In the main event of UFC 258, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman overcame an early knockdown to finish Gilbert Burns and retain his title. It was the type of performance that solidified Usman’s position as one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Unfortunately, it was also the kind of performance that once again revealed the UFC’s commentary team’s love of hyperbole
Following Usman’s performance, commentator Joe Rogan took the opportunity to anoint yet another fighter as The Greatest X of All Time,” or at least, to start the paperwork.
“You are without a doubt one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, one of the greatest welterweights, if not the greatest welterweight of all time, and it was an honor to call your fight.”
All due respect to Usman who is undoubtedly the best welterweight on the planet but there is no rational world in which he can be called the 170-pound GOAT. That title firmly and unequivocally belongs to Georges St-Pierre. Even Usman would likely be able to admit that. St-Pierre holds the record for most title bouts in welterweight history (14 to Usman’s 4), most wins in divisional history (19 to Usman’s 13), most title defenses (9 to Usman’s 3), and longest title reign, along with a litany of other divisional records. There is simply no argument and yet, Rogan said it anyway.
This has been an unfortunate trend among UFC commentators over the last few years and one that apparently is destined to continue. Rogan who similarly anointed Max Holloway as the featherweight GOAT despite Jose Aldo having put together one of the best and most dominant title reigns in the history of the sport and the rumblings have already started for champions like Israel Adesanya and Deiveson Figueiredo and while this may seem like a minor thing to quibble about, the fact of the matter is doing so trivializes the accomplishments of some of the most important fighters in the history of the sport. Kamaru Usman told Rogan he wanted “respect on his name” after the Burns victory and he absolutely deserves. But so too does Georges St-Pierre.
It’s not just an issue of throwing away the history though, Rogan and the UFC’s obsession with the supremacy of the current also undercuts the brilliance of the very men and women they are hyping up. Kamaru Usman had one of the best performances of his career on Saturday and instead of valuing that for what it was, Rogan could only value it, and Usman’s entire resume, in the context of someone else. Kamaru Usman doesn’t need to be compared to George St-Pierre to have value. He has more than enough value in his own right. Drawing equivalencies only serves to diminish Usman and could possibly place an undue burden on his career and legacy to live up to a hype not of his own making.
Kamaru Usman is an incredible fighter and the undisputed best welterweight in the world. He will and should be a prohibitive favorite over whoever he faces next. In time, it’s possible that he even can put together a dominant run like GSP’s and genuinely raise the question of whether or not he’s the best welterweight ever. But that doesn’t need to be litigated right now. Usman is undoubtedly the best welterweight of HIS generation and he’s still building that legacy. Let’s allow him to do that and then settle up afterwards.
UFC 258 Quotes
“The only reason he took that fight on Fight Island is because it was a built in excuse... ‘Oh I took the fight on six days’ notice, give me three weeks and see what I’ll do.’ I’ll give you a whole training camp. This time I want to stop him for real because I think that’s the only thing that’s going to close his mouth. Pretending walking around here like he’s Jesus or something. Well, I’m going to put him in a coffin this time.” - Kamaru Usman on calling out Jorge Masvidal.
“Listen, this guy’s got nothing but bad ass dudes lined up. If he doesn’t have the respect now, he should have got it after the Covington fight. I can’t stop talking about the Covington fight. One of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen. Anybody who didn’t respect him after that, that’s your problem, not his.” - Dana White on Kamaru Usman.
“Miley Cyrus, will you be my Valentine?” - Julian Marquez’s unexpected post-fight call out that became a whole thing.
Kamaru Usman: The champion retained his title with a third-round finish over the top-ranked contender and in so doing, tied Georges St-Pierre’s record for most consecutive wins in welterweight history. He’s the greatest welterweight of this era and Saturday cemented that.
Gilbert Burns: It’s tough for a fighter to lose in the third round and call it a win, but such was the nature of Burns’ opening salvo. “Durinho” nearly won the welterweight title in the first two minutes of the fight and showed that he was a legitimate threat to the best welterweight in the world.
