The UFC had a star studded card last weekend in UFC 267, broadcast free on ESPN+! With two title fights and a star’s return last weekend, they will try to top it with a back-to-back Pay-Per-View effort.
UFC 268 features the rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington, duking it out for Welterweight gold. In the co-main, Rose Namajunas will look to defend the title in an immediate rematch opposite Weili Zhang, who she knocked out in March to claim the belt. A Lightweight brawl sits in the ‘Featured Bout’ slot, as Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje will battle it out to try and capture another title shot.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington II (WW)
A knockout victory over Gilbert Burns in February saw Kamaru Usman (19-1, 14-0 UFC) secure his third title defense, and he kept the pressure on by knocking out Jorge Masvidal in their rematch just two months later. “The Nigerian Nightmare” is coming off sixteen straight victories and had been nothing but dominant up until his war for the ages with Colby Covington, where Usman proved he has the finishing skills when it counts. Usman is a wrestler by trade and seeks to establish dominant position and rack up control time through top position and in clinch all while delivering ferocious ground and pound. He is by no means lost on the feet, however, as he proved against Burns. His high defense and stalking jab, as well as front kick, help him establish range with his 6’0″ frame so as not to absorb power strikes from the pocket, as he seeks to establish his oppressive wrestling.
Colby Covington (16-2, 11-2 UFC) came his Fight of the Year contender and unsuccessful title bid against Kamaru Usman by dominating former champ Tyron Woodley, finishing him by TKO in the fifth round with a rib injury. “Chaos” has heavy pressure and next-level wrestling chops, blended together into an all-out onslaught of violence. Colby’s striking produces a much higher output, although less reliant upon power, as he recently took the record for most landed strikes in his July bout against Robbie Lawler. On top of that, Covington has an underrated submission game when the opportunity to choke his opponent out presents itself. Colby’s pace is his primary weapon, unloading strikes and wrestling exchanges with an unparalleled speed.
Unlike our co-mian event, I see this affair being less competitive than their first meeting. The pair engaged in a wild stand up war in their first meeting at UFC 245, and Usman won by knockout in the final round. Colby seems to be more willing to lean on his wrestling in this one, though Usman’s perfect takedown defense rate presents a tough challenge to mount. If this continues on the feet as in the first, Usman has the advantage, as his striking has developed leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Trevor Whitman. I expect Usman to deny takedowns and work his powerful striking en route to a late knockout.
My Pick: Kamaru Usman via Knockout
Rose Namajunas vs. Weili Zhang II (SW)
Rose Namajunas (10-4, 8-3 UFC) lost her title in a horrific slam to Jessica Andrade after a strong start, but got the win by split decision in their rematch. She reclaimed gold back in April opposite Zhang, winning early with a first round head kick knockout. “Thug” Rose built her base as a grappler with terrific submissions, but what has set her apart in recent years has been her striking, which she used to both knock out and outpoint former champ and divisional GOAT Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win and defend the Strawweight title. Rose has a crisp, clean jab that she uses to mitigate range and set her own terms for the pace, best when in a technical battle. On the mat, she can be seen utilizing her stellar jiu jitsu skills and submission potential off her back to keep the fight precisely where she wants it. She has seven pro finishes with five by submission, though her power is significantly more threatening than the two knockout victories on her record would suggest.
A sub-minute knockout over Jessica Andrade scored Weili Zhang (21-2, 5-1 UFC) the Strawweight title, which she defended against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in an instant classic. “Magnum” lost the first bout of her pro MMA career since her debut in her last outing, where she was stopped by Rose. Zhang is a finishing machine, knocking out ten opponents and submitting another seven. Zhang has a high work rate on the feet with technical Muay Thai, but is no stranger to a slugfest in the pocket with her power hooks. On the mat, she holds an array of defensive submissions and is yet to be taken down in the Octagon. Zhang is an incredibly fun fighter who comes in with a warring mentality and a surefire chin, along with strong takedowns and a sizable frame for the Strawweight division.
I thoroughly expect that we will have a vastly different fight in the rematch, for a multitude of reasons. Zhang has shifted camps and has been working wrestling with Henry Cejudo in Arizona, and she will not be as likely to engage in a firefight from the first minute. With that said, she still works at a higher rate than Rose on the feet, though Rose has the more technical gameplay, particularly within her jab. Zhang can succeed in the pocket, as Jessica Andrade did, but cannot stand at range as she did in their first outing. The increased emphasis upon wrestling also poses an interesting question, as Rose is a talented submission threat, but has relatively poor takedown defense. I expect a much more competitive affair in this one, in which Weili nets a close decision.
My Pick: Weili Zhang via Decision
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler (LW)
My Pick: Justin Gaethje via Knockout
Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera (BW)
My Pick: Frankie Edgar via Decision
Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo (FTW)
My Pick: Shane Burgos via Decision
The main card kicks off at 10 PM EST, live from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Categories: UFC Predictions