UFC 268: Kamaru Usman beats Colby Covington in rematch

By Simon HeadMMA writer
Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman (right) extended his winning streak to 19 fights with victory over Colby Covington

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman retained his title with a unanimous decision win against Colby Covington in their rematch at UFC 268 in New York.

Usman, 34, dropped the challenger twice in quick succession at the end of the second round with a big left hook then a huge right hand.

Covington, 33, rallied in rounds three and four and the pair traded heavy shots in the fifth without either able to land a fight-ending blow.

The judges scored it 48-47 48-47 49-46.

On a packed card at Madison Square Garden, Rose Namajunas defended her strawweight belt against Zhang Weili, while Justin Gaethje beat Michael Chandler to put himself in contention for a lightweight title fight.

"I am the pound-for-pound best alive right now," said Usman, who won their first meeting in Las Vegas at UFC 245 in December 2019 via fifth-round TKO.

For the rematch, both fighters arrived in New York with different gameplans and improved skills as they went back and forth throughout the full five-round duration.

After the fight, which has been preceded by verbal angst, Usman paid tribute to his opponent.

He said: "Guys, I just gotta give it up. I know there was a lot of trash talk, there's a lot of bad blood here, and I'm sure there's still going to be some after tonight.

"When you share an octagon with someone this tough, you can't help (but respect them). That respect is going to come."

Usman's victory improves his record to 20-1 and extends his winning streak to 19 fights as he cemented his place at the top of the UFC's pound-for-pound list.

And 'The Nigerian Nightmare' admitted he had to fight with his head, rather than his heart, to ensure he did enough to defeat an elite opponent.

"I'm gonna tell you what, he's tough," he added. "He's super tough. I wanted to get crazy and get him out of there, but that's not what is the best do.

"We take our time, we stay calculated, we listen to our coaches and we find the finish.

"Unfortunately, that's the next best guy in the division. He's a tough son of a gun, and he wasn't going to let me find that finish."

Covington, meanwhile, promised he would return better than ever.

"Love me or hate me, I'm just getting started," the American said.

"You haven't seen the best of Colby 'Chaos' Covington yet. I'll be back in the gym on Monday."

Namajunas retains title via split decision

Rose Namajunas
Rose Namajunas (right) has won 11 of her 15 MMA fights

In the co-main event, women's strawweight champion Namajunas completed back-to-back victories over former champion Weili with a hard-earned split-decision win.

Namajunas, 29, had defeated Zhang, 32, via first-round head-kick knockout in their first meeting as the American dethroned the Chinese fighter to reclaim strawweight gold.

But their rematch in New York proved to be a much closer affair, as the pair battled back and forth through five tightly-contested rounds that left the judges split on the identity of the winner.

However, it was Namajunas whose hand was raised, with the scores reading 47-48, 48-47, 49-46 in the defending champion's favour.

"I was pretty confident in the end that I had won it," she said after the fight.

"I had a feeling it was going to be a way tougher fight, and she improved a lot, so I've got to give her some props. I know what I've got to work on now."

Vera stuns Edgar with front-kick KO

Ecuador's Marlon 'Chito' Vera produced a familiar finish to stop former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in their bantamweight bout.

Vera finished New Jersey native Edgar in the third round with a front kick to the face - a carbon copy of the technique infamously used by Brazilian legend Anderson Silva to knock out Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 in 2011 - as the 28-year-old claimed the biggest scalp of his career to register his 20th professional victory.

Burgos edges thrilling featherweight battle

'Hurricane' Shane Burgos claimed a hard-earned win in his home town as the New Yorker edged a unanimous decision against gritty rival Billy Quarantillo in their 145-pound bout.

Quarantillo, 32, started the better of the pair, but 30-year-old Burgos settled into the bout and started to make his slicker striking skills pay off as the Bronx-born fighter earned scores of 29-28 on all three cards to improve his record to 14-3.

Gaethje and Chandler serve up an instant classic

Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje earned the 23rd win of his career

The main card kicked off with a bang as lightweight contenders Gaethje and Chandler produced a thrilling three-round battle that had the crowd on its feet.

Former interim champion Gaethje, 32, and former Bellator champ Chandler, 35, loaded up and swung for the fences from the very start as the pair went back and forth in a breathless opening round.

Gaethje then dropped Chandler with a huge uppercut in the second round, only for Chandler to recover and fight his way back to the feet as the stand-up battle resumed once again.

The third round saw the pace drop slightly, with both men suffering from the breakneck pace and heavy strikes throughout.

But the action continued to go back and forth all the way to the final buzzer as the Madison Square Garden crowd rose to acknowledge both fighters.

When the verdict was delivered, all three judges were in agreement over the victor, as Gaethje earned a unanimous decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28, 30-27.

Gaethje's win - the 23rd of his career - puts him in pole position to face the winner of the upcoming lightweight title fight between reigning champion Charles Oliveira and top contender Dustin Poirier, who face off at UFC 269 in Las Vegas on 11 December.

Pereira serves notice to middleweight division

Former kickboxing world champion Alex Pereira arrived in the UFC with a bang as he scored a huge knockout of Greece's Andreas Michailidis.

Pereira, 34, defeated current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya twice - including one by knockout - in the kickboxing ring.

And the Brazilian - a training partner of light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira - marked his octagon debut with a stunning flying knee 18 seconds into the second round to announce his arrival as a new threat to the middleweight division's best.

Garry delivers stunning KO on UFC debut

Irish welterweight Ian Garry made a huge impression as he recovered from a tricky start to claim a highlight-reel knockout on his UFC debut.

Garry, 23, was caught with a number of solid punches early by American Jordan Williams.

But the former Cage Warriors welterweight champion found his range in the closing seconds of the opening round as he connected with a perfect straight right hand that knocked out his man with one second remaining.

Garry later admitted the occasion of making his octagon debut at Madison Square Garden got to him a little before he calmed his nerves and scored an attention-grabbing victory.

"For the first time in my life, I felt a little bit of nerves, a little bit of of wind," he said, after extending his perfect record to eight wins and no losses.

"Twenty-three, making my UFC debut at MSG. It doesn't get better than this. The Irish are back, baby.

"I've a lot to learn, I'm 23 years of age. We're going to be a world champion, we are taking over the division."

He then referenced a famous post-fight interview from Irish superstar Conor McGregor as he hailed his arrival as the second coming of Irish MMA in the UFC.

"A wise Irish man once said before me, he stepped in this very cage and he said, 'We're not here to take part, we're here to take over!'" said Garry.

"This is the takeover, part two."

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