Alexa Grasso: Grasso has a history of coming up short in big moments but on the biggest stage of her career thus far, she shined. Grasso dominated all phases of the game against Barber and showed why she had so much promise to begin with.
Ricky Simon: Simón took on a tough opponent and made him look pedestrian, reaffirming that he’s one of the brightest prospects in the bantamweight division. He should get a top-10 opponent next.
Kelvin Gastelum: Gastelum broke his three-fight losing streak with a win over a ranked opponent. Normally, that would constitute a successful weekend, however, it was a hard-fought battle for Gastelum against a foe he was a considerable favorite over. The win was needed but it didn’t exactly build confidence in a future title run.
Ian Heinisch: Heinisch lost the fight but he was always supposed to lose to Gastelum and he gave a solid accounting of himself despite the L. If Gastelum is a top-10 middleweight, Heinisch isn’t far behind.
Julian Marquez: Marquez pulled out a Comeback of the Year candidate which was awesome but also can only happen because he was getting handled for the first 12 minutes of the fight.
Belal Muhammad: Muhammad is a well-respected welterweight and the win was nice but it was expected and doesn’t add much to his overall resume. Muhammad needs a crack at a top-15 opponent to start his climb.
Maycee Barber: When Barber made her UFC debut she was only too willing to tell everyone she was going to be the youngest champion in UFC history. That is entirely off the table at this point. She showed heart in the third round but Barber is in need of a dramatic overhaul of her skills to back up the athletic promise she has shown.
Maki Pitolo: On the one hand, Pitolo showcased new skills and looked great for the first two and a half rounds. On the other, he blew a 2-0 lead against a guy who hadn’t fought in almost three years. That’s going to be a tough pill to swallow for the Hawaiian.
Rodolfo Vieira: One of the best grapplers in the world was beaten up, exhausted, and then submitted. It doesn’t matter how good your jiu-jitsu is, if you only have four minutes of cardio, you can’t make it far in MMA.
This was the first fight card in a long time where there actually weren’t any huge judging or refereeing snafus. Sure, Chris Gutiérrez winning both 30-26 and 29-28 score cards is a bit surprising but that’s actually explicable. What wasn’t explicable was the work of the commentary team on a couple of occasions.
During Gutiérrez’s fight with Andre Ewell, Jon Anik noted that both men are currently involved in custody disputes with their children which was an obviously bizarre and unnecessary thing to mention, especially as that had not been part of some build up to there fight. Anik should have let that be.
Similarly, Joe Rogan was not his most professional self on Saturday either. During his post-fight interview with Polyanna Vianna, Rogan glossed over her dominant win to instead ask Vianna about beating up a mugger . . . in 2019! He then went real dude-bro about it afterwards, discussing the story with Anik and Cormier and marveling at the fact that “a beautiful woman” beat up a mugger.
Not long after that, Julian Marquez gave a strange post-fight interview portion where he tried to get some viral discussion going about the loudness stadiums and fandom and Rogan just no-sold the hell out of him. Sure, Marquez was being a little off-kilter but Rogan’s job is basically to be a hype man and he failed at that spectacularly. A night to forget for MMA’s most famous commentator.
Fights to Make
Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson: Thompson wants another crack at the welterweight title and Burns needs to face someone who is going to jab him so he can overcome that gap.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. winner of Chris Weidman-Uriah Hall: Either way it’s a rematch but Gastelum needs wins now and anything else would be a pretty big jump up, considering he scrapped hard with a man on the fringes of the rankings.
Ian Heinisch vs. Edmen Shahbazyan: Both men are kind of funky fighters coming off losses. Seems fitting.
Ricky Simón vs. Raoni Barcelos: Barcelos was supposed to fight Raphael Assuncao later this month but Assuncao was forced off the card. Simón was already the first to get two wins in 2021, push this fight back a couple of weeks and he can go for three.