Saturday, December 10, 2022

[ARCHIVES] Why All MMA Fans Should Be Thankful for Usman vs. Covington


Here is an editorial that was written two years ago, just prior to the first fight between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington at UFC 245. Now that we’ve witnessed not one but two classics between them, it’s clear that MMA fans did have plenty to be thankful for. Here is a trip back to the past before the two ever met in the Octagon, capturing the magnitude of their first classic which was right around the corner.


Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s a time for families to come together and be thankful for all of life’s blessings that have been bestowed upon them. Yes, we all have something to be thankful for, and today is a day to take the time to reflect on those things. In my case, what I am most thankful for today isn’t any turkey or stuffing, it’s the impending showdown between UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington at UFC 245 that will take place two weeks from Saturday.

That’s right, MMA fam, the only stuffing I’m thankful for is getting to find out which of these elite MMA wrestlers will be treated to some takedown stuffing come December 14 and seeing which of the two will eat the most shots. When it comes to consuming damage, both Usman and Covington have displayed a true lack of appetite, with both men barely getting touched in each of their combined 21 fights, with Usman absorbing a meager 1.60 strikes per minute and Covington only absorbing 2.35.

And in terms of dishing it out, both men may choose to take the path of least resistance whenever it is presented to them, but make no mistake, both fighters know how to serve up beatdowns. In fact, despite the myth that both men are one-dimensional, Colby Covington holds the record for most strikes thrown in a UFC fight, with his total of 541 against Robbie Lawler in his most recent outing. As for Usman, when faced with his toughest challenge to date against then-champion Tyron Woodley, Usman not only set a record for most body shots in a UFC fight, but he also had the largest strike differential in UFC title fight history in that same fight! Geesh, that’s a lot of absence of “hugging” from both men. Where’s the love?

So if the elite wrestling skills of both men cancel each other out, then somebody is going to be on the receiving end of more punches than they have ever been before….or maybe they both will. Maybe fans will be surprised when two men who are used to feasting on their opponents’ wills tear into one another in an unexpected five-round war. Yes, like a kid whose parents continue to hint at an epic Christmas gift that I have no clue about, in these weeks that lead up to the big December day, it’s the not knowing that I am so thankful for. And as we all know, the anticipation season for the big December event officially begins on Thanksgiving day.

Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington have proven to be the most dominant fighters in the welterweight division. Between them, an argument can be made that save Covington’s first-round submission loss to Warrlley Alves four years ago, neither man has lost a round in the UFC. Both grapplers have instead become accustomed to earning the MMA equivalent of technical falls. They have been so dominant that there’s a great chance that this is but only the first chapter in what will turn out to be a long rivalry between two supreme talents. And that’s another thing that I am thankful for about this contest: both men are 100% in their primes.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the things we have and also for the things that we may regretfully take for granted in our day-to-day lives. Well, a 10-0 versus 10-1 bout between two competitors in their prime is nothing to take for granted. Sure, it might not generate the buzz of other fights this year, including the BMF bout earlier this month between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz, but the fact remains that Kamaru Usman versus Colby Covington, from a competitive standpoint, is the fight of the year on paper. Both men may have their detractors, and their fighting styles aren’t typically the most fan-friendly, but that doesn’t change the reality that if you are a purist and you want to know who the best man is, these are the fights to salivate over because they are rare, as they are truly rare, as our Khabib versus Ferguson woes illustrate.

So I invite you to join me at this table of those who are thankful for talents like Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington, even if many around you are not. And if you are a grace-sayer, go ahead and say a prayer that both men make it to Las Vegas fully intact and far above 30%. Because aside from all the drama between the fighters and all the outside noise of ingrates who do not truly appreciate how epic of a fight this is, the plain truth is: this is a really, really damn good fight that any fan of our sport should be thankful for.

Now go eat.