The UFC returns to pay-per-view this weekend as the promotion begins the homestretch of 2021 with the MMA leader’s annual trip to The World’s Most-Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, and what a fight they have planned for the first visit to The Garden in two years.
After not visiting MSG in 2020 due to COVID-19 safeguards still being in place, forcing the promotion to relocate all of its US-based events to Las Vegas and the UFC Apex for more than a full year, the UFC is making up for the lost time by giving MSG a rematch for the UFC Welterweight Championship in the UFC 268 main event.
Incumbent champion Kamaru Usman (19-1 MMA, 13-0 UFC) will battle No. 1 contender Colby Covington (16-2 MMA, 10-3 UFC) 23 months after their confrontation in the UFC 245 main event, with supremacy at 170 lbs. again at stake in the UFC 268 main event to close the penultimate flagship show of the year.
The Last Meeting
In December of 2019, Covington and Usman met for the first time in the UFC 245 main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Although Covington took Usman to the fifth round in that headlining bout of the final UFC pay-per-view of 2019, it was during the third round of the scheduled five that Usman scored a right-handed punch to break Covington’s jaw, with Covington audibly telling his cornermen “I think he broke my jaw” in the one-minute break between the third and fourth rounds.
During the fifth round, Covington was dropped twice within a minute, with Usman scoring relentless ground and pound shots to force Marc Goddard to wave off the fight and give Usman the TKO victory.
In the interim, a universal storyline has come about, as both men have joined new training camps. Covington joined MMA Masters and Cesar Carneiro after departing American Top Team, whereas Kamaru Usman now trains under Trevor Wittman in Denver.
UFC 268 Main Event Fighter Comparison
Going into the UFC 268 main event on Saturday night, the champion stands taller at six feet even, with the challenger standing at 5-foot-11.
Additionally, Usman holds a four-inch reach advantage (76 inches to 72 inches) over Covington, with both men having identical leg reaches (41 inches apiece) heading into this fight.
Colby Covington Stirs The Pot Ahead of UFC 268 Main Event
Any time Colby Covington, who has gone 4-1 in his last five UFC appearances, is heading into a fight, as he is for the UFC 268 main event on Saturday, the storyline that comes up most often is an obvious one:
“What will this guy say next?”
As mentioned earlier in the week on this very website, Colby Covington has a penchant for drawing the ire of MMA fighters and fans alike by making questionable comments.
Despite informing his cornermen during UFC 245 two years ago that Usman gave him a broken jaw, Covington has recently said that he hadn’t suffered such an injury, as he told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto in a recent interview.
“It definitely wasn’t broken,” Covington told Okamoto of his jaw injury. “He landed a clean strike, it was a good strike, but it was not a broken jaw… I’m tougher than anybody, I can endure anything.”
In September of 2020, Covington fought most recently and returned to the win column, scoring a fifth-round TKO (rib injury) of Tyron Woodley during the UFC Vegas 11 main event.
Even though Covington has the reputation for being a trash-talker in the run-up to a UFC fight, the war of words is inconsequential once the Octagon door shuts and the referee gives the command to fight, and he’s said so much already.
Next Up For Usman: Chimaev?
In the other corner, Kamaru Usman has gone 5-0 in his last five UFC appearances and still has yet to lose in the promotion.
Although the Covington vs. Usman rematch is still a few days away as of this writing, that hasn’t stopped the speculation as to who Usman’s next opponent just might be with a win in the UFC 268 main event.
Recently, in the aftermath of UFC 267, UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping played matchmaker for Usman in the event that he wins on Saturday, eyeing undefeated Khamzat Chimaev (10-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) as his next foe in the Octagon.
“Khamzat Chimaev, for any doubts people had, this man’s the real deal,” Bisping said. “If you’re a welterweight, watch your back. If you’re Kamaru Usman, who’s the pound-for-pound champ right now, he’s paying attention. He saw that on Saturday night and was like, ‘OK, we could have an issue on our hands. We could have a contender. We could have someone who’s willing to give me a real fight.'”
While Usman vs. Chimaev would no doubt be an appealing and entertaining fight should it come to pass, Usman can’t afford to lose sight of what stands in front of him on Saturday in the UFC 268 main event.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the UFC 268 main event seems to be a toss-up, as both champion and challenger are from a wrestling background, so let the ground war begin.
Watch For Covington to Mix it Up
As has been the case throughout his most recent UFC wins, Colby Covington has been able to effectively mix up his offensive attack to try and catch his adversaries off-guard, like he did against Woodley last year.
Right from the command to fight, Covington scored a takedown on Woodley, mixing it up with kicks to the body and right-handed punches to Woodley’s face, sending him to an over-under clinch in the first round to establish control of the fight.
This pace continued in the later rounds, and although Woodley tried his best to pacify Covington’s effort, he largely could not keep up with his opponent’s forward movement.
If Colby Covington can vary his offensive game plan and keep moving forward in the UFC 268 main event, Kamaru Usman could be in serious trouble.
Usman Can End the UFC 268 Main Event With One Punch
In the other corner, Kamaru Usman has deadly one-punch power, as Masvidal found out back in the spring.
During the second round of a scheduled five, Usman unloaded on Masvidal with a vicious right cross, sending him down and out, before peppering him with a brief flurry of ground and pound shots– with Herb Dean finally waving off the contest.
If Kamaru Usman’s punches are on the button in the UFC 268 main event, Colby Covington’s gameplan won’t be able to save him, period, hard stop.
The UFC 268 main event on Saturday night has serious Fight of the Year implications written all over it.
Will this one live up to the hype?
Only time will tell, so don’t miss it.
Prediction: Colby Covington by Unanimous Decision.