UFC 268: Can Colby Covington dethrone Kamaru Usman?

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The fight world moved one step closer to UFC 268 as Friday’s weigh-ins cemented the two title fights that will headline Saturday’s event at Madison Square Garden.

Men’s welterweight champion Kamaru Usman made weight, as did his challenger Colby Covington. Women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas also made weight, though there was a slight issue with her opponent, Zhang Weili. Zhang initially weighed in 0.2 pounds over the limit before undressing behind the curtained box and making weight at 115 pounds.

Usman will seek to prove he is the most dominant fighter in the world in a rematch against Covington, who he defeated by unanimous decision in 2019, while Namajunas will run it back against Zhang, who she defeated for the belt last April. The event will also feature a must-see fight between Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje, which will reshape the top of the lightweight division.

Here are the most pressing questions entering UFC 268.

Kamaru Usman (left) fights Colby Covington during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena in December 2019. Usman won by unanimous decision.

Usman (left) fights Covington during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena in December 2019. Usman won by unanimous decision.

Can Colby Covington dethrone Kamaru Usman?

Usman enters Saturday as an overwhelming favorite to defeat Covington, a great fighter whose skill has been drowned out in recent years by his brazen right-wing brand.

Covington (16–2) often can gain an advantage from his elite caliber of wrestling, but Usman (19–1) is also a world-class wrestler and can nullify Covington’s takedowns. With the wrestling canceled out, the question becomes which fighter has the better hands, and their 2019 fight provided a clear answer: Usman.

That has left Covington no choice but to play mind games in the lead-up to the fight. But after already falling once to Usman, Covington will need to back up his words with a victory to remain relevant at the top of the division.

Pound for pound, Usman is the best fighter in the world. Another win against Covington, especially one that comes in convincing fashion, would only enhance his résumé as he builds his case for the top welterweight champion in UFC history.

Where does Rose Namajunas stand on the list of elite fighters?

Namajunas is one of the most amazing mixed martial artists in the world. She has the chance to remove Zhang from the title picture with a victory and in the process prove that she belongs in the same discussion as top fighters Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko.

Creative and innovative, and now more mature after a frustrating stretch during her first run as champion, Namajunas (10–4) would further cement her standing with another win against Zhang (21–2).

Rose Namajunas (left) kicks Zhang Weili (right) for a TKO during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in April 2021.

Namajunas (left) kicks Zhang for a TKO during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena last April.

What is at stake in the Michael Chandler–Justin Gaethje bout?

Chandler sees this fight as a pathway back into title contention, as well as a way to bolster his reputation as one of the best in the history of the lightweight division. But Gaethje may have even more to prove. He has not been in the cage since October 2020, when he was defeated at UFC 254 by Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Gaethje (22–3) needs a win to cement himself as the second-ranked lightweight. A positive result would also stake his claim at the front of the line for a title shot against the winner of the Charles Oliveira–Dustin Poirier fight in December.

Chandler (22–6) has the best chance to win if he wrestles. He needs to get on the mat and avoid those devastating Gaethje leg kicks. If these two remain standing and trade strikes, this should be a KO win for Gaethje.

What else stands out on the UFC 268 card?

A bantamweight bout pitting Frankie Edgar against Marlon Vera is another candidate for fight of the night.

At 40, Edgar (24-9-1) is the older of the pair and has been through so much in the cage. Twelve years younger is 28-year-old Vera (17-7-1), who is going to be head-hunting in this bout. It would be a great moment at MSG if Edgar finds a way to remain undefeated in New York, but it will be very difficult for him to take Vera down.

Another compelling fight pits Shane Burgos against Billy Quarantillo. Burgos (13–3) has dropped his past two fights, and while Quarantillo (16–3) is a tempting underdog, this should be an opportunity for Burgos to make a statement in the featherweight division.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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