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Kamaru Usman proved once again he’s the best welterweight fighter in the UFC after he viciously knocked out Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 to defend his belt for the fourth time. It was his third knockout in the last four fights, proving he’s more than just a wrestler.
As he already cleaned the division, the question remains – what’s next for Kamaru? If we’re looking at the rankings – or who gave him the most trouble defending his belt – it’s obvious his next opponent will be Colby Covington, especially after UFC president Dana White expressed his desire to make the fight happen.
With a rematch inevitably on the way, let’s take a look at the potential second matchup, the advantages of both fighters, and ultimately conclude who wins the anticipated welterweight clash.
The first fight between Usman and Covington was one of the best fights of the year in 2019. They came out guns blazing, and traded punches all the time until Usman eventually knocked Covington out in the last minute of the last round. However, we haven’t seen much of what they usually do in that fight.
Both Kamaru and Colby have an extensive wrestling background which they tend to utilize inside the octagon. However, neither of them usually submit opponents, and neither of them even attempted a takedown in their first matchup.
Grapplers don’t like going at each other on the ground, as they know how one tiny mistake can cost you the fight against an elite grappler/wrestler.
Instead, they stood on their feet and showed us their striking abilities. It’s not crazy to expect the same thing will happen in their next fight, so it’s only a matter of who’s the better striker as of right now.
Usman knows how to control the opponent and the fight’s pace, and he dramatically improved his striking over the last few fights (3 out of 4 victories via (T)KO). He has the strength to knock you out cold, and although he’s not exactly a polished striker, he’s rapidly getting there and improving fight after fight.
On the other hand, you can’t ignore Covington’s striking abilities, too. He held the record for most strikes attempted in a UFC bout for a while after he had thrown a staggering 541 strikes at Robbie Lawler (Max Holloway shattered the record recently with 746). However, he only landed 201 strikes, so he missed more than he hit.
Usman is a slightly better wrestler/grappler and a slightly better striker, shown with his knockouts over notable opponents. Also, he landed 263 strikes in the first fight against Jorge Masvidal and 336 against Tyron Woodley (3rd best all-time) – more than Colby ever landed.
Power Vs. Pace?
So, why was the first fight so close if Usman is both a better striker and a better grappler? For starters, Colby moves and strikes at an unmatched pace. Usman is known to have killer cardio, but Covington is just on another level. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a guy push the pace that much in any division.
He can go after you the entire five rounds and not even breathe heavy. Don’t get me wrong, Usman is a beast when it comes to cardio, too, but he looked a bit gassed after the first round of the second Masvidal fight (at least if you believe Covington).
Usman is the guy with more power. He is bigger, more muscular, and he has that one-punch knockout power that I doubt Colby has – at least we’ve never seen anything like that from him. However, if he can’t contain and control Colby’s pace, that’s where the challenger should seek an advantage.
Another thing that we need to keep an eye on is the weight discrepancy between these two guys. Wrestlers know how to cut weight, so neither of them ever failed to make the cut. However, Usman’s cut is bigger. A lot bigger.
He is a huge guy for the welterweight division and stated he walks around 190 lbs, sometimes a bit more, which means he has to cut 20+ lbs to make the 170 lbs limit. That’s a ton of weight to cut, and that can lead to performance issues, such as fatigue, lack of energy and strength, etc.
On the other hand, Covington is quite close to his natural weight when entering the octagon. He fights at 170, but he walks around at around 180 lbs, which means he doesn’t even have to dehydrate to cut weight. However, it does mean he’s quite small for a welterweight fighter.
Their weight can be a double-edged sword for both guys, but if Usman makes weight without any trouble, I think he’s yet again at an advantage.
Who Wins the Rematch?
If you consider everything, Kamaru is the clear favorite to defend his belt against Colby Covington once again. However, there are several spots he can slip on.
Usman needs to be careful about his weight cut. If he does it right, he’ll have a huge size and power advantage. If he doesn’t go through the weight cut easily, it could damage his cardio, which is unforgivable against a cardio beast like Covington.
Also, Kamaru has to control the pace and not let Colby set the tempo. The first fight was too close for comfort, so he’ll definitely look for some adjustments in the rematch, but when it’s all said and done, I believe he’ll defeat the challenger once again and continue pushing for the title of the best welterweight (and pound-for-pound) fighter in UFC history.
(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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