Burns had tears and blood running down his face. Some of their cornermen behind them were trying not to shout.
Usman stopped Burns, his former teammate, through TKO at 34 minutes of the next round to defend his UFC welterweight title in the main event of UFC 258 in vegas.
Usman landed a right hand as he was shifting stances to floor Burns, then slammed Burns with punches on the ground until referee Herb Dean pulled off him.
“Gilbert is a man that I’ve known from the beginning,” Usman said in his postfight interview. “I love him. This one was tough for me to deal with.”
Usman picked up his 13th straight win, surpassing legend Georges St-Pierre for the most consecutive wins in UFC welterweight history. Only Anderson Silva has gained more than 13 direct fights in UFC history, winning 16 in a row from 2006 to 2012. Usman is tied to six other fighters with 13 consecutive wins.
Usman and Burns were teammates at South Florida since 2012, first with all the Blackzilians and most recently with Sanford MMA. Usman left for Colorado to train under coach Trevor Wittman last year after the initial struggle with Burns was scheduled for July. However, Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from this bout. Henri Hooft, the longtime head coach for both Usman and Burns, didn’t corner man and said he would not even watch the fight.
Usman said he”almost started bawling” if the 2 fighters embraced in the Octagon following the struggle.
“I know what that reduction feels like,” he said. “I have a reduction on my record. I am not perfect. I know what that felt like. I knew how bad that he wanted this. … Having to be the one to do that to himit almost broke me .”
The bout had major implications outside the personal narrative. Coming in, ESPN had Usman rated No. 5 in the world in its own pound-for-pound MMA ranks. In the welterweight division, ESPN has Usman ranked No. 1 and Burns in No. 5.
Burns rocked Usman two early with huge right hands. However, Usman hung in through a tumultuous first around. Then he took over at the next, working a gorgeous jab and stymieing Burns’ power and explosiveness. Usman’s striking looked better than ever, as he switched stances and got with power from every one.
In the next round, Usman fell Burns twice, the next time using a jab. In the third, it was a right hand that resembled a jab that put Burns on his ass until Usman pounced and finished on the floor.
Usman outlanded Burns 83-45 in significant strikes, per UFC Stats.
“Y’all, everyone else, you better put some f–ing respect in my name. … I am here to stay.”
Burns said that he made a”error” trying to complete Usman in the opening round.
“I understand I can end any one of those men. But in order to become a champion, I must be disciplined,” Burns said. “I saw that he was hurt. I sort of started loading so much [on my punches]. The trick for me was to keep doing exactly what I was doing. Stay light on my feet. … Me, I was overexcited. He remained disciplined. That is what happened.”
UFC 258 was held with COVID-19 protocols in place at the UFC Apex, a centre across in the UFC’s Las Vegas corporate campus. It had been the promotion’s first national pay-per-view card of this year.
Usman (18-1) has been champion since hammering Tyron Woodley in UFC 235 in March 2019. The Nigeria native, who grew up in Texas, hasn’t lost at the UFC.
“The guy’s got the whole thing. It’s only, when are folks gont notice?”
For the folks who know, for those that actually know about fighting, they understand this triumph tonight was a huge deal.”
Usman, 33, was coming off a unanimous-decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 past July. Usman said that”it is not done” with Masvidal.
“He keeps running his mouth” Usman said. “If he is gonna speak, step in here and see me.”
White said Usman has”a lot of alternatives,” but when Usman and Masvidal wish to struggle — and if the fans are interested — White said the advertising would consider it.
“If you look at all of the men who are lined up he must fight next, and he keeps doing what he is doing, we’re gonna all of pop up our minds one day and we’re gonna begin speaking GOAT,” White stated. “It’s not just how you are fighting and if you are winning, it is who you are fighting, too.”
Masvidal’s co-manager Malki Kawa wrote Saturday night on Twitter that Masvidal wants to coach opposite Usman on the next season of”The Ultimate Fighter.”
Burns (19-4) had won six in a row coming in, the latest a unanimous-decision triumph over Woodley last May. The Brazil native is 4-1 since moving up to welterweight from lightweight in 2019.
“I am the varsity guy,” Usman said. “My combat IQ differs. It is different when you’re at the gym . However, when you get in here, it is a different ballgame. I am a whole’nother barbarous”