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PREVIEW: UFC 268 Prelims/Main Card

UFC 268 brings two title fights to the infamous Madison Square Garden in yet another stacked PPV event.

UFC

UFC 268 brings two title fights to the infamous Madison Square Garden in yet another stacked PPV event. The Nigerian Nightmare returns to continue forging his path as the pound for pound greatest fighter on the planet and defend his belt for the second time against arguably his toughest test to date, Colby “Chaos” Covington.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

In the co-main event, the women’s strawweight championship fight sees the fans happily welcome another rematch between “Thug Rose” and China’s greatest ever MMA fighter and only UFC champion Weili Zhang. As a prelude to the two title fights, the “people’s main event” is a title eliminator in the most rigid division showcasing former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje locked inside the cage with former Bellator champion “Iron” Michael Chandler.

Main Card

Main Event – Kamaru Usman 2/7 vs Colby Covington 47/20 (Welterweight)

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (19-1) defends his 170-pound title against the man who gave him the toughest test of his career, Colby Covington (16-2), in a highly anticipated rematch (and grudge match) that headlines UFC 268. Usman won the first meeting and successfully defended his title with a fifth-round TKO at UFC 245 nearly two years ago, and Covington will be out for revenge, especially for the strike that supposedly broke his jaw in that fight. There’s no love lost between these men – they simply don’t like each other. So, this fight has fireworks written all over it.

Usman enters UFC 268 riding an incredible 14-fight winning streak, the longest in welterweight history. His winning streak includes victories over Leon Edwards, Rafael dos Anjos, Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns, and he has effectively cleaned out the UFC welterweight division of any formidable competition. The only loss of his career came in his second professional fight; he’s won 19 consecutive contests since then and has never been defeated in the UFC.

Besides his lengthy winning streak, Usman has several other UFC welterweight records, including a 100 percent takedown defence rate, 3.22 takedowns per 15 minutes and 4.66 significant strikes per minute, making him one of the most well balanced, composed and complete UFC champions in recent memory. It’s no surprise ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is short-priced favourite to successfully defend his crown.

He’ll have stiff competition in Covington, however. The American MMA fighter has an impressive resume inside the octagon, including his winning of the interim welterweight championship courtesy of beating Dos Anjos at UFC 225, although he was later stripped of the title when he proved to be unable to compete at UFC 228. Covington also has victories against the likes of Demian Maia, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Prior to his loss to Usman at UFC 245, “Chaos” was on a seven-fight winning streak between 2015-2019.

Prediction

Usman enters the fight as the clear 2/7 favourite, which shows he is clearly the better fighter for the bookmakers, but we think this is a closer fight than the odds suggest. There’s no question how great of a competitor Covington is. The American fighter has shown us time and time again why we shouldn’t underestimate him. It will be amazingly close and should go all the way to the judges’ scorecards. But we’re backing Covington to make a real statement and upset ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’.

Co-mainRose Namajunas 92/100 vs Weili Zhang 79/100 (Women Strawweight)

Once a champion, twice a champion, and the first female fighter to regain a UFC championship belt, “Thug” Rose Namajunas (10-4) makes her second ever title defence in an eagerly anticipated rematch. After winning the strawweight belt the first time against an undefeated fighter in Joanna Jedrzejczyk via first round knockout, she rematched Joanna showing dominance in a unanimous decision on the scorecard. It then took a whole year to matchup with Jessica Andrade with Namajunas facing health issues, but she went on to dominate through the first round only to be slammed on her head unconscious, losing the belt. Rose took a while to get back in the mix, and Andrade subsequently lost the belt in that time. Regardless, she wanted and needed that one back, winning via split decision earning her yet another title shot. Earlier this year, Namajunas regained the strawweight strap with a perfectly placed high kick sending shockwaves through the MMA community for a second time. Namajunas is no stranger to a rematch and will face Weili in the fourth rematch of her career.

The representation of a nation, China’s Zhang Weili (21-2) is an absolute marauder and will not shun away from the challenge of regaining her title as the best strawweight fighter in the world. After losing her first professional MMA fight eight years ago, the former Chinese strawweight champion “Magnum” surged on to a 21-fight win streak before being crowned UFC champion in a decisive knockout of Jessica Andrade. Following her crowning, Zhang earned 2020 fight of the year with her title defence against Jedrzejczyk before losing the belt to Rose. To lose in such fashion after going on such a devasting run with 17 finishes (10 KO, 7 submissions) in her 21 wins, Weili has found it difficult to accept her loss and has stated if she was beaten up for five rounds, she would concede her opposition the better fighter. As if “Magnum” Weili’s work ethic was not through the roof already, it seems there is a newfound dedication and grind to her regiment.

