All eyes will be laser focussed on this weekend’s UFC 268 main event in New York, when the undefeated, defending welterweight champion Kamaru Usman resumes his back-and-forth feud with Colby Covington.
Covington has been obsessed with returning to the octagon to face Usman; his primary focus was another shot at gold since their first encounter at UFC 245 in 2019. The challenger claimed a fifth-round TKO stoppage was a bad decision, which has only fuelled his dislike for the champion.
The animosity between the two men establishes a powerful marketing aspect. And with Usman’s dominant reign almost clearing the entire top-10 rankings, the rematch ahead is the perfect situation for the UFC, who recognise Covington’s efforts during the first encounter. A certain level of mystery will cloud Saturday’s main event, as Covington has only fought once since the first fight and has since changed fight camps.
We must admit that Covington has been the greatest challenge for Usman during his welterweight tenure. Despite the bad blood, the “Nigerian Nightmare” has openly expressed that his opponent is one of the best.
“He’s definitely up there,” Usman told the media. “I’m no hater. I give props where props are due. I think Colby probably is, and I would put him in the top-15 welterweights of all time, as far as fighter-wise and skill-wise, the way that he fights. You may not like him personally, which I really don’t, but as far as skill-wise, he’s a very good fighter. A very, very good fighter.”
Amongst UFC championship bouts, it’s a rare occurrence to witness a fighter receive another opportunity at the title following a TKO loss, especially when Covington has only fought on one occasion since. However, the rematch is evidence of the challenger’s skill level, which was on full display at UFC 245 in Las Vegas. Before the subsequential fifth-round TKO stoppage, the judges’ scorecards had the contest as a draw,
UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington, The Beginning
The high-level wrestling backgrounds of both Usman and Covington were nullified; neither man wanted to change levels and shoot in for the takedown. This resulted in twenty-four minutes of fist-flying action that certainly didn’t disappoint.
The early stages of the bout saw Covington own a higher output, while Usman’s attempts on the feet were evidently more damaging. Untestable durability in Usman shrugged off the precise combinations of Covington, and It was the shot selection of Usman that eventually turned the tide heading into the later rounds.
Usman’s bodywork became imperative in slowing down his foe, from a front kick to a diving uppercut. These shot selections would later explain the significant drop in the challenger’s offense, which began to wilt, more so between the fourth and fifth. Covington told his coaches: “I think I broke my jaw.” In translation, Usman’s straight right jab landed with pinpoint accuracy and broke the jaw of Covington in round three.
Damage consumed by Covington had taken its toll by round five; the pain-inducing shots became hard to watch as Usman targeted the broken jaw. Covington hit the mat once, found his feet, and then it happened again, the second time he stayed down.
UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington II
Madison Square Garden, one of the most iconic arenas in sports history, will have its roof raised when hosting the most highly anticipated mixed martial arts rematch in recent time. New York online gambling will reach its peak for MMA wagers, as the entire state will want to get involved in the action.
With the theatrics and the adopted heel role aside, Covington remains the most significant threat for Kamaru Usman’s 18-fight win streak.
Covington believed his performance was lacklustre due to his surroundings; moving to the MMA Masters gym may assist his second attempt. Still, Usman’s activity has outweighed his disputer, and a recognition of the Nigerian’s evolved striking offense is present.
Striking coach Trevor Wittman has been thanked for Usman’s stoppage victories of Gilbert Burn and Jorge Masvidal, both of which he outstruck and outclassed. As Covington has only fought on one occasion since the first fight and Usman has defended his title three times, it’s difficult to ignore the champions advantages heading into the second war.
Power, activity, and mental attributes will all favour the champion. With that said, I wouldn’t underestimate the hunger of Covington, which gave Usman his toughest test to date just two years ago.