Eight days away from the biggest fight of his career, Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and is out of the UFC 251 main event.
Burns, who catapulted his way to a title shot vs. Kamaru Usman with four consecutive wins since moving up a division to welterweight, had produced a pair of impressive victories over Demian Maia and former 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley already this year.
The 33-year-old ‘El Durinho’ got the nod to fight Usman, who won the belt by destroying Woodley in 2019 at UFC 235, over Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal when the BMF champ couldn’t come to terms with the UFC on his pay for a scrap with Usman.
However, with its main event in trouble for the promotion’s much-anticipated debut at ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported late Saturday that negotiations were progressing for Masvidal to replace Burns.
Then at 2:21 p.m. Eastern today, Helwani reported that his sources have told him a deal has been reached. Masvidal has already landed in Las Vegas and Usman is en route.
Pending the results of COVID-19 tests, Usman and Masvidal are likely to fly to Abu Dhabi on Monday.
BetOnline opened Usman as a -250 favorite last night, leaving Masvidal as a +210 underdog. The offshore book has adjusted Usman to a -270 ‘chalk,’ with Masvidal at +230 on the comeback.
5Dimes opened Usman as a heavy -350 favorite late last night, but it was down to -250 within 10 minutes. The odds have been bouncing all over the place in the 15 hours since then. 5Dimes currently has Usman at -270 with Masvidal as a +190 underdog.
The 35-year-old Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 12-6 UFC) went 3-0 in 2019 with wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. ‘Gamebred’ has never been finished in the Octagon, dropping four of his six losses via split decisions.
Usman (16-1 MMA, 11-0 UFC), who turned 33 on May 11, brings a 15-fight winning streak into this spot.
Remember, Masvidal had been training for this fight since December while his management team was working to get a deal done. The Burns-Usman matchup was announced less than a month ago.
I’m a big fan of Masvidal at the generous underdog odds.