Undisputed welterweight champion Kamaru Usman retained his position at the top of the 170-pound division by beating top contender Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Usman was stunned early by the Brazilian who came out fast and hard, raining powerful shots and clipping the champion to put him on his defensive edge.
But the Nigerian recovered superbly to turn the tables on his heavy-handed opponent and claim a third-round TKO finish.
The finish came just 34 seconds into Round 3, when Usman dropped Burns with a straight right hand and followed up with several damaging shots to the face and body, leaving the challenger bloodied as the referee called the fight in his favour.
Sunday’s victory means Usman has won all 13 of his UFC fights and surpassed Georges St-Pierre for the longest winning streak at welterweight.
The champion and Burns were formerly teammates at Florida gym Sanford MMA before Usman left to join Elevation Fight Team in Colorado.
After the result was announced, the pair shared an embrace in the middle of the octagon, with Burns in tears.
“This one was a tough one. It was a very, very tough one, because of the whole gym situation (and) me leaving,” Usman said after his third straight UFC title defence.
“But I’ve said it, man, I’m the varsity guy. My fight IQ is different. It’s different when you’re in the gym with me. But when you get in here, it’s different ball game. From start to finish, I’m a whole other savage, and he saw that tonight.
“So, from start to finish there was no friends in there, no friends at all. I had to go in there and do what I had to do, and that’s go in and win this title. I am the best on the planet for a reason (and) I’m here to stay.”
Usman’s victory also ended Burns’ six-fight winning streak, extended his own winning run to 17 consecutive fights and improved his mixed martial arts career record to 18 wins and one loss.