- Can Kamaru Usman defend his UFC welterweight title against former interim champion Colby Covington?
- Can Covington live up to his trash talk at UFC 245?
- Oddsmakers give the champion the edge in this matchup between two high-level wrestlers with excellent cardio
On Saturday (Dec. 14), the UFC returns to Las Vegas for UFC 245, its final pay-per-view event of 2019. The card features three title fights. In the headlining bout, welterweight champion Kamaru Usman meets former interim champion and No. 2-ranked Colby Covington.
The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.
USMAN VS COVINGTON ODDS
After winning season 21 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2015, Usman quickly built himself into a title contender. Compiling a 7-0 record earned him a shot at former title challenger Demian Maia in 2018. Usman won that five-round bout by decision. He then defeated ex-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in another five-round decision. Usman claimed the welterweight crown in March when he swept Tyron Woodley on the scorecards at UFC 235.
Covington was 3-0 with the UFC before he tasted defeat for the first time in his career. In 2015, Warlley Alves submitted Covington at UFC 194. Since then, Covington has gone 7-0. Those victories include a three-round decision over Maia and a five-round decision over Dos Anjos, which earned Covington the interim title.
He was later stripped of that belt when he could not face Woodley in a unification bout due to surgery.
Covington’s most recent victory was a five-round decision win over ex-welterweight kingpin Robbie Lawler in August.
Usman and Covington are not identical fighters, but they do share most of the same traits. Both men are wrestlers first and strikers second. They rely on their takedowns to get the fight to the mat. Once on the ground, they both employ a heavy top game to keep their opponents from getting to their feet. If their foe does manage to return to a standing position, Usman and Covington both have the type of gas tank that allows them to keep pursuing takedowns until they force the fight back to the ground.
Covington has scored takedowns in all but one of his UFC bouts and racked up 10 takedowns against Lawler. Usman’s highest takedown total in one fight was the 12 he scored against Dos Anjos. He has had at least one takedown in all but two of his UFC outings.
Where things get interesting is in the striking department. Usman is the more powerful, more active, and more accurate striker. The champ averages 4.20 significant strikes landed per minute versus Covington’s 3.90. Usman lands significant strikes with 54-percent accuracy, while Covington lands 37 percent of his significant strikes. When it comes to significant strikes absorbed, Usman gets touched 1.60 times per 60 seconds, while Covington gets hit at a rate of 2.35 times per minute.
Covington’s game plan on the ground is to pepper his opponent with short strikes that mostly serve to keep the referee from standing the fight up. It will be interesting to see if that style works against Usman, who has only absorbed 17 significant ground strikes on the mat.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|Kamaru Usman||Category||Colby Covington|
|4.20||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.90|
|1.60||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.35|
|3.96||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||5.69|
|0.20||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.2|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The most prominent item at stake in this matchup is the UFC welterweight title. However, this fight is also very personal. These two do not seem to like each other in the least. You can expect the victor in this fight to use his win as a launching point to talk an incredible amount of trash after his hand is raised in victory on Saturday.
This fight is very personal. These two do not seem to like each other in the least.
This is a particularly hard fight to pick. Stylistically, these two resemble each other very closely, but as noted above, Usman has the edge in the striking department. He also has better takedown defense. Covington has been taken down by capable wrestlers like Dos Anjos and Dong Hyun Kim. And neither of those men possess the wrestling chops of Usman.
I believe the difference in this matchup lies in the striking and takedown defense departments, and that’s why I am picking the champ to defend his crown successfully.
Pick: Usman (-185)