Kamaru Usman continued his crusade as not only the best welterweight, but perhaps the best pound-for-pound, fighter in the world at UFC 268 in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. He once again got the better of Colby Covington in their headlining rematch.
Usman and Covington are former teammates that have become bitter rivals. They met once before with Usman stopping Covington in the fifth round at UFC 245 in 2019. Usman has since reeled off three more title defenses. Covington’s only bout before this was a TKO stoppage of former champ Tyron Woodley.
Usman opened the fight strong, showing deft movement, and landing solid combinations. Covington tried to secure an early takedown, but Usman easily defended and turned the tables. Usman looked cool and confident, landing combinations throughout the round, as Covington started swinging a little wild. Covington dove in with a punch, only to have Usman shoot and plant him on his back. The champions combinations only looked more crisp as the round came to a close.
The second round continued much the same, Usman exerting his dominance on the feet, as Covington sat back, trying to find a power shot. Covington stung Usman with a punch to the chin in the latter half of the round, but got dropped with a left hook in the final minute. He got up quickly, but was again dropped to the canvas. Covington locked onto one of Usman’s legs, eating punches to the ribs as the round closed.
Covington continued to search for the power shot in round three, but his legs were unstable, robbing him of much of his power. Usman remained calm in the center of the Octagon, picking Covington apart with punches. Covington shot midway through the round, only to have it stuffed, and then ate numerous punches. Usman stopped showing respect for Covington’s power, taking more punches than he needed to. Covington landed some good shots and turned it into a takedown, trying to shift the tide as they entered the championship rounds.
Covington opened the fourth frame with a sharp combination and a stinging jab. The crowd got behind him, chanting, “Colby! Colby! Colby!” He laid back for a minute, but then opened up with another combination that landed with authority. Midway through the round, Usman took some of his thunder back, landing his own combination that forced Covington to withdraw. He regrouped and had one of his best moments of the fight in the final two minutes, landing a body kick followed by a punch combination that hurt Usman.
His face busted up, Covington stepped to the center of the Octagon with Usman ready for a final battle for the belt. Usman was stoic in return. Both men began throwing everything they had, but then Covington shot for a takedown. Usman stuffed it and laid heavy on him for a time before returning the fight to standing.
Three minutes left in the fight and they both began unloading again. Usman landed a high kick. Covington another punch combination. As the fight had gone earlier, however, it continued in round five, with Usman outworking his foe. Covington wore the punishment on his face. He didn’t give up, driving Usman to the fence, but the champion kept fending off the takedown attempts and out-striking Usman.
Covington took an inadvertent poke to the eye with 40 seconds left, but seemed no worse for the wear as the fight continued to the final horn. The two met immediately after in the center of the Octagon, exchanging words and a touch of gloves before separating to await the judges’ decision.
It was a close fight. It was a competitive fight. But it was Usman’s fight in the end. The scores were read and Usman walked away with a unanimous decision. Two judges had him up 48-47 and the third 49-46.
“I just gotta give it up. There was a lot of trash talk. But this guy is a tough son of a bitch,” Usman said, the UFC welterweight strap still around his waist.
“I am the pound for pound best alive right now. He’s tough, super tough. I wanted to get crazy and get him out of there, but that’s not what the best do.”
In a rare moment of humility, Covington gave just due to the champion.
“I had my moments. I wobbled him a couple of times, but I wasn’t able to capitalize,” he said.
“Love me or hate me, I’m just getting started. You haven’t seen the last of Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington, yet.”