Former two-time welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson is paying close attention to the upcoming championship fight between Kamaru Usman and No. 2-ranked contender Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
Thompson returned to the top five of the division this past December after he dominated Geoff Neal for five rounds in the main event of UFC Vegas 17. Now on a two-fight winning streak, Thompson knows he is in close range of another potential title shot in the near future, which is why he is particularly interested in what happens between Usman and Burns.
On a recent episode of the Weighing In Podcast hosted by Josh Thomson and John McCarthy, Thompson gave some insight as to how he sees the fight going. He praised both Usman and Burns for their fighting styles, but remained firm in his belief that the champion will still be in the hands of its current owner.
“I think this is going to be Kamaru Usman’s toughest fight, for sure,” said Thompson. “I mean this guy has got the ground, he’s a high-level jiu-jitsu practitioner, he’s got good striking — he’s been knocking dudes out. So, I think he’s the better well-rounded fighter he’s faced, even over Colby Covington. But Usman, on top of that, he’s an intelligent fighter. He’s got pressure and cardio for days. He’s got a gas tank like no other, but I do believe he can outwrestle Burns.
“I think he could wrestle him and neutralize his jiu-jitsu. His top game is really, really good, especially up against the fence. If he can get him pinned up against the fence where he’s able to control his opponent’s hips, I think he’s got it. But the thing is, getting in there. Burns’ striking is fast, man. That dude is explosive. He may not have the reach Kamaru does, but he’s explosive and you saw it against Tyron Woodley. He knocked him down, something I wasn’t able to do and I think I’m pretty fast.”
Although it is widely believed that Burns poses a different kind of threat to Usman, Thompson sees the champion overcoming that and picking up his third straight title defense.
“I think Kamaru Usman can do it,” said Thompson. “I like Kamaru Usman, I think he’s a great champ. I think he holds the title very well. So, I’m going for Usman, man. I think Usman’s got it.”
Since defeating Tyron Woodley for the championship at UFC 235 in 2019, Usman has successfully defended his title against Colby Covington at UFC 245 and Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251. The fight with Burns was supposed to take place at the aforementioned UFC 251, but was scrapped after Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and needed time to recover.
Burns earned his shot at the title after shutting down Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 9 in May 2020.
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