In September 2017, Kamaru Usman scored a first-round knockout over Sergio Moraes. After the stoppage win, Usman walked up to the camera and said, “170 get ready. I’m a problem.” On Saturday, after his third-round TKO win over Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC 258, Usman found a camera and shouted, “Put some respect on my name!”
With his stoppage of Burns, Usman successfully defended the UFC welterweight title for a third time. And yes, anyone who doubted he could get past Burns should apologize for that thinking and put some respect on his name. Oh, and yes, Usman is a problem for the welterweights who are looking up at him perched atop the division.
Burns, who rocketed up the welterweight rankings on the strength of four straight wins after moving up from lightweight, gave Usman some trouble in the first round, but the champ kept his cool and responded to the heavy strikes of his former teammate with a nasty jab that allowed him to take control of the contest. That nasty jab eventually led to the third-round finish.
Usman has not lost a fight since his second professional bout took place in 2013. His winning streak includes 13 consecutive UFC victories, which is a new UFC welterweight record. Usman’s win over Burns broke the tie he was in with Georges St-Pierre ahead of UFC 258.
After his win, Usman called for a rematch with Jorge Masvidal, who he defeated by unanimous decision at UFC 251. At first glance that fight might not make much sense, but Usman has now defeated six of the top-10 ranked fighters in the welterweight division, so that rematch could very well take place. Masvidal is ranked No. 4 in the division. The ranked fighters Usman has not met are Stephen Thompson (No. 5), Michael Chiesa (No. 6), Neil Magny (No. 9) and Vicente Luque (No. 10). Another possible matchup could be the No. 3 ranked Leon Edwards, who Usman defeated in 2015, but UFC president Dana White said the promotion is looking for Edwards to face the No. 2 ranked Colby Covington.
UFC 258 took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card streamed on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ and an early prelim bout on ESPN+.
Below is a look at the winners and losers from the UFC 258 fight card
Kamaru Usman: Usman impressed in his third title defense. Gilbert Burns rocked Usman in the early going of the fight with his powerful striking, but Usman remained calm, recovered and took over the fight in the second stanza. Usman, who trained with Trevor Wittman for this contest, relied on a piston like jab to carry him to victory via a third-round TKO. The win gave Usman’s third title defense and a 13th straight victory in the UFC’s welterweight division, breaking a tie with Georges St-Pierre for most consecutive wins in the history of the UFC’s 170-pound division.
Alexa Grasso: Grasso was 8-0 when she joined the UFC and as is often the case, the UFC put a lot of pressure on the young, unbeaten fighter. Grasso was not ready for the pressure, nor was she in the correct weight division. After a 3-3 run at strawweight, Grasso moved to flyweight. With that and the experience she picked up at 115 pounds, she turned a corner. At UFC 258, Grasso won her second straight fight and looked like a complete fighter. Her boxing was crisp and effective. She did not get bullied in the clinch, in fact, she fought well in close and she showed she is unafraid to tangle with her opponents on the ground. Grasso, who is just 27, looked excellent in her win over Maycee Barber. Barber was ranked No. 10 heading into this fight, while Grasso was No. 15. It wouldn’t surprise me to see those rankings flip flop next week.
Kelvin Gastelum: Gastelum entered his matchup against Ian Heinisch on a three-fight losing skid. Before Saturday night, Gastelum said that his UFC career was on the line in this matchup. If that was the case, Gastelum seems as if he is safe for a bit. It looked like Gastelum was thinking a few steps ahead of Heinisch throughout the 15 minute battle. His takedown game was on point, his striking delivered and he had a fair amount of control time. Gastelum has been fighting at the top of the welterweight and middleweight divisions for a while. The win over Heinisch might be the confidence builder he needed to get his head right. It won’t be a surprise to see the UFC give Gastelum an opponent in the top-10 for his next outing.
Ricky Simon: Simon had a quick turnaround from his January 20 submission win over Gaetano Pirrello on Fight Island. That short time off seemed to suit the 28-year-old just right. Simon dominated Brian Kelleher for the full 15 minutes of their bantamweight contest. Simon went six for nine in takedowns and limited Kelleher to just 19 landed significant strikes on 73 attempts. I don’t think Simon will be up for another quick turnaround judging from his post-fight interview, but his next fight should be a big one. With the win, Simon is on a three-fight winning streak.
Maki Pitolo and Julian Marquez: This was quite the fight. The pay-per-view opener had a lot of action and momentum changes. Pitolo used his wrestling and striking in the early going, but Marquez, who last fought July 2018 never gave up. After a heated exchange with his coach James Krause, Marquez put the pedal to the floor and outworked his fading opponent to score the late submission win. This was the kind of fight the UFC brass dreams about as a pay-per-view opener.
Anthony Hernandez: Hernandez weathered the submission attempts of Rodolfo Vieira and that left him right where he wanted be, facing a fighter who had zero cardio left. Hernandez then beat Vieira everywhere the fight went. By the time Hernandez locked up a choke in the second round, Vieira had nothing left and he tapped. According to commentator Jon Anik, the odds of that outcome were 30-1.
