Post-Fight Thoughts: Kamaru Usman -vs- Colby Covington
This fight ended up being a lot better than I expected. When wrestlers of comparable skill face each other, often what we get is a middling kickboxing match since the grappling is going to be a stalemate. We sort of got that, only the fight was much more technical than similar match-ups of years gone by — a testament to the evolution of the modern MMA fighter. Kamaru Usman's striking took a while to loosen up, but he adapted well and was able to eventually swing the fight in his favour and win the back half of the fight.
I had Colby Covington winning the first 2 rounds, as Usman seemed tense and was simply reacting to Colby's attacks. By the third round, however, the defending champion had figured out how to solve Colby's southpaw style with pressuring right hands, much the same as he did against Rafael Dos Anjos, and also began punishing him with body shots that really added up over time. By the end of the third and fourth round, Colby was looking for takedowns and showing signs that his conditioning was beginning to fail.
The fifth round really did determine the fight. I had it tied going into that round, and Usman, even without the finish, looked to have satisfied the requirements for a 10-8 score. Colby did his best to survive the final onslaught but the stoppage was correct. Colby was leaking a lot of blood from his mouth, looked absolutely exhausted, and was taking a lot of shots as Usman swarmed for the finish. Even without knowing Coby had a broken jaw after the third round, the stoppage was fine, despite his post-fight protests.
As I said, this was a better fight than I expected we would get, and easily the most exciting performance of Kamaru Usman's career — and Colby's as well, if we're being honest. Both fighters have reputations of being very talented fighters who don't tend to have exciting fights, they generally have lopsided, grindy wins over opponents who are rendered helpless by their combination of wrestling and stand-up. This was the best kickboxing match between a pair of wrestling-centric fighters that I can recall, and a close enough fight that a rematch down the line is something I actively look forward to.
I don't think an immediate rematch is warranted, nor is it something I think we'll get — largely due to Covington's friction with UFC management rather than any sort of meritocratic notions. The next rightful contender is either Jorge Masvidal or Leon Edwards, and I suspect the former gets the nod given the latter's utter lack of a profile or fanfare. I also think Colby's marketability and promotional value is overstated, but that's a subject for another time.
Whoever Usman fights next is going to have their hands full. I don't know if Usman is so much a case of pure talent as he is an incredibly coachable fighter with a lot of physical talents, which arguably makes him more dangerous than a prodigy. Everyone loses eventually, and that day will come for Usman, but given his UFC performances to date, capped off with this fight wherein he showed the ability to survive early adversity, rally back, exploit his opponent's weakness and finish in the last minute of a 5-round fight, he is as legit a champion as they come.
This was a great fight, and really didn't need to be burdened with Covington's antics.
Published: December 19th, 2019.