Friday, December 9, 2022

UFC 268 Storylines & Final Comprehensive Preview

We are standing at the doorstep of arguably the best card of 2021, UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington, which goes down live tomorrow night.

The only thing left for MMA fans to do is to count down the hours until tomorrow’s showcase event in Madison Square Garden. The official weigh-ins have taken place, three members of our talented staff have given their picks, and the ceremonial weigh-ins have just wrapped up.

You can find all the results and highlights right here on tomorrow as the action unfolds. Until then, here is a comprehensive preview of the full UFC 268 lineup.

Ode’ Osbourne vs. CJ Vergara

Odds: Osbourne (-185), Vergara (+150)

Two Contender Series alums will start off the pile of exciting UFC action on tap tomorrow night. Ode’ Osbourne has become accustomed to hearing nice things about his attributes after making it to the UFC, as he was considered one of the most exciting prospects at flyweight. At 1-2 in the promotion, he has yet to fully live up to that promise, but those losses came to some stiff competition: Brian Kelleher and Manel Kape.

His opponent, CJ Vergara, will be making his UFC debut after a round-1 TKO victory on this year’s season of Dana White‘s Contender Series. He has already suffered his first setback prior to making his debut, however, as he missed weight earlier today and will thus forfeit 20% of his first UFC paycheck.

Check out the final faceoff between these two flyweights below.

Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Bruno Souza

Odds: Melsik Baghdasaryan (-325) vs Bruno Souza (+250)

Neither of these two men has suffered a loss since making their MMA debut. In Baghdasaryan’s case, he has stifled the ebbs and rode the flows to a 6-1 MMA record. Souza has done the same, tacking on four more wins than his next opponent, now with a 10-1 record. For Souza, this bout will serve as his UFC debut. Like CJ Vergara before him, Souza missed weight. He, too, will forfeit 20% of his purse as a result.

Here’s the faceoff between these two featherweights, which contained no smack-talking but plenty of gum-smacking.

Dustin Jacoby vs. John Allan

Odds: Dustin Jacoby (-375) vs John Allan (+270)

Dustin Jacoby (15-5-1) has not suffered a defeat in his last six fights (five wins, one draw), while John Allan (13-6) is coming off a split-decision loss to Roman Dolidze. Jacoby will come into the bout as a healthy favorite to continue his unbeaten streak.

Check out the faceoffs between these two light heavyweights below!

Gian Villante vs. Chris Barnett

Odds: Gian Villante (-130) vs Chris Barnett (+110)

Seven-year UFC veteran and native New Yorker Gian Villante (17-13) will likely be competing for his job as he looks to put an end to his three-fight skid. He has also lost four of his last five and six of his last eight and is 0-2 since returning to heavyweight last year. All things considered, there will likely be some urgency instilled in the 36-year-old heading into this bout.

His opponent, Chris Barnett (21-7), made his UFC debut in May, where he lost to Ben Rothwell via second-round guillotine choke.

Check out their final faceoff below!

Ian Garry vs. Jordan Williams

Odds: Ian Garry (-400) vs Jordan Williams (+300)

Undefeated Ian Garry (7-0) is considered one of the brightest prospects available in the welterweight division. At UFC 268, the 23-year-old Cage Warriors alum will make his anticipated UFC debut against Jordan Williams (9-5), who is placed as a considerable +300 underdog. Since debuting in the UFC after his Contender Series win, Williams has gone 0-2 in the promotion. One loss came by way of unanimous decision and the other was via first-round submission.

Five of Garry’s seven victories have been finishes. Some may consider this to be a handpicked fight for the hot prospect Garry, but Williams has much to fight for here. Losing three straight to kick off your UFC career is usually a promotional death sentence.

Peep the faceoffs between these two young welterweights below.

