UFC 268: Usman and Covington Look to Secure Their Legacy in Heated Rematch

Kamaru Usman, UFC 268
Kamaru Usman, UFC 268 Pre-Fight Press Conference Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is looking to surpass the legendary Georges St-Pierre, but a familiar foe in Colby Covington seeks redemption at UFC C268.

By most statistics, Kamaru Usman is the best MMA fighter on the planet right now.  His longevity, strength of schedule, and in 2021 his performances have all put him in the upper-echelon of most pound-for-pound lists.  His run has been so great that he is no longer competing just against his elite competition, he is also running against the shadow of the great Georges St-Pieree to establish himself as the greatest welterweight champion in MMA history.  He’s also showing no signs of slowing down.  Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, he will be the first UFC champion since Demetrious Johnson in 2013 to have three title defenses within the calendar year.

As great as his run has been, it has been accentuated by the foils that have been scheduled across from him.  His fights with Covington and Jorge Masvidal (twice) in recent years served the purpose of raising his profile.  While those opponents were easily the ones who were greater lightening rods for attention, Usman’s stoppages of both men served to give him greater acclaim from fan’s and pundits alike.  It is also where the risk comes from going into his latest bout.  Since their first meeting, Covington’s only fight has been a victory against former champion Tyron Woodley who is no longer on the roster.  While it would be another impressive feather in Usman’s cap, the one with the most to gain is his previously dispatched foe.

Colby Covington long ago made peace with stirring controversy in order to grab attention that he could turn into competitive opportunities.  Often toeing the line between a braggadocious pro-wrestling persona to outright making inflammatory comments, “Chaos” has done his part to inspire emotion and reaction out of the fanbase.  It is also what makes him the fighter with the most to lose on Saturday.  Similar to Masvidal in April, a seemingly immediate rematch for Covington could be his redemption or completely shut him out of the title picture altogether.  Consecutive losses to the champion would mean he is far from a title shot until the reigning king loses the belt, while a victory would in all likelihood set up a trilogy.

Inside the cage, the onus is on Covington to have improved upon the fighter who pushed Usman to the limit in 2019.  Both men have changed teams and coaches since their last meeting and Covington has made the move from American Top Team to MMA Gold in Florida.  While he did not need to display a vastly improved arsenal against Tyron Woodley last September, Usman is expected to pose a vastly more difficult challenge entirely.  Should Covington defeat this version of Usman, it would be one of the more impressive comebacks seen in a championship rematch in recent years considering the Usman’s dominance.

Usman will look be looking to use his power and physicality to deliver damage early to Covington.  The challenger does his best work when he is dictating the tempo and is pushing his opponents to the fence where he can work to keep them on the mat.  As such, Usman will look to keep the fight at mid-range on the feet where he will look to use his power to get the better of the exchanges.  Should the fight be close, he may also look to use his own wrestling and force Covington to work off his back where he has not been tested in recent years.  Covington’s biggest challenge will be getting inside the range of Usman in order to use his high volume striking and wrestling attack.

A Covington victory is likely to set up the trilogy in 2022.  An Usman victory would set up an interesting scenario as the welterweight division could see a major turnover in the title picture soon.  With a high profile bout between Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards coming up in December and contenders like Vicente Luque and Khamzat Chimaev making their way up the ranks, it’s expected that 2022 will see a new cast of characters reach title contention.