MMA Ratings Podcast

June 13, 2020

UFC 251: Gilbert Burns, Poster Boy of the Coronavirus Era, Lines Up Kamaru Usman Title Shot

By Adam Martin

The UFC made it official this week when the organization announced that Gilbert Burns will get the next shot at UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. Burns and Usman will lock horns in the main event of UFC 251, taking place on July 11 at Yas Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The title shot was widely expected to go to Jorge Masvidal, but when the promotion got involved in a nasty, public, contract dispute with "Gamebred," the promotion switched its focus to Burns. And now, the Brazilian will step in to fight for the belt against Usman a month from now.

Let's get one important thing out of the way first -- admitting that Masvidal not getting the title shot against Usman is obviously disappointing. Masvidal had a year for the ages in 2019, defeating Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz via stoppage as he won "Fighter of the Year." It was an amazing year for Masvidal and most expected that he would earn a title shot against Usman from it. For the last few months, all the talk was about when the UFC would get Usman and Masvidal into the cage against one another. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the fight was put on the back burner. That changed everything, and now this fight is not happening at all.

In the last few months, we have seen several of the UFC's biggest stars -- including Jon Jones, Henry Cejudo and Masvidal -- have public contract squabbles with the UFC. The fighters are all looking to get a bigger piece of the pie, and fighters like Masvidal are sticking to their guns when it comes to their contract demands. Masvidal felt like the UFC was going to underpay him to fight Usman for the belt. Instead of accepting a contract that he felt was below market value, Masvidal defied the UFC. Instead of giving Masvidal what he wanted, the UFC moved on to Burns.

Yet despite the fact that Masvidal not getting the title shot against Usman is disappointing considering how exciting that fight looked on paper, fans cannot ask for a better replacement opponent than Burns, who now finds himself a position to fight for a title, something that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. Burns is the big winner here after Masvidal couldn't come to terms with the UFC. He has made the most of the opportunities given to him, and now he will get an amazing payoff for all of his success when he leapfrogs over all the other contenders and gets the shot against Usman.

For Burns, what he's done in the last 10 months since moving up to welterweight is absolutely incredible, not to mention completely unexpected. Last summer, Burns decided he was done cutting weight to make 155 lbs and moved up to 170. In his first fight at the weight class, he defeated the previously-undefeated Alexey Kunchneko by decision. He then stepped up in competition and defeated Gunnar Nelson via decision. Both were fantastic performances and pushed Burns into the bottom end of the Top 15 of the stacked UFC welterweight division.

The UFC then booked Burns against Demian Maia, and he became the first man in over a decade to knock Maia out when he finished him in the first round at UFC Brasilia. When Leon Edwards lost his chance to fight Tyron Woodley due to coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions, Burns stepped up on short notice to fight Woodley, the #1 contender in the division. In a career-best performance, Burns picked up a decision win over Woodley at UFC Las Vegas to jump to the top of the rankings. When the fight against Usman became available, Burns jumped all over another short-notice opportunity.

When you talk about Burns, you have to look at him as the poster boy of the UFC's "Coronavirus Pandemic Era." He has already fought twice with no fans in attendance against Maia and Woodley, and now he will become the first fighter to do so three times when he takes on Usman. Burns has repeatedly taken on short-notice opportunities offered to him and has made the most of it. He has truly been someone who will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime, and it's about to pay off for him when he gets his title shot against Usman. Burns truly deserves everything positive that has come to his way.

We're all disappointed that the Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal fight fell apart, but you can honestly not ask for a better replacement than Gilbert Burns. He has done everything he can to put himself in a position to fight for the belt and he has truly earned the opportunity. It's amazing what Burns has accomplished in less than one year since moving up to welterweight, and he is being rewarded handsomely for all of his success. UFC President Dana White often says that he loves fighters who stay active, and no one has been more active than Burns. He's earned this title shot, now let's see what he does with it.

UFC 251
Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns (UFC Welterweight Championship)

UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns was due to take place June 6, 2020 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled/relocated to July 11, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 251 Pre-Fight Analysis

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