Kamaru Usman retained the welterweight championship with a unanimous decision win against Colby Covington at the main event of UFC 268 inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the early hours of Sunday.
The second instalment of the bout between Usman and Covington didn’t have the same torrid pace as the first meeting between the two in December 2019. That fight saw the men combine for more than 300 significant strikes landed before Usman scored a TKO late in the fifth round. This time around, both men showed respect for the other man’s power, picking and choosing when to engage with strikes.
Covington even chose to mix wrestling into his attack, trying to give Usman different looks and concerns. Usman was perfect in his takedown defence coming into the fight, having defended 20 of 20 attempted takedowns in his UFC career. Covington still used the threat to open up new attacking lanes, even as Usman actually won the wrestling exchanges with Covington failing on all 11 of his takedown attempts.
The biggest moment of the fight came in the second round when Usman dropped Covington twice with right hands near the end of the round.
Despite having clearly been hurt 90 seconds earlier, Covington came out for the third round and continued to be dangerous with effective body kicks and combination punching that kept Usman from fully unloading. Those body kicks paid off in the fourth round, with Usman appearing to have been hurt when one landed solidly.
With the fight hanging in the balance entering the final round, Usman was able to lean on his sharp jab to control the action and separate him in the championship rounds.
Ultimately, Usman had done enough after five rounds to earn the nod on the judges’ scorecards, winning by scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46.
After the final horn sounded, Usman and Covington hugged with Covington appearing to admit that his trash talk was just a matter of helping the fight do better business before the fighters acknowledged their mutual respect.
“I just gotta give it up,” Usman said after the fight. “I know there was a lot of trash talk and bad blood and there’s still going to be some after tonight. But he’s a tough son of a b—. … I mean, when you share an octagon with someone this tough, you can’t help it. That respect is going to come. He hit me with some shots and I could tell they’ve been working on it. The power came up a little bit and I could tell they had been working on it. I had to give him that respect.”
Covington, a notorious character who throws as many verbal barbs as punches, took the loss in stride.
“I had my moments,” Covington said. “I wobbled him a couple times at the end of the round and I wasn’t able to capitalize. He had the better night.”
Other notable bouts saw Justin Gaethje defeat Michael Chandler via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) and
Alex Pereira end Andreas Michailids’s challenge via second-round knockout.
Rose Namajunas retained her belt with a split decision win against Weili Zhang via split decision, Marlon Vera defeated Frankie Edgar via third-round knockout and Shane Burgos beat Billy Quarantillo via unanimous decision.