UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will make his first defense of his world title against the former interim UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington at the main event of UFC 245 on December 14, 2019, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The two have been going at each other for quite some time now and it has been over a year since we’ve heard rumors of these two squaring off inside the Octagon. Covington won the interim belt in 2018, got stripped then defeated Robbie Lawler to earn his title shot. Usman dethroned Tyron Woodley earlier this year but has yet to defend his title.
Nate Diaz is the younger brother of Nick Diaz and was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 5 tournament. Nate’s 15 Kamaru Usman was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 21. The 32-year old Nigeria-born Boca Raton, Florida resident is the current UFC welterweight champion. Known as the Nigerian Nightmare, Usman won the belt by defeating Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision at the co-main event of UFC 235 last February.
Usman stands 6-0 tall and has a reach of 76 inches while fighting as an orthodox fighter. He has a record of 15-1 with six knockouts and one win by submission. Usman was an NCAA Division II All-American while wrestling for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He holds a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Jorge Santiago.
Usman lands 4.2 significant strikes per minute and he completes an average of 3.96 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 50% accuracy. He also has a 57% strike defense and a 100% takedown defense. The Nigerian Nightmare owns notable wins over Leon Edwards, Demian Maia, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Woodley.
Challenging Usman for his title will be Colby Covington. Known as “Chaos”, Covington is the #2 ranked welterweight in the UFC today and is the former interim UFC welterweight title. Chaos won the interim belt by defeating Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 225 in June of last year. After his signature win over Robbie Lawler at UFC on ESPN 5, he was awarded the first crack at Usman’s belt.
Covington also has a record of 15-1 and he only has two knockouts and five wins via submission. He is 5-11 tall with a 72-inch reach and fights as an orthodox fighter. Chaos was a former NCAA Pac-10 champion and Division I All-American as a collegiate wrestler from Oregon State University.
Chaos averages 3.9 significant strikes per minute and lands at a 37% accuracy. He completes an average of 5.69 takedown attempts per 15 minutes and does so at a 51% rate. Covington has a 56% strike defense and a 78% takedown defense. Aside from Lawler, Covington has beaten the likes of Demian Maia, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Dong Hyun Kim.
After Colby Covington won the interim belt, he was booked to unify the title against Tyron Woodley at UFC 228. However, Covington was unable to fight Woodley at that event because he underwent nasal surgery. Woodley went on to defend his UFC welterweight title against Darren Till at UFC 228 while Covington was stripped of his interim belt at the opening bell of Woodley vs Till.
Usman was Woodley’s next challenger after the latter knocked out Till. The Nigerian Nightmare was coming off a Performance of the Night winning effort against Rafael Dos Anjos at the TUF: Heavy Hitters Finale. Usman dominated Woodley on the mat and became the UFC welterweight champion at UFC 234.
After plenty of speculation and a long negotiation, the UFC finally booked Usman vs Covington. The bout was first slated for UFC 244 but after the talks failed, that event was given to Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. Later, Leon Edwards’ name was thrown in the mix but after all the issues were resolved, this fight is finally happening on December 14, 2019, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When the betting lines opened last August 4th, Usman was a heavy early favorite to beat Covington. The Nigerian Nightmare opened at -300 while Chaos was pegged at +230 according to Bovada.com. But the lines quickly moved two days after they opened, Usman was down to a -250 favorite while Covington came back at +195. Then after a couple of months on the board, the gap has closed even further. Here are the current odds, that you can find in any of the safest MMA betting sites, for the UFC 245 headliner:
If this line holds until fight night, it will be the 9th time in his last 10 bouts where Usman has been a betting favorite. The only time that the Nigerian Nightmare has been an underdog during that period was when he challenged Tyron Woodley for the UFC welterweight belt. He went on to beat Woodley in a convincing unanimous decision win. Usman is 10-0 SU over that period, making him unbeaten in his professional MMA career.
Meanwhile, if these odds will hold, this will mark only the second time in his UFC career that Colby Covington is a plus money underdog. The only other time that happened was against Demian Maia when Covington closed a slight +105 underdog. He went on to win that bout via unanimous decision.
The current betting lines are more indicative of how these two fighters match up. Both are wrestlers who love to grapple and fight on the ground. There isn’t much that separates these two men in terms of style, skills, and size. Usman however, is an inch taller and has a four-inch reach advantage and that may be the most significant difference in this title bout.
Both men love to go for the takedown as soon as they can. Neither are impressive on the feet and not one of them possesses the knockout power. What they do is they love to fight in the clinch, press against the cage and always look to fight on the canvass. I these fighters will grapple with each other and try to wear the other down. With Usman having the slight edge in size and being bigger will give him the advantage in the clinch and during their grappling exchanges.
I think that Covington fights at a better pace and has better conditioning. I believe he will have the advantage as this fight goes deeper. However, Usman is a fast starter and I’m not sure that when Chaos turns it on, he will still have enough rounds to win the fight. This is a five-round battle and it will go the full route. Give Usman the first three rounds with Covington trying to catch up the rest of the way. I’m picking Kamaru Usman to win via decision. And don’t expect the fight to be pretty.
PREDICTION: KAMARU USMAN (-170)
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