The UFC’s first March event of 2022 sees a highly anticipated grudge match take top billing when former Interim Welterweight Champion Colby Covington faces off with former teammate Jorge Masvidal. The main card also features a five-round non-title co-main event between former Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos and short-notice replacement Renato Moicano, a striker vs. grappler offering in Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell, the debut of Kevin Holland at Welterweight opposite Alex Oliveira, and former NFL player Greg Hardy against Sergey Spivak.
Colby Covington (16-3) vs. Jorge Masvidal (35-15)
While known by the majority of fans for his over-the-top character, Covington has backed up his words time and time again having established himself firmly as the second-best Welterweight in the UFC. When Covington initially debuted in the UFC, his game was predicated strictly on wrestling. However, by the time he acquired the Interim Welterweight Championship in a decision victory over Rafael Dos Anjos in 2018, Covington’s skills had significantly diversified. Since winning the Interim Championship, Covington has gone 2-2, with victories over former Champions Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Both of his losses in that period have come at the hands of Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. In these bouts, Covington has shown both an ability to grind out his opponents and to outpace them with his striking offence. His striking developments alone made for two razor-close battles with Usman. Against Masvidal, Covington may look to replicate the gameplan he executed against another powerful striker in Woodley – mitigate the opponent’s striking offence with constant grappling offence. While the grappling-heavy approach is likely the path of least resistance, Covington may look to rely on his relentless striking pace instead. However, should he rely on his striking abilities, he runs the risk of being on the wrong end of a Masvidal highlight reel.
Jorge Masvidal finally began getting some notoriety amongst the average fan in 2019 after having already accumulated 45 professional MMA fights. In 2019, Masvidal acquired monstrous KOs over Darren Till and Ben Askren before taking the one-time “BMF” Championship with a TKO victory over Nate Diaz. Since this 2019 run, Masvidal has only fought twice losing both outings to Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. The last loss to Usman came via KO, Masvidal’s first loss via strikes since a 2008 loss to Rodrigo Damm. After nearly a year out, and at 37 years of age now is the time for Masvidal to make strides on the back end of his career. Against Covington, Masvidal will undoubtedly be aware that the takedown threat is imminent. Unfortunately for Masvidal, he has consistently had difficulty fighting off chained and sustained wrestling offence – his bouts with Usman highlighting that issue. However, Masvidal is always a KO threat, having finished 16 of his 35 victories via strikes. He will also likely have a speed advantage over Covington, having formerly been a Lightweight for the majority of his career. Look for Masvidal to possibly attempt to replicate his KO over Ben Askren with forward pressure forcing Covington to shoot into an oncoming knee. Absent that, Masvidal will look to outbox Covington and quickly get up should he get taken down.
Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) vs. Renato Moicano (16-4-1)
For the second time in a row, former UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos faces an opponent on incredibly short-notice. Following a 4-4 run at Welterweight which saw Dos Anjos challenge for the Interim Welterweight Championship against Colby Covington, Dos Anjos returned to the Lightweight division in late 2020 and defeated short-notice replacement Paul Felder via decision. Dos Anjos is highly regarded as a fighter that will take any fight offered to him illustrated by his incredibly deep resume which extends back to his UFC debut in 2008. At 37 years of age, time is ticking for the former Champion to make one last run at the Championship that he once held. Against Moicano, look for Dos Anjos to utilize the five-rounds to his benefit. Knowing that Moicano comes into the bout on short-notice, Dos Anjos may look to extend Moicano into the latter portions of the bout before turning up the pressure for a late submission or TKO finish. Despite being incredibly well-rounded, Dos Anjos will likely look to mitigate Moicano’s height and reach advantages by fighting in the clinch or acquiring takedowns from the cage in order to chip away at Moicano from inside his guard.
Renato Moicano looks to capitalize on an incredible opportunity to fight a former Champion in a co-main event on a big PPV when he faces Dos Anjos on just four days notice. Moicano was last in action just three weeks ago when he dispatched of Alexander Hernandez at UFC 271 via submission. The win pushed Moicano’s UFC Lightweight record to 3-1, with all three of those victories coming by way of RNC. The unranked contender could make large strides ascending the divisional rankings with a victory over the sixth-ranked contender Dos Anjos. Against Dos Anjos, Moicano enjoys a three-inch reach and two-inch height advantage and will likely look to maximize those in order to come out on top. With Dos Anjos’ background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it would seem ill-advised for Moicano to try and outgrapple the former Champion. Instead, look for Moicano to utilize his quick jab and cross to frustrate Dos Anjos from range. Moicano has previously utilized this sort of strategy against the likes of Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar during his run at Featherweight to great effect. Should Moicano’s cardio hold up for the duration of the contest, he stands a decent chance of pulling off the short-notice upset.