Belal Muhammad: Muhammed moved to 8-1 since 2017 with a win over Dhiego Lima. Muhammed did an excellent job cutting off the cage, moving forward and using his combinations to run up an enormous advantage in landed strikes during this contest. The UFC commentators said Muhammed put in one of his best performances in this matchup, but we should also note he was the biggest favorite on the card at -500. With those odds, a finish would have benefited Muhammed a lot more as far as his next opponent. Perhaps knowing that, Muhammed called out the No. 12 ranked Li Jingliang.
Polyana Viana: Viana won her UFC debut in 2018 via submission. She lost her next three fights. After a year off, Viana came back in August 2020 with a first-round armbar submission win over Emily Whitmire. On Saturday, she added a second straight first-round armbar submission when she turned a Mallory Martin takedown into her favor. Viana worked a triangle while adding strikes to the head of her opponent. Viana transitioned to the armbar when the triangle failed to get Martin to tap. She did not have a problem getting the submission with the armbar. This was a good performance from Viana and should have her confidence surging heading into her next scrap.
Chris Gutierrez: Gutierrez used leg strikes to light up Andre Ewell throughout their catchweight fight. Of all his strikes, Gutierrez favored the legs of his opponent throughout the fight, landing 32 of 46 leg strikes throughout the bout. Gutierrez might not have been as aggressive in his striking as his coach wanted, but he did well enough to get the unanimous decision. Gutierrez also had the confidence to throw a version of the “Showtime” kick as the third round came to a close. Gutierrez is now on a five-fight unbeaten streak and should get a test in his next outing.
Gilbert Burns: Burns patiently waited for his chance to face Kamaru Usman for a long while. During the early moments of the bout it appeared as if that wait would pay off as he hurt Usman with his strikes. However, that moment was fleeting and by the time the second round rolled around, Burns found himself in trouble thanks to the relentless jab of his opponent. It was that jab that brought the fight to a close early in the third round and with that Burns’ winning streak of four straight victories in the welterweight division came to an end.
Maycee Barber: Barber has all the confidence in the world, but that confidence is no match for a fighter with confidence and technique. On Saturday, Barber ran into a fighter in Alexa Grasso who had confidence and technique. Barber is young and talented, but she is a bit too reckless. I said this when she lost to Roxanne Modafferi and I’ll say it again, Barber needs to switch to a camp who can harness her raw talent and mold it into something special.
Ian Heinisch: If the matchup between Heinisch and Kelvin Gastelum was made to see if Heinisch is ready for top-10 middleweight competition, the answer is no. Heinisch made little mistakes against Gastelum that showed that he is still a work in progress. By no means is Heinisch a bad fighter, but he does need more work before he takes another shot at a higher ranked opponent.
Brian Kelleher: Kelleher was game, but he just got outworked by Ricky Simon. Kelleher’s best moments were when he landed a few kicks up the middle, but Simon ate those strikes and just kept pushing his offense. Simon’s pace was the difference in this one.
Rodolfo Vieira: I imagine Vieira’s team went online right after his submission loss to Anthony Hernandez and ordered every piece of cardio equipment they could find because the jiu-jitsu champ ran out of gas in a big way on his way to a shocking submission loss.
Dhiego Lima: Lima did a nice job stopping takedowns against Belal Muhammad. He also landed calf kicks at a decent clip. What Lima could not do was stop the pressure and pace of his opponent.
Mallory Martin: Martin scored an early takedown off a Polyana Viana kick. That turned out to be a mistake as Viana turned that takedown into a triangle. Martin did a marvellous job fighting off that submission hold for as long as she could, but when Viana transitioned to an armbar, Martin had no choice but to tap.
Andre Ewell: By the third round, Ewell’s opponent, Chris Gutierrez, had battered Ewell’s legs so badly that the only thing the commentators could talk about was Ewell’s toughness. That’s always a sure sign a fighter is on the way to a one-sided loss.
Phillip Rowe: Rowe had a seven-inch reach advantage and a five-inch height advantage over Gabriel Green, but he failed to use those physical perks throughout the three-round welterweight bout. Rowe showed some life on the mat, but he could not keep Green on the ground long enough to secure a submission. Rowe needs to learn to use his size to control where the fight takes place if he hopes to succeed in the UFC.
Gabriel Green: Despite a height and reach disadvantage, Green’s striking looked good throughout his fight opposite Phillip Rowe. He tested things on the ground in the first round, but that did not go his way, so he relied on his striking for most of the second and third round. Green is an aggressive fighter and he succeeded when he made things ugly on the feet, but he showed a lack of fight IQ when he had Rowe hurt with leg kicks and then did everything but work on that damaged leg in the waning moments of the third round. Green won the fight, but he is very much a work in progress.