Edmen Shahbazyan vs Nassourdine Imavov

Odds: Edmen Shahbazyan (+105) vs Nassourdine Imavov (-125)

Another fight filled with young blood, as Edmen Shahbazyan (23) locks up with Nassourdine Imavov (25) in a middleweight collision. It wasn’t long ago that Shahbazyan was creeping up the middleweight rankings and possibly closing in on a title shot with a couple more wins until that momentum was stunted by Derek Brunson in August of 2020. Shahbazyan would then lose again to Jack Hermansson via unanimous decision.

As Shahbazyan looks to demonstrate what he has learned since these two setbacks, he will face another rising prospect in Nassourdine Imavov. Imavov has won two of his last three fights, most recently defeating formerly ranked middleweight contender Ian Heinisch in July.

You can check out the final faceoff between these two competitors below.

Phil Hawes vs. Chris Curtis

Odds: Phil Hawes (-310) vs Chris Curtis (+240)

After losing in his first Contender Series bout in 2017, it’s been nothing but dubs for Phil Hawes. Hawes would win three consecutive fights after that loss, thus earning himself a second opportunity on the show. This time, Hawes capitalized on the opportunity with a first-round KO that catapulted him into the big show. The winning has since continued, with Hawes now sitting at 3-0 in the UFC, which is enough to get him the respect off the oddsmakers to be placed as a -310 favorite.

Chris “The Action Man” Curtis will carry significantly more experience to him into his fight. He has a total of 34 professional fights to Hawes’s 13. Will experience be the difference or youth? This will be Curtis’ UFC debut, and he will enter the promotion riding a five-fight winning streak.

You can peep the final faceoff between these two welterweights below.

Al Iaquinta vs Bobby Green

Odds: Al Iaquinta (+150) vs Bobby Green (-185)

Both of these names should be very familiar to MMA fans, as they have a combined 29 fights and 17 years in the promotion. Both men have lost two consecutive fights coming into this bout, and some may be surprised to learn that Iaquinta, who once challenged for the lightweight title (albeit as a short-notice replacement) will enter the bout as the underdog.

This could be because Iaquinta is coming off of another lengthy layoff, having not competed since his 2019 loss to Dan Hooker. Meanwhile, Green has remained active, with four fights last year and a bout just two months ago at UFC 265 in a Fight of the Night contest against Rafael Fiziev.

Here’s the final faceoff between these two veterans.

Alex Pereira vs. Andreas Michailidis

Odds: Alex Pereira (-250) vs Andreas Michailidis (+200)

Although he is known in the MMA community for his two kickboxing victories over Israel Adesanya, the debuting Alex Pereira has made it clear that he is focused on becoming a champion, not on Adesanya. Granted, Adesanya is currently the middleweight champion, but regardless of who’s holding the title, Pereira has a one-fight-at-a-time mindset on his path to the top of the division.

Someone who knows what it’s like to capture UFC gold, 42-year-old Glover Teixeira, has sung the praises of his training partner, stating that no one he’s ever trained with hits as hard as Pereira. Pereira’s striking acument and overall MMA potential can be gauged by UFC fans for the first time at UFC 268 when he takes on Andreas Michailidis, who is 1-1 in the UFC. His career record at middleweight is a flawless 3-0. Here’s the final faceoff between these two competitors.

Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler

Odds: Justin Gaethje (-210) vs Michael Chandler (+170)

One of the most anticipated fights of the year will kick off the main card when Justin Gaethje faces Michael Chandler. Chandler has admitted that Gaethje is the “scariest” opponent he’s ever fought, but his stated best-case scenario in this fight would be to land a kill shot to the temple or chin for the highlight-reel victory. Some, including Chandler, have dubbed this bout to be the people’s main event, and in some ways, the fight has already started with the mind games that have been played between these two warriors leading into the fight.

Justin Gaethje believes he’s paid a bit more dues to get to this position than Chandler has, who he believes earned a title shot that was disrespectful to the sport. And now, he expects a victory over Chandler will earn him the second UFC title shot of his career. Though Gaethje has his eyes on the lightweight prize, he still always aims to entertain the fans and can only think of one way that this fight won’t live up to its expectations tomorrow night.

