THE UFC signs off on its second run of behind-closed-doors events at their Las Vegas Apex facility this weekend with a stacked card, topped by an acrimonious welterweight main event featuring former champion Tyron Woodley (11/4) and ex-teammate Colby Covington (7/25).
Covington remains ranked #2 in the division despite suffering the second defeat of his 17-fight career in December, when he was TKO’d in the final round of an exciting but flawed title challenge to Kamaru Usman.
Usually so outspoken and controversial, the 32-year-old has been surprisingly low key so far in the build-up to this fight, between two former American Top Team sparring partners. But after meeting with Donald Trump at a rally earlier this week, Colby let the President of the United States do his talking for him (seriously)!
Standing next to the UFC star, who is always presented wearing a MAGA red cap, Trump said: “I am gonna be watching Colby, I am a big fan of Colby, he’s a winner, he’s a champ. It’s gonna be a great evening and a great fight and I just wish him the best of luck. I’ve seen him a lot and he’s tough. Good luck champ!”
After surrendering the welterweight belt to Usman in March 2019, Woodley suffered a second consecutive points defeat in May, to leading contender Gilbert Burns, resulting in the first back-to-back losses of his 19-5 MMA career.
The 38-year-old’s near three-year reign now feels an age ago and if he is to ever climb back on top of the sport it must start with a standout performance over Covington on Saturday night.
— UFC (@ufc) September 16, 2020
Woodley, who can be as abrasive as his rival, said: “I want to knock him out to the point that when they’re raising my hand and they’re talking, they’re still gathering him. Hopefully, stretchering him out and trying to get his legs to unstiffen, and still trying to get the mouthpiece out of his mouth.”
If the fight plays out like Covington’s last outing against Usman, which saw two high level college wrestlers engage in a kickboxing match, Woodley will most definitely get his chance to seal the deal with a dramatic knockout.
But it would be crazy if Covington employed those same stand-and-bang tactics against a renowned finisher like Woodley. More likely is Covington looking to use his youth to close the distance and pin the veteran against the cage and chain dirty boxing with takedowns to sway the judges.
Woodley has been in camp with Jorge Masvidal in preparation and if Colby needed a blueprint on how to frustrate the finisher and win on points he need only look out how comfortably Usman defeated Masvidal earlier in the summer.
And as much as I want to see the knockout, that’s how I see this one playing out. Covington grinding relentless for 25 minutes with a frustrated and exhausted Woodley being wrestled out of it on the judges' cards (the fight is 1/2 to go the distance, Covington is 13/20 to win on points).
There is further value on this stacked main card, starting in the co-main event, where veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (13/10) would be the biggest scalp in the career of natural born finisher Nico Price (8/13), who is yet to go the distance in the UFC – in victory or defeat.
Also, back Swedish sensation Khamzat Chimaev (1/4) to claim victory over Gerald Meerschaert (3/1) and rubber stamp his tag as the fastest rising star in the UFC. And overlooked light heavyweight Ryan Spann too can make a giant forward in his UFC tenure with a won over the mercurial Johnny Walker.