Despite being a PPV event, UFC 258 is a one-fight card – albeit a very intriguing one.
Headlined by a welterweight title fight between cardio-machines Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns, the former Sanford MMA teammates will look to do the heavy-lifting for the buzz around this card as there is little else to speak of.
Outside of a middleweight bout between Kelvin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch, the rest of the main card sees little in the way of major importance although Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher promises to be a fast-paced scrap.
Kamaru Usman (17-1) vs. Gilbert Burns (19-3)
Since moving up to welterweight, Burns’ has developed into a big explosive hitter while retaining his speed, a massively important factor for him to win here.
While he operates at a high-pace thanks to his pressure, Usman’s output is otherwordly and so I struggle seeing him dictating this fight through offence. In terms of a finishing threat however, I do think Burns’ has the edge there.
With brilliant jiu-jitsu and staggering power in his hands, I believe Burns will be content with Usman’s wrestling as long as it’s in the middle of the mat and will have to rely on bursts of exchanges on the feet.
Ultimately though, I think Usman’s intelligence inside the octagon at the elite level will keep him on top for a fair few years to come. He knows where he can best his opponents and he sticks to that tried and tested formula. With a familiarity with Burns’ game, I believe Usman gets the job done on the scorecards through control via his cardio.
Pick: Kamaru Usman
Maycee Barber (8-1) vs. Alexa Grasso (12-3)
Barber will likely hold the advantage when it comes to athleticism but after a devastating knee injury, that recovery will be the x-factor in this fight.
While Barber has proved to be raw when it comes to technique, her aggression on the feet and power has allowed her to negate any deficiencies in skill.
Grasso meanwhile has slick boxing which is boosted by her hand speed and footwork.
This is a tough fight to pick as Grasso has allowed herself to be bullied across the cage and Barber is certainly capable of that with her aggression.
After such a long layoff though, I think it’ll be a tough ask to immediately get up to speed and so I believe Grasso can stick and move for long enough to get the win.
Pick: Alexa Grasso
Kelvin Gastelum (16-6, 1 NC) vs. Ian Heinisch (14-3)
A Gastelum on form should be winning this fight quite handily but there are big questions to be asked over his professionalism.
He did not look in great shape on the scales and Heinisch is a hard-working fighter inside the octagon. While he doesn’t particularly stand out in any area, he will battle for scrambles and if Gastelum isn’t on it, his normally solid takedown defence could be his downfall.
On the feet, Gastelum’s speed and power are big advantages over most at 185 lbs but I think his gas tank might not hold out if Heinisch pressures him as he can do.
It’s a toss-up due to Gastelum’s unquestionable ability but if he’s not working hard then I think Heinisch will get the better of him.
Pick: Ian Heinisch
Ricky Simon (17-3) vs. Brian Kelleher (22-11)
Both Simon and Kelleher want to push the pace and so I’d expect these two to pick up the ‘Fight of the Night’ award.
While Kelleher is a bigger threat when it comes to securing a stoppage, I think Simon’s ability to level change is a big factor in this fight and should deter Kelleher from getting comfortable at any point.
Kelleher will likely be buoyed by Simon’s lack of defensive nous but with the ability to change the fight’s axis, I think Simon will do enough for the judges’.
Pick: Ricky Simon
Maki Pitolo (13-7) vs. Julian Marquez (7-2)
I’d expect this to be a quick brawl and with Pitolo’s record, I think Marquez will be the last man standing.
Marquez has gained better results with his skillset and while Pitolo can definitely crack, Marquez has simply shown more as a well-rounded fighter in their respective UFC careers.
Pick: Julian Marquez
(Last Predictions: 1/5, Total: 9/21, 43% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%)