Top-ranked UFC welterweight Gilbert Burns recently assessed how a potential fight would go between his two ex-opponents, 170-pound king Kamaru Usman and Khamzat Chimaev.
Burns fought “The Nigerian Nightmare” for the strap in February 2021 at UFC 258, and Usman snapped the Brazilian’s six-fight win streak via third-round TKO. After bouncing back against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 264 in July 2021, “Durinho” drew Chimaev as his next opponent.
They went to war at UFC 273 in April in what proved to be an all-time classic. Both fighters found success during the three-round affair, battering, bruising and dropping the other. And as history has it, Chimaev earned the win by unanimous decision.
Burns recently spoke to MMA Fighting about the possible welterweight title tilt between Usman and Chimaev, who is ranked No. 3, as per the official UFC 170-pound standings. And in short, Burns doesn’t see Chimaev capturing Usman’s gold.
“Kamaru, I think the IQ difference [over Khamzat] — IQ makes a lot of difference,” Burns said to the outlet. “I think Kamaru is very smart. He hits hard. Kamaru put me away. Three rounds, [Khamzat] couldn’t put me away. I think Kamaru does hit harder.
“I think Kamaru, the fight IQ with wrestling and striking is better than this guy. With the timing, the movement, with mixing things up, the feints, the angles, I think Kamaru is a level above this guy still.”
Although Chimaev is a resilient foe, Burns believes Usman has already seen what “Borz” has to offer in The Nigerian Nightmare’s past fights.
“I think Khamzat will be tough, but it’s nothing Kamaru hasn’t seen,” Burns said. “I stuffed one takedown, he took me down one time, but nothing [serious]. Kamaru’s IQ is different.”
Burns Sees Leon Edwards as Being a Sturdier Test for Usman Than Chimaev
It’s widely believed that No. 2 Leon Edwards will receive the next crack at Usman. The Englishman is unbeaten in his last 10 fights, dating back to his unanimous decision loss to The Nigerian Nightmare in 2015.
Well, Burns sees “Rocky” as having a better chance to dethrone Usman compared to Chimaev.
“Leon Edwards, because of the striking, the movement,” Burns said. “I think Leon Edwards, people are kind of forgetting him a little bit with so much about Khamzat, but I still think Leon Edwards is very tough.”
Usman is currently recovering from hand surgery and it’s expected that he’ll return later this year.
Chimaev Would Fair Better Against Colby Covington Than Usman, Burns Said
Before Borz and Burns went to war on April 9, UFC president Dana White confirmed that with a win, they’d look to book Chimaev versus No. 1-ranked welterweight Colby Covington. However, nearly two months later and it’s still unclear if that match will actually happen.
But if Chimaev and Covington do meet inside the Octagon, Burns sees Borz fairing better against the brash fighter than Usman.
“I think Colby hasn’t been tested,” Burns said. “He’s going to try to grapple against this guy. [Khamzat] has heavy hands. He’s got to respect that a little bit. One thing, that can be different is the Colby pace and cardio. He might be pushing that guy into the later rounds.
“We’ll see if that’s next, or if it will be Colby Covington and Khamzat Chimaev. That’s a little closer fight, but I just think Kamaru is a step above this guy.”