Two huge storylines cover the most important matches at UFC 258. The first is the main event, where Kamaru Usman will look to run his winning streak up to 17 with his third title defense against Gilbert Burns. The second, and perhaps more compelling, is the return of Maycee Barber from the torn ACL that she suffered in her first career loss against Roxanne Modafferi.
There are 12 fights in total on the UFC 258 card at the Apex Training Facility in Las Vegas on Saturday February 13, but the main event and the lead-in to the main event are dominating the headlines and deservedly so.
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Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns
In the main event, Usman is -278 to retain his Welterweight Championship against Burns. You’ll get +220 on the underdog Burns, unless, of course, you are a first-time depositor at DraftKings and live in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, or Michigan. Then you can get +10000 on the fighter of your choice.
This is the fight with the top billing on the pay-per-view card, but it projects to be another clinic and a fairly easy win for Usman. While Burns is an excellent fighter in his own right, Usman’s 76-inch reach is such a weapon for him. He doesn’t have to win by knockout like a lot of guys do. He simply controls bouts with his elite fight IQ and that length. Fighters can’t get inside on him to inflict enough punishment to impress the judges.
He’s also a terrific grappler and wrestler. He’s the total package as a welterweight. Burns is a good fighter and has proven to be a strong competitor on the ground, but getting Usman to the canvas consistently is not something that fighters have been able to do.
This isn’t like when Burns fought 38-year-old Tyron Woodley, a shorter fighter clearly on the backside of his career. This isn’t like when Burns fought Demian Maia and knocked out the then 42-year-old. Usman is fast. He’s got good quick-twitch reactions. He doesn’t get hit often.
Usman is just a matchup nightmare for virtually everybody and that includes Burns. As big as the -278 price looks, it may not be high enough.
Maycee Barber vs. Alexa Grasso
This is the more interesting fight of the night. The meteoric rise of Maycee Barber was stopped because she torn her ACL and her knee gave out against Roxanne Modafferi. The Modafferi fight was to be a good learning experience for Barber, as she was taking on a very experienced competitor with a lot of cage IQ. It would be good for Barber to be challenged and she was challenged in the fight, just not in the way that anybody expected.
She’s back after 13 months of rehab and then a fight camp. If Barber was 9-0 going into this fight and not coming off of a major injury, she would be favored. Because there are questions about whether or not she will be fully there mentally or physically, it is Alexa Grasso that is a -137 favorite. You’ll get +110 on Barber.
Grasso has lost to the two best fighters she has faced in Tatiana Suarez and Carla Esparza. In my mind, Barber’s biggest opponent in this fight is herself. That isn’t to take anything away from Grasso, who is a quality young fighter in her own right, but she’s just 4-3 in the UFC after padding her record on the way up.
When I look at this fight, I expect Grasso to probably try and attack that knee early and often. If she gets tunnel vision about it and Barber is able to stay away or withstand the punishment, that one-track mind is going to ultimately be the deciding factor.
Barber and Barber in impressive fashion is the way I would look here.
A lot of people are likely looking forward to Ian Heinisch vs. Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is the -225 favorite with +175 on the comeback with Heinisch. This could be a good fight, especially because Gastelum is in dire need of a win after three straight defeats. I just don’t love it from a betting standpoint.
Gastelum hasn’t been trustworthy and Heinisch’s recent wins over Gerald Meerschaert and Antonio Carlos Junior don’t inspire confidence. Meerschaert has struggled and Carlos Junior was just released by UFC. Not a great betting matchup in my opinion.
One underdog on the card of interest is Jim Miller. His opponent, Bobby Green, has gone to nine straight decisions. Miller at least has multiple paths to victory in this one. While Green could hold up as the -278 favorite, taking a stab at Miller +215 makes some sense here. Miller has the ability to win by submission and also win by decision if he can sustain top control. Green’s only path to victory appears to be a favorable decision by the judges.