In the first fight we didn’t get to see many exchanges, and yes, while it was an exciting knockout, an actual fight didn’t take place but rather just a head kick with exquisite technique and set up by Namajunas. Rose knows she has to stay on her bicycle and circle in either direction, covering distance to find the perfect shot or combination, opening with feints and great technique. In their first fight, Zhang landed six inside leg kicks and it seemed as if the feeling out process was still on her mind. From her previous fight, and many others, she knew her chin can withstand a shot and having the mindset she is also the stronger, more powerful fighter. Now, with a renewed sense of desire, we are expecting a more closed guard and less time on the outside where Rose would do better work, but Weili hits harder. Rose has never really been a friend of the clinch, and Zhang has made it her home with nasty elbows and knees before her opponent breaks under pressure and then errors open up a submission on the ground.

Prediction

Rose is bound to have a new gameplan with a lot more to showcase with next generation coach Trevor Wittman, but a smarter, more calculated approach from Weili, effectively channelling her raw talent and strength under the watchful eye of Henry Cejudo will be all the difference.

Justin Gaethje 44/100 vs Michael Chandler 16/10 (Lightweight)

And now, in what is being dubbed as “The People’s Main Event”, Justin Gaethje (22-3) meets Michael Chandler (22-6) in a fight that will likely determine the next challenger for the UFC lightweight championship. Despite both fighters coming off recent losses, this should be an absolute banger between a pair of offensive-minded fighters who have no interest in winning by points. Gaethje is the favourite but we think this fight is closer than the odds suggest.

Both fighters are coming off unsuccessful title challenges, both in the second round, with Gaethje losing to former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov by submission last October, before the GOAT announced his retirement, while Chandler suffered a TKO loss to Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC lightweight championship at UFC 262 this past May.

Gaethje is 5-3 in the UFC since making his debut back in 2017. His only three losses are to former lightweight champions in Khabib, Dustin Poirier (interim) and Eddie Alvarez. Prior to his most recent loss to Khabib, “The Highlight” was on a four-fight winning streak where he had three consecutive first-round finishes before picking up a late TKO against Tony Ferguson.

As for Chandler, the former Bellator star is 6-2 in his last eight fights dating back to 2018, with his only losses coming to current UFC champion Oliveira and former Bellator lightweight champion Patricio Freire. Prior to his loss to Oliveira at UFC 262, “Iron” made his long-awaited promotional debut against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 in January. In perhaps the most impressive and emphatic debut performances in UFC history, the 35-year-old finished “The Hangman” inside the first round. Before signing up with the UFC, Chandler spent majority of his career in Bellator as a three-time lightweight champion.

Prediction

This is going to be a huge fight for the fans as both of them are fan favourites and interesting fighters to watch. Gaethje is the betting favourite since he has better wins in the UFC, while Chandler is 1-1 in his UFC career. Both of these guys like to stand and bang so expect this one to be on the feet for the vast majority of the fight. We think this will be close, but we’re giving Gaethje the nod looking better on the feet and utilising his height and reach advantage.

Fight of the Night

UFC 268 is an absolute stacked card and betting odds are so close with not many short favourites. We have to take into consideration the storylines behind these fights and the overall anticipation behind the MMA fanbase. Bobby Green’s last fight earned a performance of the night bonus, and now he faces the man who gave Khabib Nurmagomedov one of his toughest tests, “Raging” Al Iaquinta who fights under the genius Matt Serra. Another two which catch the eye is both the main and co-main events with fighters who are sure to both give a full account of themselves in the octagon. However, at first glance and gut feeling fight of the night has to go to Justin Gaethje who is not nicknamed “The Highlight” for nothing, fighting a man on a mission, Michael Chandler, who last fought for the belt and will have everything to prove.

Full card predictions:

Main Card: 04:00 CAT, Sunday 7 November

  • Kamaru Usman (c) vs Colby Covington: Covington
  • Rose Namajunas vs Zhang Weili: Weili to win by KO, TKO or SUB.
  • Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler: Gaethje
  • Shane Burgos (46/100) vs Billy Quarantillo (31/20): Quarantillo
  • Frankie Edgar (27/20) vs Marlon Vera (53/100): Vera

Prelims: 02:00 CAT

  • Alex Pereira (36/100) vs Andreas Michailidis (19/10): Pereira
  • Al Iaquinta (27/20) vs Bobby Green (53/100): Al Iaquinta
  • Phil Hawes (27/100) vs Chris Curtis (24/10): Hawes
  • Edmen Shahbazyan (94/100) vs Nassourdine Imavov (77/100): Imavov

Early Prelims: 00:00 CAT

  • Ian Garry (24/100) vs Jordan Williams (26/10): Garry
  • Gian Villante (77/100) vs Chris Barnett (94/100): Barnett
  • Dustin Jacoby (26/100) vs John Allan (5/2): Jacoby
  • Melsik Baghdasaryan (29/100) vs Bruno Souza (23/10): Baghdasaryan
  • CJ Vergara (14/10) vs Ode Osbourne (51/100): Osbourne

    Previewed by Chad Nagel and Joshua Gaillard

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