Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns were full of emotion while embracing in the middle of the Octagon on Saturday night. Burns had blood and tears running down his face. Some of their cornermen behind them were trying not to cry.
Usman stopped Burns, his former teammate, via TKO at 34 seconds in the third round to defend his UFC welterweight title in the main event of UFC 258 in Las Vegas.
Usman landed a right hand as he was switching stances to floor Burns, then slammed Burns with punches on the ground until referee Herb Dean pulled him off.
“Gilbert is a guy that I’ve known from the start,” Usman said in his postfight interview. “I love him. This one was tough for me to deal with.” Usman picked up his 13th consecutive win, surpassing legend Georges St-Pierre for the most consecutive victories in UFC welterweight history.
Only Anderson Silva has won more than 13 straight fights in UFC history, winning 16 in a row from 2006 to 2012.
Usman is tied with six other fighters with 13 consecutive wins.
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Usman and Burns were teammates in South Florida since 2012, first with the Blackzilians and most recently with Sanford MMA.
Usman departed for Colorado to train under coach Trevor Wittman last year after the initial fight with Burns was scheduled for July.
But Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from that bout. Henri Hooft, the longtime head coach for both Usman and Burns, did not corner either man and said he would not even watch the fight.
The fight had major implications outside of the personal story. Coming in, ESPN had Usman ranked No. 5 in the world in its pound-for-pound MMA rankings. In the welterweight division, ESPN has Usman ranked No. 1 and Burns at No. 5.
Burns rocked Usman twice early with huge right hands. But Usman hung in through a tumultuous first round. He then took over in the second, working a beautiful jab and stymieing Burns’ power and explosiveness. Usman’s striking looked better than ever, as he switched stances and landed with power from each one.
In the second round, Usman dropped Burns twice, the second time with a jab. In the third, it was a right hand that resembled a jab that put Burns on his butt before Usman pounced and finished on the ground.
Usman outlanded Burns 83-45 in significant strikes, per UFC Stats.
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