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Event: UFC 258 (Feb. 13th)
Bet: 5 units @ -240 Kamaru Usman to win versus Gilbert Burns
The implied odds I made for this fight are -400/80% Kamaru Usman to win.
I love both these fighters in general, but this is a very favorable stylistic matchup for Usman, as we’ll discuss. He has many more clear paths to victory as well as many other factors going in his favor.
Favor Usman here. He holds a 5-inch reach advantage, is the superior technical striker, has the ability to switch stances, and has a much higher striking volume. Burns has fast, powerful hands, an excellent low kick, and proficient countering ability, so he can certainly have moments but favor Usman in the aggregate of the striking exchanges.
This has the potential to be very dominant in favor of Usman.
Usman is a significantly better clinch fighter. Usman controlled Woodley in the clinch for several minutes and did not surrender a single second of clinch control. In contrast, Woodley was able to win some clinch exchanges against Burns and earn control time. Also, Burns has been repeatedly controlled in the clinch by fighters who are not nearly as physical as Usman (i.e., Gunnar Nelson). Lastly, Usman will likely tax Burns’s cardio while earning points on the judges’ scorecards from his control here and the damage he inflicts (i.e., punches to the body, shoulder strikes, and foot stomps).
Usman is the higher pedigree wrestler, the more physical fighter, able to land several takedowns over the course of 25 minutes (i.e., landed 12 against RDA), and has been able to significantly outwrestle good MMA wrestlers (i.e., Rafael Dos Anjos). Also, Usman has 100% TDD per ufcstats.com, whereas Burns has 50% while being taken down by fighters who are inferior relative to Usman in wrestling (i.e., Maia, Prazeres, and Saggo).
Burns’s wrestling is still good overall (i.e., has a good level change, ability to chain wrestle, and trip takedown capability), but I favor Usman in the wrestling department overall. Usman may not wrestle persistently early, but as the fight progresses and as Burns gets tired, he can end up in top position. I trust Usman to stay out of danger from any guard subs as Usman is a BJJ Black Belt while being very strong in the top position.
This is the clear advantage I see for Burns as he is a much more threatening submission grappler. If he takes Usman’s back, he can maybe submit him, but it seems unlikely with him being at the wrestling disadvantage. He can maybe rock Usman with a punch and take his back, but that’s not something I put a lot of stock into prefight, and Usman shows good overall durability.
Favor Usman here. He’s never been knocked out nor knocked down in the UFC. Burns’s durability is fine and seemingly better at 170lbs but favoring Usman because Burns has been knocked out once while also being knocked down 4 times in the UFC per ufcstats.com.
Favor Usman here significantly. Usman has the best cardio in the weight class alongside Colby Covington, as they’ve each shown to fight at a very high pace via striking and wrestling over the course of a 5 round fight. Burns’s cardio is not bad, but we’ve seen him slow down and fight at a slow pace in the past (i.e., against Nelson, Woodley, and Kunchenko).
Favor Usman here. Usman is the most physical fighter in this weight class. He’s also a couple of inches taller than Burns and has not fought at 155lbs in the past while in the UFC, whereas Burns used to fight at 155lbs.
Wrestling wise we discussed this under ‘Wrestling,’ but the striking defense also favors Usman. Burns is wild at times and is more susceptible to counters of the two.
They both have big power in their hands. Burns has 4 knockdowns in the UFC. Usman has 5 knockdowns in the UFC. I don’t see a compelling advantage either way.
Favor Usman here. Statistically, he’s much more active (i.e., lands 4.5 significant strikes per minute, lands 3.38 takedowns per 15 minutes, and attempts more strikes & takedowns over the course of 15 and 25 minutes). Eye test wise Usman is always pushing the pace in all of his fights, whereas Burns needs many pauses, even while striking, to manage his cardio down the stretch (i.e., Woodley’s fight was low tempo while in open space).