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UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns staff picks and predictions

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns.

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for what’s left of UFC 258, and most of us are picking Kamaru Usman to successfully defend his welterweight crown against former teammate Gilbert Burns. As for the co-main event, opinion is split on what is an evenly matched women’s flyweight battle between Maycee Barber and Alexa Grasso.

In case you missed the bad news, Bobby Green vs. Jim Miller is off so Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher is now on the main card.

Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns

Mookie Alexander: Well Zane pretty much outlined my own sentiments about this fight. Burns is a little more powerful than Usman as a striker but I’d also add that Usman’s chin is superior. Albeit at 155, Burns has been rocked and stopped before so Usman hurting Burns isn’t inconceivable. Then there’s the fact that Burns’ takedown defense isn’t impenetrable (and he likely doesn’t mind) and Usman’s top pressure will likely wipe out Gilbert’s ability to get out of bad positions on the mat. Kamaru’s cardio is also unbelievably good and he’ll likely be pressuring Burns all night. There are just too many roadblocks for Burns for me to believe he’ll have a really serious shot to win this. He can be competitive in spurts but if he gets worn down then that slim hope is out the door. Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Usman has two big advantages I just can’t overlook: pace & wrestling. I’ve never seen Burns have to fight at the kind of output levels that Usman has shown himself fully capable of putting together over 5 rounds. And if he doesn’t want the fight to go that way, then he’s going to have to handle Usman’s wrestling. Burns isn’t a bad wrestler, but I don’t think depending on takedowns is going to be a winning approach. The big ace up Burns’ sleeve is his power. He’s definitely a functional power striker in a way that someone like Covington just wasn’t, but Usman has proven to be insanely tough over the years. So I’ve got to assume he survives. And if I assume that, I gotta assume he wins too. Kamaru Usman by decision.

Staff picking Usman: Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Mookie
Staff picking Burns: Lewis, Harry

Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso

Mookie Alexander: This really comes down to Grasso’s ability to handle Barber’s takedowns and athleticism. A consistent issue for Grasso is getting taken down and outworked by superior athletes. If it happens against Barber then the fight is over and she’ll either get TKO’d by ground-and-pound or lose a decision. If that doesn’t hold up and she can stick-and-move, stop takedowns and outbox Barber with her accurate and fast punches then she should get the nod. Barber has the higher upside but she’s also incredibly raw and that got exposed in the Roxanne Modafferi fight. Tougher call than I initially thought but I lean Alexa Grasso by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: There’s no question that Grasso’s boxing form, speed, and consistency could all present huge challenges for Barber. Barber’s standup, to date, is still extremely raw and based largely on her power and aggression to see her through rough spots. Still, I just don’t like what I’ve seen from Grasso when it comes to necessary athleticism. Carla Esparza has a more technical shot, but she didn’t have much trouble scooping Grasso up off her feet and dumping her early in their fight. And Ji Yeon Kim gave Grasso a shockingly tough time just by being persistent and willing to keep throwing with her. All told, Barber’s ability to phase shift, bully in the clinch, and just wing power shots at Grasso has me feeling she’ll come out ahead for damage done and control maintained. Maycee Barber by decision.

Staff picking Barber: Zane, Lewis, Harry
Staff picking Grasso: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ian Heinisch

Mookie Alexander: Blech. This could be an ugly fight. Heinisch really doesn’t excel in any given area for me to think Gastelum loses to him but also almost all of Gastelum’s wins for about six years have come against ancient opposition. This would legit be his first win over someone who isn’t at least 115 years old since Nico Musoke in 2014. Gastelum probably boxes Heinisch up but doesn’t stop him. Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: When Heinisch can’t get takedowns and win scrambling battles he tends to lose. Gastelum can be defensively lax just about anywhere, but he’s a very difficult fighter to get off his feet or hold down. And standing, even his reliance on a long 1-2 is more variety than Heinisch tends toward. Kelvin Gastelum by decision.

Staff picking Gastelum: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Lewis, Harry
Staff picking Heinisch:

Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher

Mookie Alexander: I give Kelleher a better shot than most and I see Dayne picked him outright. He’s the better finishing threat but Simon’s ridiculously fast pace and ability to scramble so effectively may turn a lot of Kelleher’s aggressive submission hunting against him. Ricky Simon by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Given that Simon isn’t a great finisher, Kelleher has the chance to be a live dog in this fight. After all, it’s not like Simon has never been finished before, and Kelleher has some stopping power and a couple wicked go to submissions. Still, Simon is obviously tough, and puts together one hell of a wrestling attack, and Kelleher tends to struggle when he’s not the better athlete, or much more experienced vet. He’s got neither of those things as clear edges here. Ricky Simon by decision.

