Heavyweight Takes: Path to Victory at UFC 258

In the main event of the evening, we have two former teammates turned foes set to face off Saturday night on the UFC’s second PPV of the year. The current Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman, looks to remain champion. His opponent, Gilbert Burns, aims to taste championship gold for the first time. In the co-main event we have a rising prospect in Maycee Barber who is coming off a severe ACL tear on her left knee. She looks to get back in the win column as she looks to beat Mexico’s next female contender Alexa Grasso. On Saturday night we will see who can execute on their path to victory in the main and co-main event at UFC 258: Usman vs Burns.

Co-Main Event – Maycee Barber vs Alexa Grasso

Maycee “The Future” Barber

8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC | 5 (T)KO’s 2 Submissions | 5’5” (165cm) | 65” Reach

A rising prospect out of Dana White’s Contender Series, Maycee Barber was on a tear in the flyweight division. She began her UFC career with three consecutive wins after signing with the organization. On January 18th, 2020 Barber fought Roxanne Modafferi. Many thought “The Future” would blow by Modafferi but during the fight she tore her ACL and ultimately lost via decision. Since then, she has been sidelined trying to recover from the injury. On Saturday night she looks to make her return and will look to begin another win streak.

Path to Victory

Despite her age, Barber is a very well-rounded fighter which will be advantageous for her on fight night. The 22-year-old can be in any position at anytime in a fight and have great success. In order for her to see success she must go with the flow. This is easier said than done of course but Barber has tremendous power. This gives her the ability to finish the fight standing with her hands and a great ground game where she can dominate on the floor.

In her previous contest against Roxanne Modafferi she showed extreme toughness fighting through the excruciating pain from an ACL tear. Despite the tear mid-fight, Barber was able to defend any submission attempt and hold her own against a well-known Jiu-Jitsu player and veteran of women’s MMA in Modafferi. This will be key towards her path to victory because most of Alexa Grasso’s losses have come to dominate wrestlers.

Maycee Barber must commit to pressing forward with her boxing using head movement, short hooks on the inside and shots to the body. Her boxing improves every fight she competes. Barber would need to keep Grasso on her heels with constant forward pressure to overwhelm her which would cause Grasso shoot for a takedown. When she does, Barber has the ability to defend from the attack or go on the ground and control her from top position. This was displayed in her fight against Gillian Robertson where she was able to defend ground attempts and eventually get the finish on the feet.

Maycee Barber overwhelming her opposition with constant forward pressure.

Originally tweeted by the UFC (@UFC) on February 10, 2021.

In short, Barber just needs to go with the flow in this fight. She will need to push the pace with her relentless boxing. If Grasso decides to attempt a takedown, Barber has the skills to decide whether or not to keep the fight standing or on the ground.

Alexa Grasso

12-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC | 4 (T)KOs | 5’5″(165cm) | 66″ Reach

A former Invicta FC competitor, Alexa Grasso has had quite an impressive run before her time in the UFC going 8-0. Since making her UFC debut against Heather Clark she hasn’t been able to string together consecutive wins. She’s going to look to turn that around Saturday night. She will enter the octagon as the #15 ranked fighter in the women’s flyweight division, and will look to continue her winning ways against Maycee Barber.

Path to Victory

Alexa Grasso has beautiful stand up and will need to work her striking game to keep Barber at the end of her punches. Utilizing basic strikes will be key in her path to victory. The classic 1-2 punch combination keeping Barber at the end of her punches will be critical. In her debut fight against Clark, she employed this simple combination, staggering her opponent.

Alexa Grasso’s combination landing beautifully in her debut against Heather Clark.

Originally tweeted by Carlos Lewis (@CARLITOSLEWIS) on November 6, 2016.

Another crucial part to Grasso’s success will be to utilize leg kicks. MMA is not a sport of mercy. Knowing Barber is coming off an ACL tear, Grasso will need to attack the previously injured leg. Even though Barber has had time to recover from the injury, it won’t be at hundred percent. A few kicks to a leg that has been compromised in the past will weaken the leg and open up different attacks for Grasso.

If Alexa Grasso can keep Barber at the end of her punches in order to maintain distance and pick apart her injured leg, she will seek victory Saturday night.

