Gilbert Burns will finally enter the Octagon in 2018 at Saturday’s UFC on FOX 29 in Glendale, Ariz., against Dan Moret, but everything that happened in February taught him important lessons.
“Durinho” was slated to face Olivier Aubin-Mercier at the UFC on FOX 28 card on Feb. 24, but was pulled after the UFC’s medical team deemed him too heavy to try to make the lightweight limit.
The Brazilian grappler was moved to the Glendale card three weeks later, and expected to face Lando Vannata. A few days before the fight, however, Burns was informed that he would be taking on Octagon newcomer Dan Moret instead.
”That whole situation taught me a lot to remain calm,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “They gave me a new date, and then switched opponents, and I had to remain calm. At some point no one wanted to step up and fight me. I had no idea if I would actually fight, but the UFC found an opponent, a good grappler, and I’m excited to fight.”
Burns hasn’t changed his weight cutting protocol ahead of this fight, but was smarter this time. “Durinho” checked in at the UFC hotel and met with Florida Athletic Commission members after he started water loading, so he was more around 10 pounds heavier than when he woke up that morning.
This time, Burns checked in before the process, at 173 pounds, and then gained a few pounds of water. “That helps me dehydrate,” said Burns, who needed an extra hour on Friday morning, but successfully made weight (156 pounds).
Coming off an impressive second-round knockout over Jason Saggo, his first knockout finish since joining the UFC in 2014, “Durinho” was excited with the idea of facing Vannata, but his focus now is dominating Moret. After Saturday’s bout, he plans on shifting his focus back to getting a fight with Aubin-Mercier, who stopped Evan Dunham at last week’s UFC 223.
”I’d rather fight Olivier Aubin-Mercier,” Burns said. “That’s a fight I wanted to do and he’s ranked now, so it makes more sense. Lando Vannata would be a good option because he’s popular, but my goal now is putting on a dominant performance against Dan Moret. But I think Olivier Aubin-Mercier is a fight I want more next.”
Burns is not looking past Moret, though, especially after previous experiences have taught him that underestimating UFC newcomers can be dangerous.
Back in 2015, after he improved to 2-0 in the UFC with wins over Andreas Stahl and Christos Giagos, Burns was slated to face Josh Thomson in Rio de Janeiro. Thomson was removed from the card with an injury, and Alex Oliveira was signed as a late replacement on days’ notice.
Oliveira, who’s now a popular welterweight with a number of impressive wins in the UFC, stopping Will Brooks, Ryan LaFlare, K.J. Noons and Tim Means, was making his Octagon debut with a 11-2-1 record, and “Durinho” was expected to get through him fairly quickly once the fight hit the ground.
”It’s a similar situation,” said Burns, who was down the scorecards before pulling out a submission with 46 seconds left in the third round. “I was set to fight a big name in the UFC and ended up fighting a newcomer, but I won’t make any mistake in this fight. I’ve made that mistake against ‘Cowboy,’ I had the fight under control and let it become tougher, so I’ve learned a lot with it. I won’t let that happen again.”
“Moret is making his debut and wants to impress, so I expect a tough fight,” he continued. “I have to be alert all the time. I want to take him to the ground and submit him. (Where the fight plays out) won’t be his call, it’s my call. I’ll go forward, put a lot of pressure and submit him. It’s my will against his will, take him down and submit. My hand or kick might land, but the strategy is put pressure, take him down, smash him, ground and pound and submit.”