UFC 258: Stephen Thompson says Gilbert Burns is Kamaru Usman’s ‘toughest fight, for sure’

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Farah Hannoun
·2 min read
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On the cusp of another shot at gold, Stephen Thompson will have his eyes peeled when the welterweight title is put up for grabs on Feb. 13.

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (17-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC) will put his title on the line against the streaking Gilbert Burns (19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) in the main event of UFC 258, where the two teammates will battle it out to see who walks away with bragging rights, and the belt.

Undefeated in the UFC, Usman has been near flawless since joining the roster in 2015 and has already notched two successful title defenses against Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.

Thompson (16-4-1 MMA, 11-4-1 UFC) thinks Usman is about to face his biggest threat yet in Burns but says the champ’s wrestling will be the major factor in the fight.

“I think this is going to be Kamaru Usman’s toughest fight for sure,” Thompson told the “Weighing In” podcast. “I mean (Burns has) got the ground, he’s a high-level jiu-jitsu practitioner, he’s got good striking, he’s been knocking dudes out. So I think he’s the better well-rounded fighter he’s faced, even Colby Covington. But Usman, on top of that, he’s an intelligent fighter. He’s got pressure and cardio for days. He’s got a gas tank like no other, but I do believe he can outwrestle Burns.

“I think he could wrestle him and neutralize his jiu-jitsu. His top game is really, really good, especially up against the fence. If he can get him pinned up against the fence where he’s able to control his opponent’s hips, I think he’s got it. But the thing is, getting in there. Burns’ striking is fast. That dude’s explosive. He may not have the reach Kamaru does, but he’s explosive and you saw it against Tyron Woodley. He knocked him down, something I wasn’t able to do.”

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Despite the high praise towards Burns’ game, Thompson thinks the champion ultimately gets it done.

“I believe Kamaru Usman could do it,” Thompson said. “I like Kamaru Usman, I think he’s a great champ. I think he holds the title very well. I’m going for Usman, man. I think Usman’s got it.”

UFC 258 takes place Saturday, Feb. 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The event streams on pay-per-view on following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.