In a quite ironic twist of fate, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day (at the time of writing) is ‘bish-bash-bosh,’ an onomatopoeia we’ll be expecting to hear a lot of on Saturday night when the UFC arrives at Madison Square Garden, with a sell-out crowd expected to fill the mighty halls of the New York City landmark.
Topping the bill is the welterweight champion and current pound-for-pound chart-topper Kamaru Usman facing off in a rematch that doesn’t leave any grudges at home, against the welterweight division's top contender and fan of controversy, Colby Covington.
Just two years ago, we were writing the same preview, looking at the fight games of both fighters. Despite getting the correct outcome of a Round 5 stoppage victory for Kamaru Usman, the fight was absolutely nowhere near what we were expecting.
The expected game plan for both fighters was to utilise the clinch and try and win the middle rounds of the fight either by dominating on the ground or landing strikes from the clinch, as both are well-rounded competitors with a background in wrestling at the collegiate level.
The fight didn’t go to the ground once, and we think we’re going to see the same course of action from both men. Usman has grown exponentially since their first fight, despatching Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns since his inaugural title defence against Covington.
The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ notched another two KO/TKOs in the three fights as well, stopping Gilbert Burns in the third round earlier this year, before unleashing a vicious right hand in his rematch against Jorge Masvidal at the start of summer 2021, that knocked ‘Gamebred’ out cold.
In the meantime Covington has only fought once since their bout in late 2019, facing long-term rival Tyron Woodley in September 2020 and earning a TKO victory after TWood suffered a rib injury which saw him exit the UFC.
Covington’s absence from the cage could mean it’ll take at least one round to rinse the rust off, and for Usman’s continued dominance of the Welterweight division, as well as continued improvement in his skills, we can only see this going one way.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as the UFC has another title rematch on the line, as well as a huge lightweight match-up between the two top contenders in the lightweight division.
Second on the bill is Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title defence rematch with Chinese former champion Zhang Weili. The last fight for this pair resulted in ‘Thug Rose’ winning back the belt she lost to Jessica Andrade in 2019, as Zhang Weili’s incredible run of wins came to an end.
Weili was entering the original bout off the back of 2020’s fight of the year against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which won plaudits from fans and got casual sports viewers interested thanks to the former Polish champion’s impressively large haematoma.
‘Thug Rose’, on the other hand, is finally back on the right track. Her early head-kick KO of Weili last time out boosted her confidence and, under the tutelage of the legendary Trevor Wittman, we’re expecting her to get her arm raised again on Saturday night.
The third fight on our selections is probably a candidate for fight of the night before the action even gets underway. Justin Gaethje, the human highlight reel and former interim Lightweight champion faces three-time Bellator Lightweight champion Michael Chandler, who lost out on the vacant Lightweight belt to Charles Oliviera back in May.
Another Trevor Wittman padawan, Justin Gaethje excites fans no matter the opponent. His ‘Fight Island’ interim title fight against Tony Ferguson deserves a place in the history books for the slog-fest that it was. Gaethje dominated from round two onwards, landing en masse and at will, but also taking some incredible damage in return, before becoming the new interim champion and booking his spot with Khabib in the Russian’s final fight.
Chandler, meanwhile, made the move over to the UFC back in 2021, and immediately got a TKO win over Dan Hooker, before accepting a title fight once the belt had been vacated due to Khabib’s retirement. He’s fond of grappling in his fights, however his stand-up game is really something that’ll weigh on the mind of his opponents. He’s a well-rounded fighter and learnt among other incredible champions such as Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren while at college, although hopefully he doesn’t follow their lead to a boxing career.
We’re predicting that Justin Gaethje’s tremendous ability to defend takedowns will be a crutch for him in this fight, and his freakish resilience in the face of relentless striking could keep him in a dogfight longer than his opponent.