Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns were full of emotion Saturday night as they kissed each other in the middle of the Octagon. Burns had blood and tears running down his face. Some of the corner boys behind them tried not to cry.

Usman stopped his former teammate Burns via TKO 34 seconds into the third round to defend his UFC welterweight title in the main event at UFC 258 in Las Vegas.

Usman put a right hand on Burns’ buttocks and then punched Burns until referee Herb Dean pulled him out.

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Gilbert is a man I have known since the beginning, Usman said in an interview after the fight. I love her. It was hard for me.

Usman recorded his 13th win of the season. He won in a row and defeated legend Georges St-Pierre for the most consecutive wins in UFC welterweight history. Anderson Silva alone has won over 13 fights in a row in UFC history. He won 16 consecutive times from 2006 to 2012. Usman is tied with six other fighters with 13 consecutive wins.

Usman and Burns have been teammates in South Florida since 2012, first with the Black Brazilians and more recently with MMA Sanford. Usman traveled to Colorado last year to train under Coach Trevor Wittman after his first fight with Burns was set for July. But Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was excluded from the fight. Henri Huft, longtime head coach of Usman and Burns, cornered the two and said he didn’t even want to see the fight.

Usman said he almost screamed when the two fighters kissed in the Octagon after the fight.

I know what that sense of loss is, he said. I have a loss in my personnel file. I’m not perfect. I know what it is. I knew how much he wanted it. … I had to be the one to do it, and it almost broke me.

Kamaru Usman (right) earned his 13th win of the season. consecutive victory, beating Georges St-Pierre’s record for most consecutive wins in UFC welterweight history. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa Ltd.

This struggle has had serious consequences beyond personal history. At the start of the match, ESPN was ranked No. 5 in the world in MMA by poundage. In the welterweight division, ESPN is ranked #1, ESPN is ranked #5 and Usman is ranked #5.

Burns made Usman pop twice in a row with a great right hand. But Usman got through the first round. Then he took the second, made a nice move and gave Burns’ power and explosiveness a style. Surprisingly, Usman was in better shape than ever as he changed his position and landed with the power of each.

Usman dropped Burns twice in the second round, the second time with a jab. In the third round, it was a right jab that put Burns on his back before Usman struck and landed on the ground.

According to UFC statistics, Usman suppressed Burns at 83-45 with heavy blows.

I’m the best on the planet for a reason, Usman said in an interview after the fight. Everyone else should have some respect for my name. … I’m here to stay.

Burns said he made a mistake trying to take Usman down in the first round.

I know I can end up with any of these guys. But to be a champion, I have to be disciplined, Mr Burns said. I could tell he was hurt. I started calculating so much [with my punches]. The key for me was to do what I was doing. Hold it right there. … I was overexcited. He remained disciplined. That’s what happened.

PDU 258 is built to COVID-19 protocols at the PDU Apex facility across from the PDU campus in Las Vegas. It was the first domestic pay-per-view card of the year.

Usman (18-1) has been the champion since his win over Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in March 2019. He managed to defend his title three times. The Nigerian-born and Texas-raised fighter has never lost in the UFC.

He’s the whole package, UFC president Dana White said. This guy’s got it in him. It’s just, when will people notice?

added Mr. White: The baby is serious. For people who know, for people who really know something about the fights, they know that tonight’s win was a big deal.

Usman, 33, was coming off a unanimous victory over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 last July. Usman then challenged Masvidal, who had fought six days earlier. Usman said Masvidal wasn’t ready yet.

He’s still talking, Usman said. If he wants to talk, let him come here and look at me.

White said Usman has many options, but if Usman and Masvidal want to fight – and if the fans are interested – White said the promotion would consider it.

If you look at all the guys he should be fighting right now, and he keeps doing what he’s doing, we’re all going to look up and say HAPPY at some point, Mr. White said. It’s not just about how you fight and whether you win, it’s about who you fight.

Masvidal’s co-manager Malky Kawa tweeted Saturday night that Masvidal wants to coach Usman’s opponent team for the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Burns (19-4) won six fights in a row, most recently via unanimous decision against Woodley last May. The Brazilian has a 4-1 record since switching from lightweight to welterweight in 2019.

Burns, 34, is a multiple Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion who has the power in his hands. He was trying to become the first Brazilian to win the UFC Welterweight title.

I am a boy from the sports team, Usman said. My struggle with IQ is different. It’s different when you’re in the gym with me. But when you’re here, it’s a different game. I’m not wild at all.

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