Usman vs Covington 2: What you need to know
- Time:UFC 268 kicks of with the prelims at 6 pm ET on ESPN and streaming service ESPN+
- Cost: The main card PPV, which costs US $69.99, begins at 10 pm ET exclusively on ESPN+
- Odds: The current odds have Usman as a -320 favorite to Covington’s underdog line of +250 (via DraftKings)
- Tickets: You can purchase tickets to UFC 268, in New York City's Madison Square Garden, at Ticketmaster here
Who's improved since the origin story of this rematch?
Growth as a fighter is a pursuit of every competitor who enters the Octagon, and Kamaru Usman (19-1) and Colby Covington (16-2) are no different. Yet at the highest levels, especially when it comes to rematches, small tweaks to even an impressively successful style can be a major factor in a champion holding on to their title, or a rival usurping the throne from a seemingly unbeatable talent.
- Usman has changed since 2019: Since their welterweight classic at UFC 245, the reigning UFC 170-pound champion has defended his title three times, and all in dominant fashion. However, his recent knockout wins over Gilbert Burns and uber-durable Jorge Masvidal are important footnotes. Because, since switching gyms to Elevation Fight Team and making Trevor Wittman his head coach, "The Nigerian Nightmare" has gone from a solid striker to a legitimate nightmare on the feet. Usman is not the same fighter"Chaos" saw the first time.
- Covington has stagnation concerns: After Usman handed Covington just his second career defeat, the Oregon native has fought just once in the last two years. That lone appearance was a fifth-round technical knockout over former division champion Tyron Woodley in September of 2020. Fighters can often evolve the most when not in the midst of a fight camp, but since Covginton hasn't been able to show any advances in actual fights, it's hard to know how much he's actually evolved.
Who can make the better adjustments?
Fighters at the elite levels of the sport can't improve upon their failures, and even their successes, without the help of a top-shelf training infrastructure around them. Skilled coaches and training partners can be highly influential on a competitor having their hand raised on fight night. Especially in a rematch to decide who sits atop the UFC welterweight mountain.
- Usman's championship posse: As mentioned before, Usman's work with Trevor Wittman has been a revelation. However, the gym also offers top-ranked stars such as Justin Gaethje and Cory Sandhagen as training partners. In addition, Usman's relationship with his former gym, Sanford MMA, hasn't soured where he still couldn't trek down to Florida to get in some work with the killers and coaches there too. Usman has a world-class training set-up at his disposal that gives key advantages in being ready for a second go-around with Covington.
- The pariah of the MMA world: For their first fight, "Chaos" was a stalwart member of world renowned MMA gym American Top Team. Back then, he was forced to sink or swin against elite athletes at all times. However, as he has used his badguy image to grow his brand, he has also become a bit of a pariah in the industry. Where major gyms around the sport want nothing to do with him and his divisive rhetoric. If his training isn't at the level of the first fight, it's hard to imagine him entering the rematch with adjustments that will get him the W this time.
Is there an x-factor ace for either man to play?
What made the first Usman vs Covington scrap a UFC title fight classic was the fact that both men were so evenly matched. They both can wrestle, strike effectively, and have well above average gas tanks. Yet they still differ in major ways, and the specific characteristics that make them the championship-level fighters that they are will no doubt play a pivotal role in deciding the rematch.
- Usman's power surge: Usman has won all 14 of his fights in the Octagon, but only four of them came by a KO. A majority of his wins have come via decision. However, three of those KOs came in his last four bouts, and against world-class fighters. Meaning Usman has added serious punching power to a fight style that helped him become a UFC champion without it.
- Covington's insane output: What has made Colby Covington such a unique talent in the division is his absurd level of cardio. He can wrestle hard for five rounds, or offer up a barrage of endless strikes that doesn't let opponents breath. It his been huge in his ascension to the top of the division, and at the highest levels of the sport, endless cardio is a massive advantage in five round fights.
The bottom line: Considering the well-rounded talents involved, how evenly matched they were the first time, and the fires of hell-level hatred between them, this rematch is likely to be just as good as the first. The adjustments they make from the first fight are sure to play a major role and very well could take the rematch to new and unexpectedly entertaining places.