that neither fighter has ever been finished in their UFC careers. There have been some tough bastards on their list of opponents too with Paul Felder and Alex Oliveira amongst the names on the list. Perhaps it would be foolish of me to expect a finish given that, but I have a gut feeling we’re going to see the best Burns yet. Gut feelings aren’t smart things to go by, but it is fact to state Saggo has yet to face someone as slick on the ground as Burns. Burns via submission of RD1