UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman defends his title in a rematch against top contender Colby Covington at UFC 268. How should you bet this fight?
It’s been two years since the UFC has hosted an event in Madison Square Garden, and the organization’s return this weekend is bringing the heat in more ways than one. An absolute monster card is scheduled, with some bad blood in the main event. This card has all the makings of an instant classic, and UFC 268 will absolutely deliver.
Kamaru Usman (Red Gloves) reacts after defeating Jorge Masvidal (Blue Gloves) during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports
The card is headlined with a rematch featuring welterweight champion and No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Kamaru Usman facing No. 1 contender Colby Covington, who looks for redemption after disputing a 5th-round stoppage loss in 2019. There is no love lost between these two and there has been a war of words all week.
The co-main event features another title fight rematch, as women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas battles the woman she took it from, No. 1 contender Zhang Weili. Their first matchup had all the makings of a five-round ward, but the fight was cut short when Rose landed an absolutely perfect kick, resulting in a TKO win in a little more than a minute.
UFC’s Welterweight Champ Is Built for the Pressure
The card is scheduled for 14 bouts, with the prelims kicking off at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN, followed by the main card at 10 p.m. ET live on pay per view.
You know the drill, let’s dive in.
DATE: Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021
BROADCAST: Pay Per View – PRELIMS: ESPN
VENUE: Madison Square Garden
LOCATION: New York, N.Y.
THE MAIN CARD:
If Usman defeats Covington, he will be one win away from tying Anderson Silva’s UFC record win streak of 16. This is the fifth title defense for UFC’s pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world, and it comes against the man who probably gave him the toughest test.
Usman eventually finished Covington in the fifth round in their first matchup, but Covington matched Usman’s output, albeit at a much lower percent, though throwing 395 significant strikes to Usman’s 360. Usman took considerably less damage while Covington wore his, and with the broken jaw and lacerations, Covington still battled through, refusing to quit, forcing referee Marc Goddard to make the judgement call.
Though he disputed the call, Covington was less than a minute away from dropping a decision. He’s since positioned himself for another crack at Usman here, but I’m not sure we will see much difference from the first fight.
Usman has exceptional defense on the feet, coupled with some very technical and accurate striking of his own. He lands 54% of his strikes and has become more of a finisher as of late, winning via TKO/KO in three of his last four fights. His ability on the feet is complemented by his constant grappling threats, where he has the ability to land takedowns at will against some of the best wrestlers in the sport. He’s a cardio machine, and it will be much needed against an opponent such as Covington.
The challenger is a former NCAA All-American wrestler from Oregon State, and is well-known for his high-volume approach with no off switch. Covington will keep marching forward, looking to trump Usman’s typical forward pressing of action, which will turn this into another striking affair like the first meeting. I have yet to see Usman take damage in a fight that would be a detriment to the outcome, while Covington visibly wears big shots which doesn’t help the cause when it comes to the eyes of the judges. Considering these two combined for more than 300 significant strikes in their first matchup, and the bad blood and stakes at hand, it’s quite possible we see another finish inside of 25 minutes.
Odds favor this one going to a decision, with Usman surpassing the -300 line and Covington at +250 on the comeback. While some MMA cappers have made moves on Covington, I just don’t see it on my end.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman
Bet: Usman (look via DEC +200)
It’s great to see the line so close between these two because the outcome truly could go either way. Zhang is an absolute power house and Rose is just built differently.
Rose is like that sought after NFT that is truly like no other. Her maturity as a pro fighter at this age, along with her brilliance in the fight itself, is something special. I’ve had concerns about Rose’s mental side of the game in the past, but that’s long gone. You’ve heard many former champs say it in the past. It’s a lot of pressure to be at this level, especially with all that comes with being the title holder. This is one unique position where I’d have to say the pandemic may have helped, as media and travel obligations, and packed, overwhelming events with fans have been limited.
In this rematch, I foresee Rose validating that her finish of Weili in the first fight was no fluke. Weili will march forward as she does with attempts to bully and land the big power shots. Rose will suck Weili right into some counters and score, probably over and over as she stays cautious on her end. I could see Weili pulled off her game plan due to frustration while Rose pulls away on the cards. Rose’s ability to control the distance and her movement will be the difference maker in a very close fight.