Edson Barboza (22-10) vs. Bryce Mitchell (14-0)
At just 2-2 in his UFC Featherweight run, it still appears too early to tell just how prosperous Barboza could be at the weight class. In this run, Barboza has picked up a decision victory over Makwan Amirkhani and a bizzare KO victory over Shane Burgos where Burgos suffered from a significant delayed effect from a Barboza punch. In his most recent outing, Barboza found himself on the wrong-end of a TKO loss to Giga Chikadze and now looks to return to the win column. At 36 years of age, time is limited for the nearly 12-year UFC veteran to notch his first title fight. Against Mitchell, Barboza will definitely look to keep the fight standing and uncork heavy strikes on his opponent. Given the tenacity of Mitchell’s submission offence, expect Barboza to potentially refrain from kicking at all in order to avoid presenting an easy takedown opportunity for Mitchell. Instead, expect Barboza to try and outbox Mitchell from distance while also looking to utilize knees to intercept Mitchell’s constant takedown threat like he did against Beneil Darish back in 2017.
Bryce Mitchell is a massive hurdle for anyone in the Featherweight division. Mitchell first appeared on the UFC scene during a stint on the 27th season of The Ultimate Fighter. There Mitchell made it to the semi-final round where he lost to eventual season winner Brad Katona in a back-and-forth grappling affair. Since his appearance on the reality series, Mitchell has picked up an unblemished 5-0 record in the UFC with notable decision victories over Andre Fili and Charles Rosa as well as just the second Twister submission ever successfully completed in the UFC against Matt Sayles. Mitchell’s game is clearly based around grappling. Utilizing strong shoot-style entries to get his opponents on the ground, Mitchell chains submission attempts back-to-back constantly in order to keep his opponent defending for the entirety of the rounds. Expect no different against Barboza, whom Mitchell will want to have no part in striking against. If Mitchell is able to get the fight to the ground, he has demonstrated constant chaining between Arm-Triangle attempts and Twister attempts most notably in his bout with Rosa. If Mitchell can become just the third person to submit Barboza, and the first to do so at Featherweight, he could find himself in a very high-profile bout his next time out.
Kevin Holland (21-7) vs. Alex Oliveira (22-11)
Not that long ago, Kevin Holland was riding an incredible win streak, having notched five victories in 2020 alone. These wins included stoppage victories over Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Charlie Ontiveros, and BJJ ace Ronald ‘Jacare’ Souza. However, subsequent to this run, Holland dropped decisions to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori before having a No Contest with Kyle Daukaus due to an accidental collision of heads compromising Holland before the fight was stopped. Holland now looks to reinvent himself a weight class lower at Welterweight – a division he has not fought in since before he was in the UFC (2017). Expect Holland to maximize his physical advantages over Oliveria – a four-inch height advantage and five-inch reach advantage. Given Holland does his best work from distance, it should come as no surprise that he will likely attempt to uncork straight punches from range in search of a finish. Should his cardio hold up, Welterweight may have a new contender emerge.
Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira finds himself in a precarious position. With just a 2-6 record in his last eight bouts, including a current three-fight losing streak, Oliveira may be close to exiting the organization. In his recent losing streak, Oliveira has been outmuscled by the likes of Shavkat Rakhmonov, Randy Brown, and Niko Price. Given that Oliveira’s game is largely predicated on being the stronger fighter, this trend does not look promising against a fighter moving down a weight class in Holland. Now at 34 years of age, Oliveira may have to rely more on his technique than his strength. In order for Oliveira to defeat Holland, he will have to wrestle. Holland has consistently shown subpar takedown defence and has been content to stay on his back while his opponents maintain top control. Expect Oliveira to engage in clinch grappling with the objective of taking Holland to the ground with a body lock in order to ride out top position.
Sergey Spivak (13-3) vs. Greg Hardy (7-4)
Moldovan “Polar Bear” Sergey Spivak looks to rebound from a loss to rising prospect Tom Aspinall on Saturday. Since debuting in the UFC in 2019, Spivak has accumulated a 4-3 record in the promotion with victories over Carlos Felipe, Jared Vanderaa, Alexey Oleynik, and a submission finish of Tai Tuivasa. Spivak does his best work when he is grappling, utilizing strong clinch work, ground and pound, and submission offence to secure his victories. Against Hardy, this is the exact path he will need to take to take a victory. Look for Spivak to replicate his victory over Tuivasa against Hardy. Namely, Spivak will have to drag the contest past the first round, get Hardy onto his back, and work for fight-ending ground-and-pound or a submission finish.
Greg Hardy may be fighting for his position in the UFC this Saturday. The former NFL player comes into the contest with a 4-4, 1 NC record in the organization and is currently on a two-fight losing streak with both of those losses coming via strikes. Each of the opponents that Hardy has defeated in the UFC are no longer in the promotion, those being Dmitry Smolyakov, Juan Adams, Yorgan de Castro, and Maurice Greene. In his bout with Marcin Tybura, Hardy showed that he is still very green if forced to fight from his back. While he undoubtedly has put in work to solve this issue, he likely will want to keep the fight against Spivak on the feet. Hardy’s strikes are incredibly powerful and Spivak has been finished with strikes before so look for Hardy to either get the quick KO or outpoint Spivak over 15 minutes. Still young in his MMA career, it will be interesting to see if Hardy has made any progression overall.
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