A short-notice, five-round co-main event at UFC 288 saw Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns square-off for a potential shot at welterweight gold.
As promised by UFC President Dana White, who confirmed the news earlier this week, the winner of Muhammad vs. Burns would land the next welterweight title shot— after Colby Covington, anyway.
With Covington’s fight with Leon Edwards still not booked, the Muhammad-Burns winner might be waiting a while – though a spectacular finish could always change the order things. Burns remains in search for a second title shot, while Muhammad, long overlooked by the promotion, is still circling his first.
The two combatants kept the fight primarily on the feet in the first frame, with Muhammad leading the way through most of the exchanges and wobbling Burns on multiple occasions. The Chicago native incorporated a wide variety of body and head kicks early on, effectively controlling the distance while keeping his opponent off balance.
Through the first three rounds, Burns was unable to mount any significant offense. The Brazilian was seemingly dealing with an injury to his left hand, as world-renowned head coach Henri Hooft implored his fighter to double up on the right. With two rounds to go, “Durinho” was looking at a decision loss if unable to secure a late finish.
Muhammad continued to utilize body kicks as the fight continued on, either landing under the guard of Burns or striking his opponent’s arms and causing heavy bruising and redness to spread.
Muhammad went on to win the fight by unanimous decision, notching his ninth consecutive win and earning an eventual title shot with the welterweight champion down the line.
Burns will likely take some time away from the cage to rehab his injury and continue to his improve his game as he looks to make one last push for the welterweight throne.
Official Result: Belal Muhammad def. Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)