Prediction: Rose Namajunas
Bet: Namajunas +102
This should be a good scrap with the 40-year-old vet Frankie Edgar taking on the very durable Chito Vera. This will probably be the best wrestler Vera has faced, and he will be tested. When Vera’s striking, Edger will shoot. Vera doesn’t have the best takedown defense and I could see Edgar having his moments. If, by chance, Vera starts throwing submissions, it’s worth noting Edgar has yet to be submitted in 34 fights.
Both fighters are 1-1 in their last two, with Edgar losing to last week’s title contender Cory Sandhagen via a nasty flying knee and Vera’s falling to some dude named Jose Aldo. Ever heard of him? Both of these recent losses are against very high-level fighters and nothing to be ashamed of.
In this matchup, typically we’d go down the path that they are on different trajectories of their career. The former champ Edgar is closing in on retirement, while Vera is still knocking on the door of the top 10. I don’t believe Edgar is done and he is going to have massive support from the fans behind him in the Garden. Edgar has also found success fighting at home, going 10-0 up in the Northeast and 2-0 in New York.
Prediction: Frankie Edgar
Bet: Edgar +142
Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
The people’s main event, no doubt. Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler are going to put on a show. Both of these guys thrive on wars. While Chandler will play it a bit more safe, I can see Gaethje sticking to the Trevor Wittman game plan. Both men have a lot at stake, as the winner more than likely will be the rightful next title contender.
Both fighters are coming off of title shots, with Gaethje succumbing to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s triangle choke, and Chandler coming as close as you can get to taking the gold. He had current champ Charles Oliveira in serious trouble in the first round, but got dropped twice out of the shoot in the second and quickly finished.
If Chandler wants to win, he’s going to have to control the distance. If Gaethje can keep range, watch for him to land those nasty leg kicks, compromising Chandler’s movement. This will open some big shots on Chandler, ala Oliveira from last May.
Chandler’s been KO’d in four of his six losses, which fits right into Gaethje’s wheelhouse. This fight isn’t making the final bell.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje
Bet: Gaethje (look via TKO/KO +100)
Bet: Gaethje wins in round 1 +200
Bet: Gaethje/Chandler UNDER 1.5 rounds -110
It’s a tough spot to follow Gaethje versus Chandler, but if anyone can rise to the occasion it’s these two. There is no doubt these guys are going to walk forward and throw. Both are pretty hittable but land a ton on their own. Billy Q is more susceptible to getting hurt on the feet, and typically will turn to grappling if and when he does. Watch for Burgos to rip the body and pepper upstairs. Even if he’s ultimately hit more, the damage Burgos will cause should be the difference-maker. The guy is just violent.
Prediction: Shane Burgos
ALEX PEREIRA defeats ANDREAS MICHAILIDIS
BOBBY GREEN defeats AL IAQUINTA
PHIL HAWES defeats CHRIS CURTIS
EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN defeats NASSOURDINE IMAVOV
IAN GARRY defeats JORDON WILLIAMS
CHRIS BARNETT defeats GIAN VILLANTE
DUSTIN JACOBY defeats JOHN ALLEN
MELSIK BAGHDASARYAN defeats BRUNO SOUZA
ODE OSBOURNE defeats CJ VERGARA
Usman (look via DEC +200)
Gaethje (look via TKO/KO +100)
Gaethje wins in round 1 +200
Gaethje/Chandler UNDER 1.5 rounds -110
Pereira via TKO/KO -110
Hawes/Curtis OVER 1.5 rounds -177
Barnett/Villante OVER 1.5 rounds -190
*Had Green (look via DEC -115) originally on the list, but Iaquinta in New York may get some hometown cooking.
*Villante fight still makes the list. Villante just had a newborn last month, and has announced his retirement from the sport after this fight.
Add: Baghdasaryan +151
Add: Pereira +248
Add: Hawes/Curtis OVER 1.5 +459
2021 predictions: 248-152-8 (62%)
2021 wagers: 135-105-1 (56%)
Overall record on SI:
Predictions: 629-351-19 (64%)
Wagers: 345-192-9 (64%)