While there are still a little over two weeks left in 2023, the UFC will see the climax of its season early this Sunday morning in a fight show that promises to pack the Octagon with some truly big names.
Some of the most anticipated bouts include UFC legend Tony Ferguson taking on Paddy Pimblett, undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov facing Stephen Thompson, flyweight champion Alexander Pantoya attempting to defend his title against Brandon Royval, and finally, welterweight champ Leon Edwards trying to teach Colby Covington some manners in the main fight of the event. Logically, it’s the headline fight of the show that calls for the most attention, so let’s have a closer look.
Welterweight champion Leon Edwards defends his belt against the scandalous Colby Covington, who seeks redemption in his third attempt at securing undisputed gold. While some question Covington’s deservingness of a third title shot, citing his lengthy layoff and recent wins over retired fighters, others see him as a legitimate threat to Edwards. But is he really?
This duel has been brewing for some time now, but the tension reached a boiling point at the UFC 296 press conference as both fighters engaged in a verbal and almost physical showdown after Covington’s taunts on Edwards’ late father. However, it seems that the current champ will not be drawn into mind games with the Trump-supporting challenger and is solely focused on successfully defending his title.
The 32-year-old Edwards boasts a respectable MMA record of 21 wins and 3 losses. The Briton last suffered a defeat way back in December 2015 against Kamaru Usman but has enjoyed nothing but victories (and one NC) ever since. In fact, after proving his superiority against well-known fighters like Donald Cerrone, Belal Muhammad, and Nate Diaz, Edwards got his sweet revenge on Usman, first capturing the Nigerian’s belt last August and then defending the title in a trilogy fight this March.
35-year-old Covington’s last fight was back in March 2022. The American’s resume consists of 17 wins and 3 losses. But here comes the problem. The reason why many doubt the hot-headed fighter deserves yet another shot at the welterweight division champion’s title. He had this opportunity two times, both against Usman, both resulting in losses. Sure, Colby bounced back from each loss with a win, first defeating Tyron Woodley, followed by a victory over Jorge Masvidal. The problem? Both opponents were near 40 and already past their prime… It’s easy to understand why many believe Covington is receiving a third shot at becoming world champion on nothing more than name value and marketability.
Sure, Covington has his own opinion, claiming that the organization is to blame for him sitting out for so long and that higher-caliber opponents like Khamzat Chimaev were avoiding him. “I wanted the biggest and best fights, and I wanted to do the best business for this company. But those guys turned me down, so here we are with Leon for the undisputed title”, stated the American.
Colby Covington’s layoff and age: The American has been out of action for 21 months, and he’s approaching 36 years old. This could impact his performance and conditioning, especially given his relentless pace.
Covington’s conditioning: The challenger’s exceptional conditioning and ability to maintain a relentless pace over five rounds can be a significant X-factor. If he can impose his cardio advantage, it might force Edwards to be more reactive and defensive. His wrestling pressure is unmatched at welterweight, and he has the ability to dictate a relentless pace over 25 minutes.
Edwards’ adaptability: The Brit has a perfectly balanced skill set that allows him to adapt to various styles. He doesn’t make big mistakes and has sharpened his takedown defense, making him well-prepared for Covington’s wrestling.
Edwards’ striking skills and composure: The champ is praised for his striking ability, fighting effectively from both stances and targeting all levels. His accurate and versatile striking can pose a significant threat to any opponent. He has great composure and ability to execute at any point in the fight. His performance against Usman, particularly the last-minute head kick, showcases his ability to remain a threat throughout the entire duration.
What are the odds?
The stage (or rather, the Octagon) is set. The season-concluding UFC fight show will spoil us already tomorrow morning. The buildup to UFC 296 has been rife with storylines, from unexpected fight card changes to the controversial press conference remarks from one of the biggest mouths in the UFC.
Should Covington surprise the MMA world by dethroning Edwards, or will the Brit continue his quest to cement his name in the welterweight division history books? That’s for the fighters to settle. OlyBet sportsbook favors Edwards in the upcoming fight, rating his triumph at the odds of 1.62. Meanwhile, Covington has to settle with 2.45 and the role of an underdog. However, if this year has taught us something, it’s that champions truly are decided inside the Octagon. Not on paper.