Gilbert Burns is clearly eager to get back into title-contention as he’s already back in action less than a month after his last fight, taking on Belal Muhammad in the five-round co-main event at UFC 288. Two fights in less than a month is already tough as it is, but this will also be Burns’ third professional MMA fight of 2023 and if things keep going at this rate he may very well break the record for most fights in a single year in the UFC. Muhammad on the other hand, has not yet fought this year and this will be the first time he’s stepped into the cage for over six months.
Since Burns lost his last fight of 2022 against Khamzat Chimaev, he has immediately bounced back up the division’s rankings by dominating two tough opponents. He started out the year by submitting Neil Magny and then went on to dominate Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287. At the same time Muhammad has been busy building up a fantastic streak against some of the best fighters in the division. As it stands, he has gone unbeaten in 9 fights and the only one he hasn’t won was a No Contest against the reigning champion Leon Edwards.
It’s undoubtedly a good opportunity for the two men though, as both Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad have stepped in on short-notice to compete at UFC 288 after the previous co-main event fight between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush was postponed. Not only are they both undoubtedly being rewarded pretty handsomely for saving the event, but Burns and Muhammad also sit at 5th and 4th in the welterweight division respectively. This means that the fight between them will likely serve as a de facto title-eliminator, and the winner will almost certainly get the next shot at gold in the division. This may very well be the reason why the fight between them is set to be contested over five rounds, even though it’s a co-main event.