Here is the final faceoff between these two.

Shane Burgos vs Billy Quarantillo

Odds: Shane Burgos (-200) vs Billy Quarantillo (+160)

Shane Burgos’ last two fights have both won Fight of the Night. Unfortunately for him, both fights ended in a loss, however. His last loss was one of the most memorable KO defeats in UFC history, when he suffered a delayed reaction to a right cross that landed from opponent Edson Barboza. Six months have now passed since this strange occurrence, and Burgos will step into the Octagon against a man in Billy Quarantillo who has won four of his last five fights, most recently over Gabriel Benitez in July via TKO.

Like Burgos, Quarantillo’s last fight also took home Fight of the Night honors, which means between both fighters, three of the last four bouts were Fight of the Nights. So is it possible that Gaethje vs. Chandler and Usman Covington might have some quiet competition here for that award tomorrow night? Here is the final faceoff between the two featherweights one night before we find out.

Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera

Odds: Frankie Edgar (+120) vs Marlon Vera (-145)

The UFC wanted Edgar to be standing across from Sean O’Malley tomorrow night. Instead, Edgar will face a nemesis of O’Malley’s Marlon “Chito” Vera. As recently as this week, Vera once again told O’Malley what he thought of him. But now, the small favorite will need to give former champ and UFC legend Frankie Edgar his undivided attention.

Now 40 years old, Edgar has lost three of his last four fights, with two of the three of them being via KO/TKO. Despite the bad optics of those numbers, Edgar has maintained that retirement is nowhere in his short-term plans and has no intention on walking away from the sport anytime soon.

Peep the final faceoff between these two bantamweights below.

Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili

Odds: Rose Namajunas (-105) vs Zhang Weili (-115)

The odds of this strawweight title fight are basically even, which could only mean that oddsmakers and bettors feel there are still many unanswered questions despite the swift and decisive outcome of their first bout in April. Last month, Zhang and former champ-champ Henry Cejudo both put Rose Namajunas on notice that the rematch will look a lot difference from the first fight.

For that to happen, Zhang will have to maintain mental focus throughout the fight and not let the potential boos from the audience get to her, which she admits was a factor in the first fight. Zhang has now taken the necessary steps to ensure a hostile crowd won’t have that same effect on her tomorrow night so that she can be victorious over an opponent she deems to be a “fake” individual.

Strawwight champion Rose Namajunas has already acknowledged that any friendship with Zhang is unlikely after she kicked Zhang in the face back in April. Once on record for having difficulties adjusting as champion during her first reign, Namajunas has explained why this time is different and why she has settled into wearing the strawweight crown and all the responsibilities that come with it. We’ll see tomorrow night if “Thug” Rose is granted even more time to continue enjoying life as the champ.

Here’s the final faceoff between the UFC 268 co-main eventers, with a cameo from one Halle Berry!

Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington

Odds: Kamaru Usman (-310) vs Colby Covington (+240)

One look at the odds will have many scratching their head considering how close the first fight between these two was before Usman got the TKO finish in the fifth round. That bout took home the 2019 MMA News Fight of the Year award, and two years later, they finally run it back.

For Usman, he is setting his sights on continuing to strengthen his legacy at MSG with yet another Michael Jordan-like performance for the always-clutch champion. Standing in his way is someone who has brought politics to the forefront of his career and could thus become the posterboy athlete for modern conservatives.

Just as was the case leading into their first fight, much has been said between these two men. Among of the many topics covered is whether the first fight was contested fair and square. Covington claims Usman cheated in the first fight by faking fouls and that his jaw was not broken as it was believed to have been. Usman then provided a thorough retort to Covington’s “cheating” accusations. After a very volatile press conference between the two, including a faceoff where things turned physical, the next and potential final chapter of this rivaly goes down tomorrow.

Here is the final faceoff between tomorrow’s headliners:

Be sure to join us here on for all the results, highlights, and updates surrounding UFC 268!