UFC 258 is headlined by a welterweight title fight between former training partners Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. Usman and Burns were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 251 last July, but Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was pulled from the card. Usman instead grinded out a decision win over Jorge Masvidal, who took the fight on very short notice.
Notable DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds
- Kamaru Usman by Decision (+115)
- Kamaru Usman by KO, TKO or DQ (+225)
- Gilbert Burns by Decision (+550)
- Gilbert Burns by Submission (+700)
- Gilbert Burns by KO, TKO or DQ (+750)
- Kamaru Usman by Submission (+1800)
Usman enters as the favorite to win with a -278 moneyline on DraftKings Sportsbook. Usman’s best method to win is by grinding it out with clinch work, pressure and wrestling, and because Usman is the superior wrestler, he will likely dictate whether this fight stays standing or goes to the ground. Nine of Usman’s last 11 fights have been decision wins, and his general fighting style makes him more prone to going to decision. Usman has recorded octagon time in the fifth round in each of his last five fights, so there’s a good chance this fight will be lengthy if Usman is executing his game plan properly. Usman’s average fight time of 17:21 ranks fifth highest among all qualified UFC fighters.
Usman likes to get inside against his opponents to limit space, where he can work the head and body from the clinch with closer strikes that aren’t from distance. The video below from Usman’s last fight shows a good preview of what to expect from Usman—clinching and close-range strikes using hand traps and pressure.
In Usman’s fight against Tyron Woodley at UFC 235, he applied constant pressure throughout five rounds, cruising to a decision win. 58% of his significant strikes in the fight were body shots, many of which came from the clinch after Usman walked down Woodley and went to work from the inside.
Usman’s excellent wrestling makes him incredibly difficult to take down, and he has stopped a perfect 100% of opponent takedown attempts in his 12 UFC fights. Because of this, Usman practically never spends any time on his back, which allows him to keep attacking on offense. Usman’s bottom position time and bottom position percentage are both in the top three among all qualified UFC fighters since the metric began being tracked. Usman has spent a total of two seconds on his back in nearly an hour of octagon time, which is a remarkable statistic.
While Usman is excellent at using his wrestling to stay on the feet and work over his opponents with close-range strikes, he can also use his wrestling to generate takedowns. Usman has recorded as many as 12 takedowns in a fight and can take the fight to the mat if he sets his mind to it.
A significant note for this matchup is that Usman and Burns are former training partners who have sparred many rounds together. Despite being the underdog at +220, Burns’ familiarity with Usman could help close the gap. Burns likely knows Usman’s biggest strengths and weaknesses, and while this also works in Usman’s favor, there is recent history of a large favorite losing to a former training partner. Devonte Smith, who just fought on last week’s UFC card, closed as a titanic -1000 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook against former training partner Khama Worthy at UFC 241 but ended up getting knocked out in a stunning upset.
Burns has knockout power and excellent submissions, which gives him a realistic method to win. Burns most recently showcased his power by knocking out Demian Maia with a short left hook in March 2020, and he has also finished fights with brutal KOs that had his opponent totally out cold.
Burns is a high-level BJJ black belt who most notably won Worlds in 2011. Burns possesses a strong submission game and has had success finishing opponents in the UFC with submissions, recording three armbar finishes and one rear-naked choke finish. Burns’ BJJ and submission game gives him a weapon to attack from his back if he is taken down and put in the bottom position.
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Burns has a puncher’s chance on the feet and is a submission threat if the fight goes to the ground, but Usman’s superior wrestling and smothering clinch work will be difficult to overcome. The most likely outcome of this fight is Usman recording a lot of control time over the course of a 25-minute fight and winning a safe decision. This is reflected in the DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds, which pegs the most likely outcome of this fight as Usman via decision (+115). Usman’s clinch-heavy fighting style makes him prone to lengthy fights that are not finished, and nine of his last 11 fights have been decision wins.
If looking for an underdog bet that has a higher payout with an outside shot at cashing, Burns by KO, TKO or DQ (+750) is an option given his power combined with the tiny four ounce MMA gloves, which allow punches to sneak through defenses easier than traditional boxing gloves. Burns by submission (+700) is also an option given his high-level jiu jitsu.
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