Combat Sports

UFC 264: Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson Fight Breakdown

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The UFC is back to live-action this weekend in a big way with UFC 264. It’s the promotion’s first show inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena with a live audience since March 7th of last year. The co-main event between Gilbert Burns (19-4) and Stephen Thompson (16-4-1) is sure to excite the masses.

As a nontitle affair, the UFC 264 co-main event will be a maximum of three, five-minute rounds. Its winner will take another step toward supremacy at 170 lbs., as current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman awaits.

Let’s keep our full attention on the UFC 264 co-headliner, Burns vs Thompson. It’s a matchup that jumped off the page upon creation.

UFC 264 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison

Heading into the UFC 264 co-main event this Saturday night, “Wonderboy” Thompson is the taller man at six feet even, compared to “Durinho” Burns at 5-foot-10.

In addition, Thompson owns a four-inch reach advantage (75 inches to 71 inches) and a two-inch leg reach advantage (42 inches to 40 inches) over Burns going into the co-headliner this weekend.

“Durinho” Wants To Deliver a Win in UFC 264 Co-Main Event

Burns has posted a record of 4-1 in his last five MMA appearances. He enters this weekend’s co-main event having lost his previous bout via third-round TKO against the incumbent champ Usman back in March. The former title challenger remains unfazed by his loss to Usman earlier this year and wants to bounce back from defeat this coming weekend.

In a recent interview, Burns committed to delivering a victory this weekend in the UFC 264 co-main event, saying:

“We have pretty different styles,” he began, “It’s been a long time since he has fought someone like me or guys that can fight like me. I think the last one was Anthony Pettis, but he kicks a lot more than I do and he can’t wrestle like me. The one closest to me would be [Tyron] Woodley, with good takedowns and heavy hands. Because I’ve been fighting at lightweight for a long time, I think I have an edge over those guys in speed. I’ve never fought a striker that moves like him. He’s a danger to me, but I’m a danger to him, too. I’ve been sharpening my tools. I’ve been training in order to have many weapons at my disposal. There’s some good stuff coming.”

“Wonderboy” Stirs the Pot Ahead of UFC 264 Co-Main Event

In the other corner, “Wonderboy” has gone 3-2 in his last five outings. He enters his UFC 264 bout on a two-fight winning streak, having bested Geoff Neal last time out at UFC Vegas 17 last December.

As previously mentioned, the winner of this fight could eventually have a date in the famous UFC Octagon with Kamaru Usman, but not before “The Nigerian Nightmare” gets past Colby Covington again. Something which doesn’t sit well with Thompson, who made his opinions on the matter public.

On an episode of his own podcast, Thompson alluded to a Usman/Covington pairing this way:

“Usman was piecing him up,” he replied, “Colby Covington was swinging and missing. He was throwing a lot of volume, but wasn’t hitting anything. I don’t think he deserves it, either Leon (Edwards) or myself.”

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC 264 co-main event appears to be a toss-up. While both men subscribe to Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the MMA cage, Burns owns a second-degree black belt in BJJ, while Stephen Thompson only owns a brown belt in the discipline.

Additionally, while Thompson’s primary combat sports discipline is kickboxing, “Wonderboy” is a very well-rounded fighter, owning a fifth-degree black belt in Tetsushin-Ryu Kempo, a first-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, and a black belt in kickboxing.

Thompson: Stoppage Rate Half and Half

So far in his 16 career MMA victories, his stoppage rate is exactly 50 percent, with seven of his eight career wins inside the distance coming by way of knockout. Examining the videotape of his fight against Robert Whittaker from February of 2014, Thompson absolutely has the proclivity to make his night at the office a short one.

Although Thompson and Whittaker started out the fight exchanging strikes, Thompson set himself apart by throwing in kicks to throw Whittaker off of his game plan.

With about 90 seconds remaining in the first round of a scheduled three, Thompson was able to stun Whittaker with a vicious right-handed punch to begin the onslaught of strikes that eventually forced the referee to step in and end the fight.

His key in the UFC 264 co-main event is to keep his opponent from taking him down in order to land stand-up strikes to try and knock him off of his rhythm.

Don’t Underestimate Burns’ Ability To End the Fight Either

In the other corner, Burns’ prowess to finish the fight inside the distance can’t be ignored, as he’s a proven stoppage hunter in his own right.

Heading into the UFC 264 co-main event, Burns has ended 14 of his 19 career victories by stoppage, most often by submission — and he’s been known to dump his opponents to the mat in a fight, sometimes more than once in the same round.

That was particularly evident in his 2018 fight with Dan Moret. He took Moret down twice in the first round, building on a second takedown and accumulating ride time in the top position to take the opening period. In the second round, Burns unloaded on the debuting Moret after taking him down for the third time in the contest. After Moret returned to his feet, Burns landed a vicious combination, punctuated by an uppercut to the chin to get the second-round TKO.

His key in this upcoming fight will be his ability to mix up his acumen to keep his opponent guessing. If he’s able to establish control, Burns will be able to make Saturday a long evening for Thompson.

Final Thoughts

The UFC 264 is going to be a classic strength vs. strength battle, one with the overarching theme of establishing control.

Whichever man establishes control of the match first has a great chance of leaving T-Mobile Arena as your victor on Saturday night.

Prediction: Gilbert Burns by Unanimous Decision.


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