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UFC 268 Staff Predictions: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington fight breakdown, picks

UFC 268 Staff Predictions: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington fight breakdown, picks

UFC 268 Staff Predictions: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington fight breakdown, picks 6

Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington will run it back this Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The UFC Welterweight Championship bout is this weekend’s UFC 268 main event and that means fans can order the pay-per-view fight card here on ESPN+ to watch this fight and the entire main card live this weekend.

Usman and Covington first clashed back in December 2019 and it was the champion, Usman, who earned a late technical knockout victory after knocking down the challenger twice in the final minute of the fight.

Usman is now regarded as the top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC after defending his title against Jorge Masvidal twice and also Gilbert Burns since then.

Here’s how to watch UFC 268 on Saturday night.

Existing ESPN+ subscribers can purchase the UFC 268 PPV for $69.99 and watch every fight live on the ESPN+ streaming service, and replays following the event.

New ESPN+ subscribers are able to purchase the special UFC 268 & ESPN+ Bundle for $89.99. The bundle includes the UFC 268 PPV ($69.99) and also a one-year subscription to ESPN+ ($59.99) for just $89.99.

Usman vs. Covington 2 predictions

Braeden Arbour

This rematch of one of the most entertaining welterweight title bouts in UFC history is a fascinating fight to look forward to. One of the key things to remember is that in their first fight the scores were essentially split down the middle going into the 5th round, so by the smallest of margins it isn’t insane to argue that Covington was potentially winning the fight before the stoppage. That being said, I believe that the style in which they fought led to the stoppage from the get-go tactically.

At first glance, it looked as though Covington came out stronger early, and then Usman came back and dominated late. However, I think it’s important to look at what kind of investments they began making right away. Covington’s success was mostly in terms of volume, he came out with a wider shot selection and a higher pace and landed three to four punches to Usman’s one or two. This racks up on the scorecards, especially because the majority were shots to the head. Usman landed less but the impact was typically larger, while Covington swarms with his combinations he doesn’t sit on the power shots nearly as much, and it was evident that when Usman did land he got a reaction out of Covington.

Furthermore, while Covington was headhunting, Usman was heavily investing in the body, and it showed as Covington buckled on multiple occasions. Therefore, while Covington’s tactic in swarming the head with volume paid off maybe more heavily in the scorecards, the lower volume more power shots to the body was an investment in later damage and conditioning for Usman. The second major aspect of that fight was Usman adapting to the straight punch boxing, once he figured out his distance, his ability to step in from a further distance and dominate the outside boxing range partially negated Covingtons ability to flurry with hooks in the pocket, which was an element that he showed great success within the first half of their fight.

Going into their second fight, Usman will be coming off of three title defenses since Covington, one contender win. The main improvements we have seen from Usman have been an improvement in timing I believe and a new confidence in his power. He has also become one of the very best at not telegraphing his jab and crossing down the middle, which will be an important tool against Covington’s pressure. Covington also showed adjustments, against Tyron Woodley we saw a more sound approach to defensive footwork, Covington gave space and timed his opponent’s over commitments in order to find the takedowns he wanted. The need to wrestle will likely be in Covington’s court this time around as he needs to find a way to force the pace and pressure without necessarily standing too long in the fire as Usman’s power advantage is now evident.

Ultimately I think that Usman showed he was the superior fighter in the first fight. Although it was close since it seems as though Usman has put in more work inside the octagon in his three title fights, while Covington won a bout that was a step down in competition. For Usman, the adjustments he will mostly need to make were found in the latter section of their first fight, establish range, go to the straight shots and invest in the body. For Covington I think he needs to make the more drastic changes, to incorporate his wrestling not so much to force a grappling match but to mix up how he keeps up his pressure and pace and to be less predictable. He also needs to do this with the more varied footwork he has shown since.

Prediction: Usman to win via TKO

Michael Pounders

Usman is the ultimate professional, in and out of the octagon. Once the cage closes, Usman not only does everything well in mixed martial arts, with his newfound jab and power striking, he often does everything better than his opponent. Usman has a 2:1 positive strike differential, above a 50% striking accuracy and defense, averages 3.3 takedowns per fight at nearly a 50% clip, and has stuffed 100% of takedowns. He is still growing too, which is scary. Once seen as a grinder who will push his opponent into deep waters, Usman has recently found power and subsequent violence. He has knocked out 3 of his last 4 opponents. The key to his newfound power is likely Trevor Wittman, Usman’s coach who seems to specialize in adding that one missing piece to his fighters. The missing puzzle piece for Usman was a stiff jab and a straight right hand. The champ now has both weapons in his already deep arsenal. Overall, Usman is nearly flawless, he has the hands to put his opponents to sleep, the wrestling to drag them down, the cardio to grow stronger as the fight enters the championship rounds, and the IQ to evolve mid-fight. His only flaw is that he can be clipped and rocked. Covington, in their first fight, tagged Usman and Burns wobbled him too. In both cases though, Usman recovered and later got the finish himself. He’ll look for another finish at UFC 268.

Standing in his way is Covington. The man has many alliterative and accurate nicknames- chaos, cardio, and cringe. Covington is immensely skilled in creating chaos in the octagon, pushing his opponents deep into fights, and getting in their heads to test their mental strength. Many UFC fans see Covington as a loud and outspoken character who tries to talk his way into big fights. But, he truly is a talented fighter. He uses his persona as a mental warfare strategy as much as a marketing tool. His goal is to get his opponent to react emotionally in the cage so he can tactically take advantage of mistakes. Once he sees an opening, Covington, who also has a 2:1 positive strike differential, can piece up his opponent. His striking is often overlooked because of how accredited a wrestler he is. His wrestling has translated to the UFC and he averages 4.6 takedowns per fight. Whether on the feet or on the mat, Covington wants his opponents to emotionally charge forward so he can capitalize with a combination or takedown.

Both men are incredibly talented and rightly sit atop the welterweight division. I think Covington has a chance if he can survive, land volume, and win in a war- his speciality. However, Usman was able to rock and beat Covington in their last fight. Since then, Usman has evolved and improved. Meanwhile, Covington took 5 rounds to beat a less than championship caliber Woodley. I anticipate Usman keeping a cool head and deliberately dismantling Covington.

Prediction: Usman by KO/TKO

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