Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns UFC 251 Predictions & Tips

Leigh Copson:

Kamaru Usman makes his second defence of the welterweight title when the UFC continues its stay on ‘Fight Island’ on July 11, but will it be another successful outing for ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ when he takes on Gilbert Burns?


Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns: Where Is UFC 251 Being Held?

Is ‘Fight Island’ a real thing? If so, what is ‘Fight Island’? And of course, where is ‘Fight Island’? All of those questions have now been answered as the UFC heads to its new home away from home in July.

UFC 251 will kick off a run of four straight events on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, with three Fight Night cards following up a stacked UFC 251 event that features three title fights and is headlined by the welterweight showdown between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns.

Road To UFC 251: Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns

2019 could not have gone much better for Kamaru Usman as he completed his ascent to the top of the UFC welterweight division and then put an outspoken rival in his place. Usman had earned his crack at the 170lb title by embarking on a nine-fight win streak inside the Otcagon, and he did not need a second chance as he dominated Tyron Woodley for five rounds en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory. It was impressive stuff from ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ and it set up a showdown with loudmouth interim champion Colby Covington last December.

The two men produced a thrilling contest that saw them go toe-to-toe for almost 25 minutes, but Usman ensured the judges would not be needed to determine the winner when he sent Covington crashing to the canvas and followed up with a flurry of strikes on the ground to force the referee to step in. Not only had he successfully defended his crown against the number one contender, Usman had also managed to break the jaw of a man many fight fans wish would just shut up for once.

Usman had now put together two of the biggest wins of his career to cement his place atop the welterweight division, but there are many challengers lining up to challenge the champion and the first man up will Gilbert Burns, who takes the fight just weeks after he dominated former champion Tyron Woodley in a five-round affair at the UFC APEX.

The Brazilian has been propelled to the number one spot in the wake of his success against Woodley, and it would not be unfair to say that his title shot is more down to timing than anything. Travel issues made it difficult for British-based Leon Edwards to agree to a bout, while UFC president Dana White has claimed that the promotion is working on “something else interesting” for the man who won the BMF ‘title’ Jorge Masvidal last year. Burns is not complaining though – he now has the opportunity to dethrone a close friend and team-mate to become welterweight champion of the world.

Burns goes into the fight as one of the fastest rising stars in the 170lb division. ‘Durinho’ made the move back to welterweight last summer after an underwhelming run at lightweight, and he has been on a tear since then, besting Alexey Kunchenko over three rounds before claiming his first notable scalp by beating Gunnar Nelson via decision a month later. He then topped that victory in March of this year as he stopped long-time welterweight and middleweight contender Demian Maia in only 154 seconds on the Brazilian’s home soil, and the big-name scalps kept coming in May when he got the better of ex-title-holder Woodley to cement his status as a major player in the division.

But can Burns keep this red-hot run going to claim the biggest victory of his professional mixed martial arts career so far, or will Usman fend off the Brazilian’s challenge to cement his status as the UFC’s premier fighter in the welterweight division. Read on for our free Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns predictions and tips as the UFC gets set to head to ‘Fight Island’ on July 11…

Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns UFC 251 Predictions & Tips

As soon as this fight was announced there was one big question – how will training camp play out? These two men have been team-mates for several years so somebody had to make a move as preparations for UFC 251 got underway, and somewhat surprisingly it is not the challenger who has left Sanford MMA. Instead it is the champion heading to pastures new.

Usman has decided on a change of trainer for this fight, linking up with Trevor Wittman, and while this will be the first time that he has trained outside of Florida, it must be pointed out that Usman is no stranger to switching up his corner, having worked with a number of coaches over the years to develop his all-round game. Therefore this change is unlikely to knock him off his stride – in fact, he has admitted he would have probably shook things up in the near feature even if he had not been paired with a team-mate. Burns, on the other hand, could be affected despite staying put in Florida. The challenger will be preparing for this bout without coach Henri Hooft, who decided to remove himself from the fight completely because he did not want to ‘pick a side’. So if you are scoring this ‘round’ you would have to consider it 10-9 to Usman. But what about the fight itself?

I cannot help but think that Burns may have been thrust into this position too soon. The 33-year-old Brazilian is undoubtedly a very talented fighter and he is on a tear right now thanks to a six-fight win streak that includes a first-round stoppage of Demian Maia and a five-round domination of former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. However, those notable successes have come against fighters who are past their peak and in Usman he is facing a man who is in his prime right now. The 33-year-old ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ goes into this fight having silenced Colby Covington in brutal fashion last time out to extend his win streak to 15 fights and he can make it 16-in-a-row here.

Usman is a big, strong welterweight who knows how to use his physical attributes to their fullest. He has the takedown skills to get this to the mat if he chooses and despite the threat of Burns’ BJJ, he has the strength and wrestling skills to smother the challenger and prevent him from staging many submission attempts. And in the stand-up, Usman boasts a sizeable reach advantage that will allow him to work at range and pick apart Burns, who is not renowned for his striking skills and threat despite his quickfire win over Maia in March. Everything points to Usman being able to control this contest and while Burns will pose a threat, it will be a threat that the champion extinguishes.

The question is will this go five rounds? I believe it will. While Usman did stop Covington back in December that fight was just 50 seconds away from going the distance, and if you look over his last 10 fights the champion has gone to a decision on eight occasions. In fact, he has just three stoppage wins on his record since arriving in the UFC five years ago, so backing Usman to win with the aid of the judges’ scorecards is the way to go here.