Entering 2020, not a lot of people were thinking about Gilbert Burns (19-3) as a top contender in the UFC‘s welterweight division. Sure, Burns had won four fights in a row, but his best win came against Gunnar Nelson at UFC Fight Night 160. While that’s a quality win, nobody was putting him on that elite level. Burns got his first shot to prove his eliteness back in March against Demian Maia (28-10).
Gilbert Burns UFC Ascension
Burns responded by knocking out Maia in the first round. It was clear that Burns was ready for the next step. Burns was calling out top competition after his win, and the UFC gave him what he asked for. Burns was slated to fight former champion, Tyron Woodley (19-5-1), in May. Many people (including myself) thought a motivated Woodley would win the fight. However, from the opening minute, it became very evident that those pundits were wrong.
Burns ran through Woodley as if the former UFC champion didn’t even belong in the cage with Burns. “Durinho” has completely taken off in 2020. Burns is elite on the ground, and he’s become incredibly dangerous on his feet with a fantastic combination of speed and power. Following the win, Burns called out his now former teammate and current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman (16-1). Usman was initially scheduled to fight Jorge Masvidal, but contract disputes nixed that fight. Burns got the shot at UFC 251 instead.
2020 Male Fighter of the Year (So Far)
In the span of four months, Burns has the opportunity to go from being a top ten welterweight to being the best in the world. The run that Burns is on is truly remarkable. Now, winning the UFC title is not going to be easy. Usman is extremely well-rounded himself with a very strong wrestling game. It’ll be interesting to see the grappling exchanges with a top level wrestler and a top level jiu jitsu practitioner.
ESPN released their mid-year awards and named Burns the Co-Fighter of the Year along with lightweight Justin Gaethje. No disrespect to Gaethje, but this award belongs to Burns. Two incredibly dominant wins, and now he has the chance to win the title in July. If Burns can beat Kamaru Usman next week, he could step away until January and still win 2020 male fighter of the year in the UFC.