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MMA Notes: Burns joins crowded welterweight contender scene

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 30: In this handout provided by UFC,  (R-L) Gilbert Burns of Brazil kicks Tyron Woodley in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 30, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 30: In this handout provided by UFC, (R-L) Gilbert Burns of Brazil kicks Tyron Woodley in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 30, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Having too many contenders is a good problem to have for any UFC weight-class.

You could argue that having a bunch of talented, tough fighters who are champing at the bit to prove they’re the best of the bunch is actually the ideal scenario.

But after Saturday night, it’s beginning to feel like the UFC needs to get welterweight moving.

Gilbert Burns’ five-round dismantling of former champion Tyron Woodley catapulted him into the title picture. He’s not alone in that space, though.

Whenever 170 lbs. champion Kamaru Usman steps into the octagon next, you could make an argument that any of Burns, Jorge Masvidal or Leon Edwards is completely deserving of the opportunity to be his opponent.

“I think I made a statement,” Burns said after the fight. “I am next for the title. To beat the former champion the way I did, I just showed up.”

Again, having a stable of contenders ready to take on the champion is never a bad thing. Depth is one of the UFC’s biggest selling points and putting top contenders against one another brings real, high-stakes drama to cards throughout the year.

But some clarity at welterweight would be nice. For a long time, it seemed as if the division was heading for a blockbuster matchup between Masvidal — the company’s breakout star of 2019 — and Usman. For various reasons, that fight hasn’t materialized.

It still seems like the fight to make, though, and Saturday night’s main event didn’t really change that.

Burns was brilliant against Woodley. He dropped the former champion early and then dominated him over five rounds. There was really never a moment where you felt like Woodley was about to reverse the tides and pull off a comeback.

“I have no excuses,” Woodley said afterwards on Instagram. “He did a good job of keeping the distance. I have a weird peace for someone who just lost.”

The beatdown was bad enough that it had some people wondering whether it might be time for Woodley to retire. That feels premature, but he is 38-years-old and is coming off two straight losses. With the welterweight title picture already so crowded, it’s hard to see any path for him to get back in the mix and earn a shot at regaining the title.

Woodley remains a big name, though, and beating him lends immediate credibility to any fighter’s title aspirations. That’s certainly what happened Saturday night with Burns.

In most other division’s the win might have been enough to jump Burns to the front of the line for a championship fight.

At welterweight, though, he may have more work to do.

IT CONTINUES

It doesn’t appear that either Jon Jones or UFC president Dana White are about to back down in their ongoing public dispute over compensation right now.

If anything, Saturday night saw the tensions rise even higher.

For those who haven’t been keeping track of the feud, Jones was interested in going up to heavyweight to take on Francis Ngannou. It surely would have been a blockbuster, but negotiations apparently ended before they even got started.

Jones claimed the UFC said he would be paid the same at heavyweight as he would be if he defended his light-heavyweight title. White says Jones asked for a ridiculous amount.

For the better part of a week now, they’ve been openly criticizing one another in public.

White was asked about the incident on Saturday night and referenced Jones’ past legal troubles to explain why he isn’t a bigger draw.

“Being the greatest of all-time doesn’t mean you get $30-million,” White said. “Being able to sell (does). Jon Jones has done a lot of things to himself. In one of his tweets, he was saying I tarnished him. I tarnished you? You’ve done a good job of tarnishing you. I haven’t done that.”

Jones responded on Twitter and disputed a number of allegations made by White before requesting his release from the UFC.

This may all seem a bit silly, but having one of the biggest stars in the sport publicly complain about being underpaid is not a good look for the UFC. White certainly has more leverage here and almost always wins in these situations, but he may wind up wishing this was all playing out behind closed doors.

NOTES

The UFC dedicated its broadcast Saturday night to Nevada Athletic Commission physician Dr. Albert Capanna and George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minnesota this week. “What happened was horrible and it’s something that’s really affecting this country right now and the world,” White said. “There are riots going on everywhere across the world right now. It was the right thing to do.” … Mackenzie Dern’s career has been underwhelming since she made the heavily-hyped move from jiu-jitsu to MMA a few years ago, but her submission win over Hannah Cifers on Saturday night showed she’s still got an unbelievable skill-set and could have a bright future in the sport. Nobody should ever risk challenging her ground game.

daustin@postmedia.com

www.twitter.com/DannyAustin_9

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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