Main Event – Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns

Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman

17-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC | 7 (T)KOs 1 Submission | 6’0″ (183cm) | 77.5″ Reach

The current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman has been on a war path. He’s gone 12-0 in his UFC career and looks to surpass Georges St. Pierre’s consecutive welterweight win record with a 13-0 record! Not only is “The Nigerian Nightmare” a UFC Champion, he is an Ultimate Fighter tournament winner and the first ever Nigerian born UFC champion. Now the Nigerian looks to defend his welterweight gold for the 3rd time at UFC 258!

Path to Victory

Usman’s path to welterweight gold was comprised of a series of dominant performances. He would employ his forward pressure boxing to back his opponents up towards the fence, then would use his NCAA Division II All-American wrestling to control his opponents. Usman uses a combination of slip strikes, head movement and a forward stalking pressure. His boxing has improved over the years and he currently has it to a tee. He utilizes his boxing to push the pace and get his opponent on their heels. This opens up his outstanding wrestling base. His bread and butter if you will. If you watch the Welterweight Champ against the fence, he loves his under hooks. He will get an under hook on one side and unleash a onslaught of strikes to fatigue his opponents as the round continues. Doing this not only depletes the opponent’s stamina, but also opens up his takedown attack. These can be a trip or ferocious double leg takedown. Usman showcased this beautifully when he dominated the former champion Tyron Woodley.

Kamaru Usman nullifying former Champion Tyron Woodley’s game up by pinning him up against the fence.

Originally tweeted by the Omo Olope (@shutabug) on March 3, 2019.

Another significant strike he uses are devastating foot stomps. Most of the MMA community loves to bash on the strike but it is certainly effective. Much like a leg kick the foot stomp immobilizes the opponent which forces their movement to be limited. Usman uses it to not only score points but to limit his opponent’s footwork. We touched on his constant ‘march forward boxing’ which only gives the opponent the chance to move backwards right against the cage.

All in all, Usman needs to do what brought him to the dance. At UFC 258 “The Nigerian Nightmare” must push the pace and get Gilbert Burns on his heels. He will need to use his All-American wrestling to dominate his opponent against the cage and open up a barrage of body strikes and foot stomps.

Gilbert “Durinho” Burns

19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC | 6 (T)KOs 8 Submissions | 5’10” (178cm) | 71” Reach

The #1 welterweight contender is now set to face the current champion and former Sanford MMA teammate Kamaru Usman. He originally started his UFC career in the 155lb lightweight division. Since the move to the welterweight division, he’s been wreaking havoc by beating the likes of Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia and former UFC Champion Tyron Woodley! He now aims to claim UFC gold for the first time by dethroning Kamaru Usman.

Path to Victory

Gilbert Burns’ path to success will be to meet Usman in the middle of the octagon. Just like one of Usman’s former opponents Colby Covington, Burns needs to force striking exchanges and stay in the center of the cage. Burns needs to use counter attacks and if it gets to the ground use his high caliber Jiu-Jitsu. Usman will try to force Burns’ back to the cage so Burns needs to stand his ground by moving his head off the center line and look for counters. As long as the Brazilian avoids moving back he will be able to open up his shots. He has a beautiful counter hook that puts people to sleep. In his fight against Demian Maia he slipped Maia’s strike and landed a hook that dropped him.

Originally tweeted by the PubSportsRadio (@PubSportsRadio) on March 14, 2020.

Although Usman has all the wrestling credentials, Burns is a world champion in BJJ. If this fight goes to the ground “Durinho” will have the abilities to get back up or throw up a plethora of submissions. He could use the submissions to try to finish the fight, or alternatively, use it to gain a dominant position and possibly stand up. The Brazilian has all the tools to counteract Usman’s path to victory. He will use his counter strikes and world class Jiu-Jitsu to claim his first ever UFC title and add his name to the record books.

UFC 258: Usman vs Burns will air Saturday, February 13th, on ESPN and ESPN+ at 10pm ET. Watch the fights and see who emerges victorious on the evening. More importantly tune in to see if they can execute on their “Path to Victory”.

Michael Ramos

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