After building an immaculate 9-0 UFC record, Usman was given a title shot against then-champion Tyron Woodley. In a dominant performance that sent “The Chosen One” into a downward spiral towards a UFC release, Usman secured his place on the 170-pound throne with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 235.
Nine months later, “The Nigerian Nightmare” had his first challenger. Covington, a former interim champion, entered his first undisputed title opportunity off the back of five-round wins over former UFC champs Rafael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler. Whilst we’ve seen brash trash-talking personas get in the head of champions in the past, most notably Conor McGregor‘s victory over José Aldo, Usman wasn’t about to let “Chaos” do the same to him.
Despite going toe-to-toe across a competitive four rounds, it was the champion who came on strong in the final frame. With less than a minute remaining inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, Usman finished Covington, marking his first successful defense.
Usman Narrates His First Title Defense
Since the memorable December 2019 clash, Kamaru Usman has defended the gold a further three times, beating away the challenges of Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal. He did so against the latter on two occasions, at UFC 251 and UFC 261.
Despite the form of Leon Edwards, which has seen him go unbeaten in 10 fights since a loss to Usman, the UFC has remained firm on Covington’s status as number one contender. The pair will now run it back at Madison Square Garden this weekend.
Ahead of the UFC 268 main event, Usman has given an in-depth analysis of his previous victory over Covington. In a video uploaded to the UFC’s official Facebook page, “The Nigerian Nightmare” walked through his fifth-round stoppage.
“The ending sequence, right before this punch, I threw a 2-3 and I missed him, I was just off by an inch. So mentally, I had to make the adjustment like, ‘You’re throwing two punches and you’re just missing it. Stop throwing two, throw a three.’ And you see it. I fake one, two, and the third one, bing, I finally hit him and knock him off balance.
“So I get close to him again, and I knew he was gonna throw back because he was trying to get me off him. In my mind, I’m thinking so fast, I’m just reacting at this point ‘cos I’ve got him down. I hit him with the three-punch (combination), now he’s gonna throw to get me off. (I) slip, body shot, and he thinks I’m gonna do it again. No, left hook, and he’s like, ‘Oh shit,’ he has no idea where they’re coming from now.”
Having clearly hurt Covington on the feet, the champion turned up the intensity. Breaking down the exchanges that led to the two knockdowns, Usman suggested he’d entered “kill mode.”
“He tries to regroup, stiff jab, bing, I hit him again. Now he’s just trying to get me off him, and he can’t. I walk him down, I fake down, left hook, bing, he doesn’t see it coming. He’s stumbling all around. Now I’m in kill mode. Right had, bing, right into the jaw. I know it hurt him, so he’s trying to get away, but no, I’m too close, I smother the shot… He’s walking back, he’s gonna try and get me off him, so he’s gonna throw that left hand because it’s landed a couple times before. But at this point, I’m just a tank rolling down the hill and he’s in trouble.
“He throws his left hand, I throw my left hand, we both throw it. But he doesn’t realize I’ve got a javelin coming in his face right after that. I step back, right hand, bing, drop him. He’s wondering what happened. Now I get a little overzealous and I try to go for the finish… I let him roll up, but then I’m like, ‘Settle down, regroup.’ I let him throw that left hand again, step back, straight right hand, drops him again. Now he’s trying to survive, he’s holding on for dear life.”
Despite two knockdowns and a visibly lacklustre defense on the ground, Covington, along with some fans, believed Marc Goddard’s stoppage came too early. Brushing away those claims, Usman reiterated the referee’s responsibility to protect fighters from unnecessary damage. According to the champ, that’s exactly what the challenger would have suffered had the fight continued.
“This is the thing is, the referee is in there to protect you from yourself, because a hard-headed, well-conditioned athlete like that, you’re gonna always wanna stay in and compete.
It’s the referee’s job to save you from taking years off of your life, and that’s what would happen if the referee let that continue. I’m already a tank rolling down the hill, man. I’m an unstoppable tank and I would’ve just broke his face in every way. I already went for the jaw, broke that, now I was going for the orbitals. I would’ve severely hurt him to where, he would’ve had to rethink his career.
Then, he stands up to protest, you see his face when he stood up. Nah buddy, fight’s over,” concluded Usman.
On a stacked card this Saturday, Covington will have his second attempt at dethroning the dominant welterweight king. With many, including Usman’s teammate Justin Gaethje, expecting a quicker ending than UFC 245, “Chaos” will be looking to prove his doubters wrong on November 6.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268, Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington?