On a card dominated by the trilogy fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson served as a very solid, very relevant co-main event.
Albeit somewhat under the radar due to who was fighting just after them, Burns vs. Thompson would have a clear impact on the 170lb division. Regardless of Colby Covington being granted the next title shot, the winner of Saturday’s co-feature would be able to make a case for another crack at gold — especially if the outcome was favourable to “Wonderboy,” who was looking for his third straight win.
Burns might be a harder sell, especially with Leon Edwards in the mix. Still, whoever came out on top at UFC 264 would be very much in the hunt.
Burns, who had trained with kickboxing star Raymond Daniels to prepare for Thompson, looked patient early. “Wonderboy” stayed on the outside, but soon enough, Burns closed the distance, shooting for a single leg. Thompson, however, employed a whizzer, and fought off the takedown. Burns was able to fire off some knees to his opponent’s thigh, and if nothing else, he was earning some control time and winning the positional battle.
Persistence in fights often pays off. Staying on Thompson, Burns eventually pulled him off the fence, and pulled him to the canvas. The Brazilian landed in half guard, with Thompson trying in vain to wall-walk up. And when Thompson did work his way up, he ate a knee to the body and several quick punches to the face. A strong round for Burns, though Thompson fired a head kick just as the horn sounded.
Round two saw Thompson firing a spinning kick to the midsection in the opening minute. But “Wonderboy” had to be worried about the takedown, given what transpired in the first. Thompson landed a kick to the body, and later, fired off another upstairs that were blocked. The attacks were few and far between in the first half of round two, but Burns soon shifted momentum, landing on Thompson and at least getting his attention, if not hurting him. On Thompson’s next attack, Burns lunged for a leg, but couldn’t hold on to it. Burns would fire a leg kick in the final minute, a right hand, then change levels and charge forward to land a takedown.
That likely stole Burns the round, given how close the second frame had been. Which in turn set up a must-finish scenario for Stephen Thompson.
If that was going to happen, there was a good chance it would come via a kick. Thompson did graze Burns with a head kick early in the third. He backed the Brazilian up with a combination, which led to Burns covering up. In neither case was “Durinho” in any real danger, however. That wasn’t the case when Thompson landed a spinning head kick, rocking Burns. “Wonderboy” moved in with follow-up strikes, but Burns escaped. He then tied up the American, gaining much-needed recovery time. It was the closest Thompson would come to winning the fight.
— UFC (@ufc) July 11, 2021
Knowing his chances of survival were better on the ground, Burns dragged Thompson down with a body lock. From half-guard, he peppered his opponent with shots. Two minutes still remained on the clock, but Thompson wasn’t about to finish off his back. Certainly not with Burns soon moving to side control. Burns would end the fight landing a barrage of punches — several illegal, to the back of the head — as Thompson tried to regain his feet.
Official Result: Gilbert Burns def. Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)