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Gilbert Burns: Kamaru Usman is the welterweight GOAT, would bet on him to beat prime Georges St-Pierre

Gilbert Burns lost via third-round TKO to former teammate Kamaru Usman.
UFC

UFC president Dana White called Kamaru Usman “the greatest welterweight ever” after he defeated Colby Covington a second time earlier this month at UFC 268, and 170-pound contender Gilbert Burns agrees.

“Nigerian Nightmare” improved to 20-1 as a professional MMA fighter with that victory in New York, getting one fight short from tying to Anderson Silva’s record for longest winning streak in UFC history. Usman’s incredible 15-fight run in the UFC includes a pair of wins over Covington and Jorge Masvidal, plus victories over Burns, Leon Edwards, Tyron Woodley, Rafael dos Anjos, Demian Maia and Sean Strickland.

Speaking on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, “Durinho” explained why he’d place Usman in the No. 1 spot at welterweight history over Canadian legend Georges St-Pierre — and it’s not because he has defeated him in the past.

“The way he’s dominating is way more appealing than St-Pierre’s way,” Burns said. “St-Pierre took people down and did ground and pound, it wasn’t such convincing victory sometimes, and Kamaru is winning way more convincingly. He’s already the best in my opinion, but I think he’s still missing more title defenses to end the conversation.”

GSP became one of the greatest of all times with wins over the who’s who of the welterweight division, including Matt Hughes, B.J. Penn, Josh Koscheck, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Thiago Alves, coming back from retirement to conquer second gold over middleweight Michael Bisping in 2017. That said, Burns would pick Usman to beat GSP in his prime.

“I tried to take him down and couldn’t, Colby tried to take him down and couldn’t, many others tried but it’s really hard to take him down,” Burns said. “I remember landing some hard shots on Kamaru, really hard ones, feeling my hand landing flush on his head, and he kept going. I remember one head kick I landed flush, I had a bump on my shin afterwards, and he kept going. I think his striking is superior to St-Pierre’s. Kamaru is on another level in wrestling, too. I think that both in their prime, I’d bet on Kamaru.”

Usman and Burns trained together early in their career, years before they met inside the octagon, and the Brazilian said “Nigerian Nightmare” has evolved incredibly since.

“He didn’t like to strike, but I think a switch changed after TUF,” Burns said, referring to the American Top Team vs. Blackzilians season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2015. “He already was a good wrestler, a tough guy that trained hard. You could see he wanted it bad, but he became different after TUF. He came back training better, more focused. He was way more confident.”

Burns returned to the winning column with a decision over Stephen Thompson after coming up short versus the UFC champion and believes he could earn another crack at UFC gold with a couple of good performances against the right opponents, even if Usman stays at the top of the division.

“I think two very dominant performances, bloody ones, or getting the knockout or the submission, I think that can get me back to the belt,” Burns said. “But I think depends on the opponent, it has to be the perfect combination of right opponent and [the moment in the] division.

“Since I had the opportunity before and started really well but lost by TKO, it’s harder to have another opportunity. That’s the reality. So it has to be a very dominant performance. My training today are based on that, knowing that may next performance must shock everybody.”