This past weekend at UFC on ESPN 9, a veteran felt the wrath of the UFC’s new blood. Gilbert Burns ran circles around former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. It felt like a true changing of the guard moment.
According to UFC stats, Burns landed 76 significant strikes compared to Woodley’s 29. He also had 4:57 of ground control time compared to Woodley’s two seconds. A natural wrestler, Woodley’s lack of ground game was unorthodox, to say the least.
Where does Gilbert Burns (19-3) go from here? “Durinho” is on a six-fight win streak and is 4-0 since returning to welterweight for the first time since 2014. Primarily a lightweight, the 33-year-old has proven to be a dangerous fighter at 170 pounds. A multi-time medalist in the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, Burns will not stop until he gets a crack at championship gold. That includes facing a teammate of his who just happens to be the UFC Welterweight Champion.
With no official opponents in mind for him, Kamaru Usman appears to be wide open for the taking. The saying “strike while the iron is hot” has never felt more prominent as it does now. The next fight to make at welterweight is Usman defending the UFC Welterweight Title against Burns.
Let’s get something simple out of the way, shall we? Burns, who was ranked sixth in the UFC’s welterweight rankings last week, shot up to the top position, moving Woodley to number four in the rankings. If that is any indication, Burns would be a shoo-in for a title shot. Crazier things have happened, however.
N1 Contender! pic.twitter.com/G5RvlYTFfy
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) June 2, 2020
Originally, Usman was supposed to face off against Jorge Masvidal sometime in July. This came after the two brawled during Super Bowl media week. Everything was set for the UFC Welterweight Champion to face off against the BMF Champion. Recently, however, UFC President Dana White indicated that there were different plans in place for Masvidal. Early talks have him potentially fighting Conor McGregor or going through with a Nate Diaz rematch. That would take the number three ranked welterweight out of the equation.
Leon Edwards, ranked fifth, could end up facing Woodley again. The two were supposed to fight at UFC London before the card was postponed as a result of the coronavirus. That leaves Colby Covington, the number two ranked fighter, who lost to Usman for the title last year. He has shown interest in a rematch but would also take a Masvidal bout.
Meanwhile, Burns has the most to gain from a Usman fight. After his bout against Woodley, Burns discussed the possibility of facing his teammate, someone who he has been friends with for a long time.
“I don’t know – it’s going to be weird, but we’re both professionals,” Burns stated, via MMA Junkie. “I like the guy a lot. He motivated me a lot when he became champion and I saw him come from zero. And we always like to work together because I have the jiu-jitsu and he has the wrestling. So I don’t know. It will be weird, but I want to fight for the title and he’s the champion, and that’s the only reason I would call for this fight because else it wouldn’t make sense.”
Usman has not lost a fight since 2013. Winning The Ultimate Fighter 21 Welterweight Tournament in 2015, Usman showed from day one he was ready to take over. He won his next ten fights, including one against Demian Maia. It took an entire contest to take out the wrestler. Burns only needed one round, which could result in a competition between the two. After all, Maia is a very tough opponent whose career started in the early 2000s.
A jiu-jitsu specialist, a clash against a wrestler in Usman could very well be a bout that UFC President Dana White could only dream about. Burns has six wins via knockout and eight wins via submission. Usman has seven wins via knockout, with eight via decision. With an easy win for Burns over Woodley we could even see a “Fight Island” bout with Usman, something White has been looking to utilize since announcing the location.
“I want to go for the title next and I know (Jorge) Masvidal and all that craziness,” Burns went on to say. “But I told (UFC president) Dana (White) backstage I’m available for July. So if those guys keep being crazy, I want to fight for the title. If I don’t fight for the title, give me who’s available. If not Colby (Covington), give me Leon Edwards or whoever. I just want to stay busy.”
The timing could not be more perfect for the two to compete against one another. The only question is will the UFC pull the trigger on a matchup between two friends? After all, it’s just business.
Who do you think would win a bout between Usman and Burns?