Here is what we can take away following UFC 258.
While there were plenty of other competitors at the event, the focus of UFC 258 revolved entirely around two men, former teammates Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns, as they battled over the UFC welterweight championship.
It was a hard-hitting bout for as long as it lasted. Burns troubled Usman very early on in the first, but the defending champ battled back, eventually scoring a third-round TKO to retain the title for the third time.
The co-main event saw Alexa Grasso spoil the return of young contender Maycee Barber, Kelvin Gastelum get back in the win column and big comeback submission victories by the returning Julian Marquez and Anthony Hernandez.
Here’s what we can take away from this night of action.
Three things we have learned following the conclusion of UFC 258
1. Kamaru Usman shouldn’t be considered a welterweight star…he should be considered one of the best UFC welterweight champions ever
Perhaps the biggest question heading out of UFC 258 and into the future is where does Usman rank among the welterweight greats? UFC President Dana White feels that Usman needs to be in the G.O.A.T. conversation already alongside Georges St Pierre. Some in the MMA community feel that the G.O.A.T. title is passed around too quickly, and this is just another example of that. Even entering the fight against Burns, there’s been a debate on Usman’s star status. Some considered him a great champion; others considered him a boring one.
Maybe it is too early for Usman to usurp GSP as the G.O.A.T. UFC welterweight, but after this fight with Burns, Usman deserves to be in the conversation of the best 170-pound champions in UFC history.
Sure, Usman may only have three title defenses thus far in his two-year reign, but consider the nature of his time in the title picture — dominating Tyron Woodley to win the title, an epic war with Colby Covington that ended in a finish, a one-sided victory over Jorge Masvidal and now the hard-hitting Burns bout. Three title defenses with two exciting finishes.
Sure you can attack Usman for the nature of his win over Masvidal, but he won nearly, if not, every round. And credit where credit’s due, Usman is willing to fight Masvidal again for the chance at a finish.
And while Usman hasn’t had as long a title reign as GSP, keep in mind how long Usman has been in the UFC already. He’s a perfect 13-0 in the Octagon since winning The Ultimate Fighter season 21, running through competition like Leon Edwards, Warlley Alves, Sean Strickland, Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos, before dominating Woodley as no one had before.
Maybe it’s not fair to compare the level of competition faced considering Usman competed at a different time than GSP and Matt Hughes. But considering the length of Usman’s title reign already and the circumstances around his win streak and title reign thus far, Usman deserves to be in the conversation of divisional greats alongside those two.
Right now, the ultimate question should be: Who can defeat Usman?
2. Gilbert Burns has nothing to be ashamed about in loss
While Usman was able to have the welterweight belt strapped around his waist at the end of the night, Burns was left heartbroken. With Burns highly emotional and tears flowing in the middle of the Octagon, Usman, his friend and former teammate, called it a heartbreaking scene and consoled him after the fight.
And to Burns’ credit, he took the loss like a champ and faced the media at the post-fight press conference. He gave all the credit in the world to Usman and said he himself had failed.
But even in defeat, Burns should be able to hold his head high. Yes, he ultimately lost. Yes, this isn’t a sport where everyone gets a participation trophy. But consider Burns’ path towards the title shot and his performance in the fight.
Burns seemed to be stuck at lightweight and, after a pair of wins to rebound from a knockout loss to Dan Hooker, moved up to welterweight in 2019. Wins over Alexey Kunchenko and Gunnar Nelson helped gain him some momentum before raising his star with a big first-round finish of Demian Maia. His own domination of Woodley, the former champ, solidified Burns as belonging in the welterweight title picture.
And in the opening seconds of the title fight at UFC 258, Burns clipped Usman, briefly stunning him. Briefly, it looked like he could shock Usman. But Usman, to his credit, rebounded and gained control.
This isn’t Burns’ end though. He’s still one of the best fighters at the 170-pound weight class, and with a few victories strung together in the immediate aftermath, perhaps he can get a second crack at the gold.
3. At flyweight, Alexa Grasso seems to finally breaking through
During his post-fight press conference, White reflected on when Grasso was first brought into the UFC, claiming they believed she would be the “Mexican Ronda Rousey.” And while it was a shaky start for Grasso, it seemed she’s finally starting to find her stride, especially now that she’s at flyweight.
A lot of focus in the wake of her win over Barber is that Barber is still young and has plenty of time. But credit needs to be given where it’s due to Grasso — she put on a solid, all-around performance and should certainly make a jump in the ranks at women’s 125.
Grasso had always been a skilled striker, but against Barber, she showcased some nice improvements in her grappling as well, admitting after the fight she had been working on such and hoped to show herself as not just a striker.
After an unbeaten run to start her career, including a 4-0 run in Invicta, Grasso experienced ups-and-downs upon her arrival in the UFC. She’d score wins over the likes of Heather Jo Clark, Randa Markos and Karolina Kowalkiewicz but came up short against Felice Herrig, Tatiana Suarez and Carla Esparza. Those aren’t too bad of losses, and plenty feel Grasso deserved the nod against Esparza, but she wasn’t able to string together success — let alone consecutive wins or losses at all at strawweight.
Grasso made her flyweight debut in August with her win over Ji Yeon Kim, but this win over Grasso definitely is a great mark in her resume. Now, perhaps Grasso can take the next step against a top-10 flyweight in her next fight.