LAS VEGAS — Gilbert Burns was a good fighter when he was a lightweight in the UFC, but you’d have struggled to find anyone who would have pointed to him as a legitimate championship contender.
Since moving to welterweight, though, Burns has looked every bit the championship contender.
He was depleting himself trying to cut to 155 pounds, and while he was good enough to handle the rank-and-file lightweights, he wasn’t good enough to deal with the world-class fighters.
By moving to 170 pounds, his issues cutting weight have disappeared and his full range of skills is on display. He’s 4-0 since moving to welterweight for an Aug. 10, 2019, bout in Uruguay against Alexey Kunchenko.
Burns estimates he’s sparred 200 rounds with Usman, which is the equivalent of 40 main-event bouts.
The former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion is nonetheless a fairly significant underdog at BetMGM despite his recent success. BetMGM has Usman as a -275 favorite, while Burns is +225.
Each man is 4-0 in his last four fights, and each has one finish. Usman finished Colby Covington in the final round of a compelling title defense at UFC 245, while Burns knocked out Demian Maia on March 14 in the first UFC fight held without fans after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The fight figures to be a long one, and over 3.5 rounds is -185 at BetMGM. Given Usman’s wrestling, he’ll likely be able to defend Burns’ takedown attempts, which will turn it into a standup battle.
Usman has won 16 in a row since his only loss, a first-round submission to a rear naked choke in his second pro fight. He’s never been knocked out and he’s rarely been seriously buzzed.
Usman has proven he’s got the patience to play the long game during a fight, and he’s fought into the fifth round in his last five fights.
If Burns wins, it’s unlikely he’ll do it by knocking out Usman. Usman has a two-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage, and he knows how to use his jab to make attacking opponents respect him and not rush in.
If you like Burns, you can get him at +360 to win by KO/TKO, DQ or submission, which is a nice price for a jiu-jitsu player the caliber of Burns.
But given Usman’s defensive capabilities, I see this as a distance fight.
Thus, I will lay one unit on Usman to win at -275, and I’ll lay two units on the fight going the distance at -125. That means I’ll risk $525 with the potential of a $300 profit if Usman wins a decision.
Other UFC 258 betting plays
One unit on Julian Marquez to win by KO/TKO, DQ or submission over Maki Pitolo at +155.
One unit on Brian Kelleher at +225 to defeat Ricky Simon.
One unit on Ian Heinisch at +175 to defeat Kelvin Gastelum.
One unit on Mallory Martin at -165 to defeat Polyana Viana.
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