UFC on ESPN: Any time that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) steps back into the hallowed halls of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is a big deal. This card sees three title fights in the desert, with the headline attraction being the first title defense of UFC Welterweight Champions Kamaru Usman as he faces off against Colby Covington. Add in a Featherweight defense that sees Max Holloway taking on Alexander Volkanovski and a women’s Bantamweight clash that sees challenger Germaine de Randamie face legendary champion Amanda Nunes, and this becomes a card worth watching.
The champion comes into this bout with a 15-1 record as a professional fighter. Usman is known for his striking – and specifically his heavy hands – and he has won six of his bouts by KO or TKO compared to just one by submission. The one defeat on Usman’s record came early in his career. In just his second bout he was forced to submit by the much more experienced Jose Caceres. Since that point, the “Nigerian Nightmare” has constantly improved his skills and it isn’t hard to imagine that if that fight had come around at a later point the Usman would still be undefeated.
Covington shares an identical 15-1 record with Usman which is one of the reasons that fans are so excited by the prospect of this particular matchup. One way that Covington will try to get the better of the champ is by getting in his head, with the Clovis, California native known for his sharp tongue and his ability to play the mental game. When he is in the octagon is the submission game that Covington prefers, with just a pair of wins by KO or TKO compared to five where he has made his opponent submit. The loss on Covington’s record came courtesy of Warlley Alves as UFC 194. In that bout, Covington failed to get going, with Alves getting inside and finding a way to choke him out inside the first round.
A good metric to how a bout will go is to look at common opponents. Both Usman and Covington hold wins over lightweight star Rafael dos Anjos. Usman brutalized dos Anjos with strikes and dominated all three scorecards, while Covington – a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler – outworked dos Anjos to just about get the nod from the judges. The two had fairly similar outings against Demian Maia – albeit Usman went five rounds and Covington just three – while Covington’s loss to Warlley Alves was against another opponent that Usman monstered, beating the Brazilian in significant strikes landed 71-25.
Based on all the facts coming into this one we have to give the edge to the more powerful and physically dominant Usman. The best chance that Covington has is to get inside and force Usman into a submission and ground battle, but at this point in his career, Usman is just so dominant with his strikes that it is hard to see the grapple based Covington finding the right angles to take the big man down. Usman is 0.48 to win the bout on BetXchange and if you want a punt on one of the underdogs to win then we like Volkanovski to beat Holloway (1.26) more than we like the chances of Usman or Nunes being upset.