Daniel Pineda is a 41-fight veteran who makes his return to the octagon after going unbeaten in six bouts over the past couple of years. For Herbert Burns, who meets him at UFC 252 on Aug. 15, “The Pit” brings more to the table than division champion Alexander Volkanovski.
“To tell you the truth, I think he’s more dangerous than Volkanovski,” Burns said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I think it’s a really tough fight but I want to be the champion so I can’t choose opponents. I have to run through everyone they send my way. I’m not the matchmaker, Sean Shelby is the matchmaker. If he thinks this is the fight for me, I’ll take it and fight hard.”
Volkanovski currently reigns over the featherweights in the UFC. “The Great” was victorious in his last 19 bouts dating back to 2013, including big-name opponents like Max Holloway (twice), Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. Burns, however, sees qualities in Pineda that he says the 145-pound titleholder lacks.
“He has all the weapons,” Burns said of Pineda. “Volkanovski doesn’t have jiu-jitsu, but (Pineda) has jiu-jitsu, he has a lot of submissions. They are both experienced and have the same size. Volkanovski might have a bit more wrestling, but he doesn’t have the same knockout power of Pineda. That’s why I think Pineda is more dangerous than Volkanovski.”
Statistically, Pineda has captured almost 70 percent of his 26 MMA wins via submission, while Volkanovski has only scored three of his 22 victories with chokes. The question is, will “The Pit” try his luck and grapple the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist?
“I don’t think he will try to go to the ground, but instinct speaks louder during a fight,” Burns said. “Sometimes his strategy is staying on the feet with me, but he might see an opening for a takedown and his instinct tells him to go, and that can favor me. But I’m not counting on my opponent’s mistakes.”
Very active in the cage despite the halt in the UFC schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Burns only had two weeks to prepare for Pineda. It’s no big deal, he said, since “Pineda also only had two weeks to prepare, so it’s going to be a war.”
In fact, having a busy year is a welcoming contrast when Burns looks back at his ONE Championship days, when he wasn’t as active as he hoped. Feeling in his prime in the UFC now, and on a five-fight win streak, “The Blaze” wants to “maximize my gains and speed things up so I can enter the top 15 of the featherweight division after this.”
“With all due respect, I think the rankings are poorly done,” he said of the official UFC featherweight list. “Shane Burgos dropped several positions after a loss. There are people in there that aren’t even featherweights anymore and are still ranked. Some are inactive for years and continue in the top 15. I think that I could have been ranked by now if it was done right, but I’ll definitely be ranked after this fight.”