Staff picking Simon: Stephie, Mookie, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Kelleher: Dayne

Julian Marquez vs. Maki Pitolo

Mookie Alexander: This is probably going to be a fun brawl and it’s a matter of who buckles first. I think it’ll be Pitolo. Honestly I don’t get why this is one the main card other than the preference for Contender Series alums to get more spotlight. Julian Marquez by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: I’ve just seen Pitolo lose too many ways for too many different reasons at this point. Marquez’s game is wild and messy, but he seems like a determined brawler at all times. I’ve seen Pitolo out-boxed, out-wrestled, out-cardioed, and out-aggressioned. Even if I haven’t seen a lot of nuance in what Marquez is doing, I think his confidence in his own wild offense will keep him going. Julian Marquez via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Marquez: Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Pitolo: Stephie

Rodolfo Vieira vs. Anthony Hernandez

Mookie Alexander: Yeah basically unless Hernandez knocks Vieira out he’s going to throw himself right into Vieira’s wheelhouse and get strangled. Rodolfo Vieira by submission, round 1.

Zane Simon: Pretty much all of Hernandez’s offense runs through his clinch game. Can’t see him tying up with Vieira over and over again and winning. Rodolfo Vieira via submission, round 1.

Staff picking Vieira: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Harry
Staff picking Hernandez:

Dhiego Lima vs. Belal Muhammad

Zane Simon: Lima’s composure and consistency have improved a ton over his second UFC stint. That said, he’s still just not a very aggressive, high output fighter. Muhammad can through himself into danger a bit recklessly sometimes, but for the most part, we’ve seen him consistently out-work opponents using a great variety of skills and approaches. He’s here to throw volume and mix it up as he needs to. And I’m not convinced Lima has a good answer for that. Belal Muhammad by decision.

Staff picking Lima:
Staff picking Muhammad: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Harry

Mallory Martin vs. Polyana Viana

Zane Simon: I guess Martin is the smart pick here, but she really doesn’t create enough offense, whether it’s regular takedown attempts or a consistent pressure striking game, for my liking. Still, Viana’s game is strung together with a series of high risk, low reward tools that are made to give up control to her opponents. Martin may not always push the pace, but she does well to fight in an even, considered style. That’s probably enough to get this win. Mallory Martin via decision.

Staff picking Martin: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Viana: Harry

Gabriel Green vs. Phillip Rowe

Zane Simon: Green’s style is pretty herky jerky and puts him in the line of a lot of return fire, but I just don’t think Rowe’s game is deep enough beyond some inconsistent range striking. And he’s mostly only fought the bottom of the barrel to get his experience. Green is a hard-scrapping, tough out. And until I see more consistent defense and control from Rowe, I think Green can ride out some early bad spots to work his way to an ugly decision win. Gabriel Green by decision.

Staff picking Green: Zane
Staff picking Rowe: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Harry

Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick

Zane Simon: Robertson has a hell of a good shot as an aggressive submission artist. But she still doesn’t look at all like a comfortable, confident striker. And, when she’s had to work off her back all fight, she hasn’t been able to dependably make things happen from guard. Maverick is still a bit raw in her game, but she’s powerful and a consistent wrestle boxer working on some decent form. Seems like the right recipe to take a win off Robertson. Miranda Maverick by decision.

Staff picking Robertson:
Staff picking Maverick: Stephie, Dayne, Mookie, Zane, Harry

Andre Ewell vs. Chris Gutierrez

Zane Simon: Ewell should get his fight in bursts since Gutierrez also likes to sit out at kicking range and Ewell’s prodigious length is his best tool. That said, Gutierrez is the more capable in-fighter, and likely better wrestler and grappler, and he’s a fearsome kicker, which Ewell’s boxing heavy game isn’t made to defend. Just too narrow a margin of victory for me to pick Ewell to stay in his lane for 15 minutes solid. Chris Gutierrez by decision.

Staff picking Ewell: Dayne, Harry
Staff picking Gutierrez: Stephie, Mookie, Zane

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