What to Watch at U.F.C. 268 as Usman and Covington Headline

The Final Combating Championship returns to Madison Sq. Backyard on Saturday with what is probably its most loaded card of 2021, an occasion that options two championship fights and a No. 1 contender identifier for the promotion’s best division.

The pay-per-view, bought in the USA by ESPN+, begins at 10 p.m. Jap and prices $69.99.

Listed here are the issues it’s essential find out about a very powerful bouts on the cardboard:

Kamaru Usman turned the welterweight champion in 2019 after defeating the previous champion, Tyron Woodley, by way of choice. Since then, he has defended the belt 4 instances, ending three fights by knockout.

His first title protection got here in opposition to Colby Covington in 2019, a aggressive five-round battle that ended within the final spherical when Usman landed photographs to Covington on the bottom that compelled the referee, Marc Goddard, to finish the bout. Covington contends that the stoppage was early as a result of he claims he was defending himself, and he additionally accused Usman of exaggerating his reactions to a kick near the groin and a watch poke that precipitated Goddard to pause the combat twice.

The 2 males genuinely dislike one another, as evidenced by the insults they’ve hurled at one another and heated broadcast interviews they participated in. Covington specifically has been brash, latching himself onto the previous President Donald J. Trump, sporting “Make America Nice Once more” hats and selling Donald Trump Jr.’ s guide.

Within the cage, Usman is the extra muscular man, however Covington absorbed most of his punches effectively throughout their final combat. To win, Covington might want to use his cardio benefit and set an aggressive tempo whereas additionally various his assaults between placing and wrestling. Usman is a extra well-rounded fighter and is a -300 betting favourite. His mild, straight jabs maintain sufficient energy to ship an individual to the bottom. He may win in quite a lot of methods, however will doubtless try to make use of his attain benefit to maintain Covington at a distance.

Rose Namajunas stripped Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who on the time had dominated the ladies’s strawweight division, of the title in 2017 by way of technical knockout. She misplaced the belt in 2019 however regained it in April, when she head-kicked Zhang Weili, her left foot tapping Zhang’s chin and sending her to the bottom. Zhang, as soon as up, contested the stoppage.

Zhang turned the primary Chinese language champion in U.F.C. historical past in 2019, and her defeat to Namajunas was seen as a fast finish to what ought to have been a aggressive, fast-paced combat between the world’s finest 115-pounders. For the reason that loss, Zhang started coaching with Henry Cejudo, the previous U.F.C. flyweight and bantamweight double champion. Namajunas will almost definitely use her attain benefit and superior placing, whereas Zhang will look to grapple within the clinch.

That is primarily an audition for the following opponent for the U.FC.’s light-weight championship. With the 155-pound champion Charles Oliveira scheduled to combat Dustin Poirier in December, the winner of that combat will both face Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje.

Chandler first fought within the U.F.C. in 2020 after a profitable run in Bellator M.M.A., thought-about the second-largest blended martial arts promotion behind the U.F.C. He gained his first combat however misplaced to Oliveira within the second spherical by way of technical knockout in a contest to fill the vacant light-weight title after the dominant champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired.

Earlier than dealing with Nurmagomedov in October 2020, Gaethje had a four-fight win streak and gained the interim light-weight title.

Each Gaethje and Chandler function an analogous type as succesful wrestlers and explosive strikers. This combat begins off the principle card, so seize your beer and wings early and don’t blink. This doubtless gained’t final lengthy.

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