This weekend marks the return of the newly crowned pound for pound king, Kamaru Usman. The fight is a rematch between he and the ever-controversial Colby Covington. At UFC 268, Usman is looking to put a stamp on the rivalry with a more decisive victory and further his claim as the pound for pound king. On the other hand, Covington is looking to prove that the first fight was his until the knockdown and that he is the true king at 170. Today, we’re diving into that fight and giving you a little taste of what’s to come.
The King: Kamaru Usman
Since fighting Covington for the first time in 2019, Usman has gone on a rampage destroying everything in his path. From calling him boringly effective against Masvidal at UFC 251 to a fighter capable of finishing a fight anywhere, Usman has come a long way since the foot stomping against the fence days. Now, he’s a certified killer. We’ve seen him knock out Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal in the rematch. The first fight was a slugfest, albeit a sloppy one.
In From Good To Great: Kamaru Usman, I discussed how Usman saw the writing on the wall with his damaged knees and changed as a fighter to continue his reign as champ, essentially futureproofing his fighting style. Usman teamed up with Trevor Wittman after years at American Top Team. The move has proved beneficial taking Usman’s striking from rudimentary to a step up.
Is Usman now Anderson Silva? Absolutely not. But Wittman and Usman have developed a system that works for him. Usman has become formidable standing up to where only trying to avoid the takedowns won’t work anymore as Masvidal found out. He can, and will, put you away with his hands. Covington will have a hard time with the new Usman given what we’ve seen from him in the past.
Usman will have to go out there and dare Colby Covington to be different at UFC 268. After he fought Usman, Covington went out and fought Tyron Woodley and fought the exact same way. Usman will do well with his strong stiff jab and a strong right hand. Covington might try to come and wrestle with Usman more and that will also prove to be futile if not set up properly. I look for Kamaru Usman to dominate at UFC 268 and put Colby Covington away easier than the first fight without having to change what he’s been doing in his previous two fights. He simply needs to not let the antics of Covington get to him.
UFC 268 Burning Question: Can Covington Do The Impossible?
While the headline suggests beating Usman is impossible, it’s really not. The statement is more or less a reference to everyone counting out Covington in this one, and for good reason. He hasn’t shown any improvement since the two last fought at UFC 245 whereas Usman has. Covington did go out and dominate Tyron Woodley but that defeat has aged rather terribly after Woodley has dropped fights to Vicente Luque and Jake freaking Paul. While it’s hard to argue that Leon Edwards deserves the title shot over Covington, that’s not the reality we’re dealt.
So how does Colby Covington beat Usman? Essentially by not being Colby Covington, which is a tough ask. Covington is a volume puncher and uses his cardio to out-man his opponents. That’s worked well for him until he fought Usman who did the exact same thing. In the first fight, it didn’t work for Covington and his body gave in before Usman’s did.
First thing I’m doing if I’m Covington is going at the knees of Usman. Oblique kicks and leg kicks will be my first line of attack to the champ. It’s a two-fold attack. First, it negates any wrestling Usman will possibly consider. Attacking the lead leg will make it harder to get the takedown with a compromised leg. Second, his knees are bad. As cheap as it is, Covington should look to incapacitate and hurt Usman that way.
Covington doesn’t have the best head movement as we’ve seen in the last two fights. He will have had to have been working on this the entire time. Slipping the jab will also be very important for Covington at UFC 268. Usman will set up many of his power shots with the jab and Covington will want to stay out of the way. Should he slip well, he can dip inside and land some clean shots as well off of the slip on the inside.
Covington would also do well to fight out of southpaw for most of the fight, if not all of it. Covington fights out of southpaw for the most part so this adjustment should be easy and a thing of drill. If Covington can get the outside foot advantage, he can stay out of the line of fire from Usman, find some good angles to catch the champ with, and possibly even a takedown from the position built off a pivot.
All this is a lot for Colby Covington to do at UFC 268. He will have to change the type of fighter he is completely and watching the Tyron Woodley fight, I’m not led to believe he’s done that. With Usman at a -310 favorite, I think he’s the safe bet. While the first fight was fun, I believe beating Usman is a lot to ask from Covington at this point. Look for this to be a decisive stamp on the rivalry that Usman will put behind him.
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Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.