UFC Newark Aftermath: Three Takeaways from New Jersey

Colby Covington and Robbie Lawler, UFC Newark
Covington vs Lawler Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

There was an UFC on ESPN card this past Saturday afternoon, for those that tuned in early. For those that watched, and those who didn’t, here are three takeaways from UFC Newark.

UFC on ESPN 5: Covington vs Lawler took place in Newark, New Jersey, this past Saturday afternoon. In the main event, we saw former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington dominate former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in a clear decision for Covington. The co-main saw a battle of lightweight veterans Jim Miller and Clay Guida, with Miller coming out on top. The UFC Newark main card also saw victories by Nasrat Haqparast, Gerald Meerschaert, Scott Holtzman, and Kennedy Nzechukwu.

Here are three takeaways from the rare afternoon show that was UFC Newark.

Colby Covington vs. Kamaru Usman seems inevitable.

Following Jorge Masvidal’s victory over Ben Askren last month at UFC 239, there was loads of debate about whether Masvidal deserves a title shot over his teammate and friend, Colby Covington. Covington was linked to a bout with Usman following the latter’s championship victory in March, however, Usman needed surgery and went on the shelf. It seemed like Covington was going to wait for the champion to get healthy, however, he took the short-notice bout against Lawler for the Newark card.

Leading into the card there was debate among fans and pundits alike, surrounding Covington deserving a title shot over Jorge with a win against Lawler. Masvidal, after all, was riding a brutal two-fight knockout streak. That debate was put to bed during fight week, as Dana White announced that if Covington won, he would get the title shot. Which makes sense, given Covington’s former status as interim champion, and the fact that he has a longer win streak against arguably bigger names than Masvidal.

Covington would go on to win that fight against Lawler in dominating fashion, securing his title opportunity in style. Covington would go on up to the ESPN desk following the fight, to be interviewed by the broadcast team, and special guest Kamaru Usman. The two predictably got into a shouting match, with security surrounding the pair, though nothing escalated. Which it probably would have without the beefed-up security, given the two nearly got into a brawl at a casino the day after UFC 235.

With that confrontation and White’s words earlier in the week, it seems inevitable that Covington and Usman will face off later this year. Covington said MSG seems like the perfect place for the fight, and he’s right. It’s arguably the biggest grudge match in the UFC at the moment, and it perfectly fits the MSG card. The UFC regularly makes the Madison Square Garden cards the biggest of the year, with UFC 205 and UFC 217 being regarded as some of the greatest cards in MMA history. With Jon Jones supposedly wanting to headline the card in November, Usman and Covington seem like the perfect co-main event to add.

All the biggest fights happen at Madison Square Garden, and Usman vs. Covington is one of the biggest fights possible in the UFC right now.

Mickey Gall is a good prospect, but time is running out

Mickey Gall burst onto the scene with a boatload of hype. Racking up three UFC victories in 2016, the 4-0 New Jersey native had a lot of excitement around him. Gall became one of the UFC’s young bright stars. Despite not facing the best competition in his first three fights (hello, CM Punk), he still defeated another good young prospect in Sage Northcutt in December of that year. However, following that win, Gall took off almost an entire year.

Since his return, Gall has been an up and down fighter. Losses to Randy Brown and Diego Sanchez have overshadowed his victories over George Sullivan and Salim Touahri. The win over Touahri was this past weekend and was a decent striking performance by the jiu-jitsu based Gall. However, that victory was just the fourth fight for Gall since 2016. As a result Gall’s lost a lot of his steam since beginning his UFC career.

When Mickey came into the UFC, he was 24 years old and was wrecking the competition he faced. However, Gall is 27 now. While still having potential and clearly improving fight-to-fight, he’s getting older now. There have been many fighters that were champions or contenders by this time in their career, while Gall is still in that “prospect” phase of his career. While he clearly has talent, he hasn’t beaten any top-flight competition.

Gall is improving and has clearly showcased his talent in spades over the years. However, time is running out. If Gall wants to be more than just wasted talent or an average fighter, he needs to be more active. Gall called for a rematch with Diego Sanchez after his win Saturday, and that’s not a bad fight for him. Getting that one back would be a good win for the New Jersey native, but on the flip side, Diego Sanchez isn’t a fighter that Gall should be facing at this point in his career. He should be aiming higher.

Mickey Gall has a lot of potential to be an amazing fighter, or even a champion one day. Let’s hope he becomes more active and gets to show it.

Nasrat Haqparast is a must-watch talent.

Nasrat Haqparast debuted in the UFC in 2017, losing to Marcin Held via decision. Not a good look to lose to Held, who was 0-3 in the UFC to that point. Haqparast was then matched up with British knockout artist Marc Diakiese in his home country of Germany. What should’ve been a bounce-back victory for Diakiese after his first loss to Drakkar Klose turned into a breakout victory for Haqparast.

Haqparast dominated Diakiese and put himself on the map with the victory. Haqparast followed up with another dominant performance over Thibault Gouti, and finally a knockout victory over Joaquim Silva this past weekend at UFC Newark. Silva is an interesting fighter in his own right, having gone 4-1 in the UFC en route to the showdown with Haqparast. Haqparast blew through him with a second-round knockout.

Haqparast is only 23 years old, but despite being so young he’s already fighting at an incredibly high level. Training with all-time great Georges St-Pierre and one of the best camps in MMA at Tristar, he clearly has the potential to be a future lightweight champion. He will likely be in the top-15 soon, and it will be well deserved. All of his fights have been incredibly entertaining until now, making him be must-watch talent.

His power and striking is great, and can possibly carry him for a while in the lightweight division. The 155-pound division is one of the deepest divisions in the UFC, and while Haqparast hasn’t faced the top of the division, he’s passed every test since his UFC debut. Defeating some really good fighters along the way such as Diakiese and Silva.

Nasrat Haqparast is quickly becoming a must-watch talent at lightweight, and if you’re not on the bandwagon yet, you should be.