Colby Covington’s performance at UFC 272 resonated as a significant reminder of his strengths – and weakness – as a fighter.
Covington (17-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC)) defeated Jorge Masvidal (35-16 MMA, 12-9 UFC) by unanimous decision in the main event, controlling every round and leaving no doubt that he was the superior mixed martial artist.
An elite wrestler, the knock on Covington is that his style lacks excitement. To combat that, he created a wildly controversial Donald Trump-loving persona, which helped him finally rise to prominence in MMA. Listening to the boos from the crowd that packed the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas after each takedown on Masvidal, it is clear that Covington remains among the most talented fighters in the world, as well as evident why he felt compelled to create such an attention-grabbing character.
Showcasing his superior wrestling, Covington clearly held the advantage on the mat. A major surprise was revealed when Covington displayed he was also the better striker. And he simply wore out Masvidal, who landed one right hook flush on the chin in the third round—but by that point, Covington had already exhausted him to the point where he was too fatigued to go for the kill.
During his post-fight interview in the octagon, Covington called out Dustin Poirier. That is a matchup that favors Covington, who needs a string of wins before he can re-enter the discussion for a title shot against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Mitchell (15-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) forcefully punched his ticket into the top ten of the featherweight division by dismantling Barboza (22-11 MMA, 16-11 UFC), who will certainly fall from his No. 10 ranking. All three rounds belonged to Mitchell, and the numbers were staggering. Mitchell was perfect on his four takedown attempts, and he landed over 100 ground strikes before Barboza could even hit one. This was a high-level performance by Mitchell, who is quickly becoming a legitimate contender in the division.
The card opened with what is likely the final chapter in Greg Hardy’s UFC career. Sergey Spivak delivered a hip toss and then imposed his will on Hardy (7–5, 1 NC), who was competing in the final fight on his current UFC contract. Spivak (14–3) fired up the crowd with his performance, fulfilling his responsibility in the opening bout with a TKO victory.
In the second fight of the night, Kevin Holland was a success in his welterweight debut, defeating Alex Oliveira with a second-round TKO. Holland (22–7, 1 NC) had a tough time in the first round containing Oliveira (22–12–1, 2 NC), and lost on all three of the scorecards from the judges. But it only took him 38 seconds in round two to land the shots necessary to end the bout. This was the fourth loss in a row for Oliveira, but it is a game-changer for Holland, who has the potential to contend as a welterweight.
The co-main event saw Rafael dos Anjos return for his first fight in 16 months, and he put on a show against Renato Moicano. Dos Anjos (31-13 MMA, 20-11 UFC) won by unanimous decision after five intense rounds, pummeling the face of Moicano (16-5-1 MMA, 8-5 UFC). The turning point occurred in round three, when dos Anjos hit a flush head kick, then followed that with a ground and pound that appeared to end the bout. Yet Moicano, who accepted this fight on short notice earlier this week, refused to relent. Despite better judgment, he was allowed to finish the fight, and he somehow was even competitive in the closing moments of the fifth round. The victory allows dos Anjos to remain No. 6 in the lightweight rankings as he makes one final pursuit of the title.
UFC 272 lacked fireworks and title bouts, but it did provide a card full of entertaining fights. It will be remembered for Covington’s dominance, as he puts Masvidal in his rear view and begins his pursuit of Dustin Poirier.
This story first first published at SI.com.