UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington II Predictions (Reposted)

After what was an amazing fight card last weekend, we have an even more loaded pay-per-view tonight from Madison Square Garden! There are fourteen bouts to look forward to and of course two incredible title rematches to close out the night.

The write-up here will provide consideration for building lineups on both FanDuel and DraftKings. It details my betting strategy for each fight and a prediction of what kind of bout we see.

When building your lineups here are a few things to consider. Pricing differs for most fighters making some better value on one site over the other. Scoring is important as well. On FanDuel a first-round finish scores 5x the points as a decision, where on DraftKings it scores 3x as many. Grappling is also scored drastically different as FanDuel awards points for submission attempts. DraftKings neglects those and instead values control time and reversals. This new year, DraftKings has also added a quick win bonus for victories in the first minute as well as scoring for non-significant strikes. Lastly, you will only want to take two fighters from the same fight if you think it goes into the late rounds and expect both to reach value. Optimal GPP builds very rarely stack the same fight but it can be a viable strategy in cash games.

Lastly, if you are in search of even more DFS content be sure to visit DailyPlayAction.com! This site is dedicated to providing expert daily fantasy coaching as well as tools to optimize your NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and PGA lineups. Check them out now if you play any FanDuel or DraftKings DFS.

Fight odds are as listed from Bovada and last updated 10:00 AM EST 11-6-2021

Early Prelims- Start 6:00pm EST

Ode Osbourne -200 (DK $8700, FD $17) vs CJ Vergara +160 (DK $7500, FD $12)

  • Anthony: Our card opens with a bout at flyweight between Ode Osbourne and CJ Vergara. It is rare to see at a weight this low but both of these fighters are very potent finishers. Vergara is making his UFC debut here after a win on Dana White’s Contender Series this past September. He is a winner of five consecutive bouts with each of those victories coming inside of the distance. Vergara came in heavy on the scales yesterday but that is somewhat understandable having to cut to 125 pounds twice in two months. His striking is solid, but I think he has a long way to go when it comes to working off of his back. Osbourne can certainly be classified as the superior grappler with five of his wins coming by way of submission. His previous eight fights have all ended in under five minutes and I think this bout is no different. He should be able to have his way with Vergara while grappling as long as he can get this fight to the mat early. I worry about his chin the longer this bout goes on. Ode Osbourne by Round One Submission
  • Nick: Ode Osbourne is inexperienced, but he has crisp striking and he does an excellent job switching stances. He has a powerful back-step power kick, does a good job diversifying his strikes and more often than not he’s able to lean on his athleticism to drown his opponents. He works well at range but sometimes leaves himself open to counters in exchanges. His wrestling leaves a lot to be desired, but he does carry an arsenal of dangerous submissions if the fight hits the mat. Vergara is an interesting prospect as a former flyweight champion with FFC. He missed weight for this match-up, but certainly has a chance to remain a mainstay on the roster. Vergara will be live for a knockout here, but I expect Osbourne to outclass him. Ode Osbourne by Round Two KO
  • GB: CJ Vergara by Round Two KO

Melsik Baghdasaryan -360 (DK $9200, FD $21) vs Bruno Souza +270 (DK $7000, FD $10)

  • Anthony: Next we have a fight at featherweight between Melsik Baghdasaryan and Bruno Souza. This is the debut for Souza who has been training under the tutelage of the great Lyoto Machida. He has a very similar karate style, offering a slightly higher work rate but also rather poor defense. I do not think he finds much success here today against a more dynamic striker like Baghdasaryan. Souza will struggle to land many heavy blows from range against an opponent with a comparable frame. Baghdasaryan seems like the much further advanced when it comes to technical striking. He is extremely quick and just recently disposed of a much tougher foe in Michigan’s Collin Anglin. Souza missed weight yesterday and I doubt he can survive long in a matchup this challenging. Coming in heavy is always cause for concern, but it is also noteworthy that UFC debutants are on a 1-11 skid. Baghdasaryan should roll in this one. His last win accrued 113 FanDuel points and I consider him a high floor play there today. Melsik Baghdasaryan by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Baghdasaryan is an extremely talented kickboxer. He throws impressive combinations mixing in kicks well, and five of his last six professional wins have come via knockout. Baghdasaryan is going to have an advantage when this fight is standing. Souza will be making his UFC debut here as the LFA featherweight champion. He has shown decent durability on the regional circuit and he is an effective striker himself. Silva is a karate champion who works well in range, but his own confidence striking will likely lead to his demise in this spot. He’d be wise to lean on his grappling, but I don’t expect he will. We’ve seen Souza rocked against far worse strikers on the regional scene so it’s tough not to side with the favorite in this spot. Melsik Baghdasaryan by Round One KO
  • GB: Melsik Baghdasaryan by Round One KO

Dustin Jacoby -400 (DK $9600, FD $21) vs John Allan +300 (DK $7800, FD $9)

  • Anthony: Dustin Jacoby steps in on short notice here for a light heavyweight matchup with John Allan. Jacoby is a talented kickboxer that has done nothing but impress me since entering his second stint with the UFC. He has so far accrued three wins and one draw in a fight that saw him claw back from a 10-8 first round by Ion Cutelaba. He may be the best striker in factoryX Muay Thai’s gym and that is saying quite a lot. His last combat sports loss came back in 2016 against a talented kicboxer in Simon Marcus. Jacoby had his arm broken two minutes into that fight and finished the round, but ultimately was unable to continue. Allan had been preparing for a fight with Aleksa Camur but now draws a much more technically sound opponent who has been red hot as of late. Camur was a loser of two straight and Allan would’ve had a chance in that bout had things stayed on the feet. Against Jacoby I think he gets outmatched, especially in the latter half of this fight when Jacoby really starts to find his rhythm. Dustin Jacoby by Decision
  • Nick: Dustin Jacoby is a high-level kickboxer who has continued to show improvements in all facets of MMA. He’s on the most impressive win streak of his career and coming off an impressive KO win over Darren Stewart. Jacoby showed effective takedown defense in his draw with Ion Cutelaba as well as in a win over Maxim Grishin, a fighter who has spent time at heavyweight. I have trouble expecting a much smaller Allan to keep him down here. Additionally, Allan seems content to stand and trade in a majority of his fights. In a bout I expect to mostly take place on the feet, Jacoby should handle Allan with ease. The one knock on Jacoby is that he’s had cardio issues in the past but his gas tank seems to have been corrected. Dustin Jacoby by Decision
  • GB: Dustin Jacoby by Round Three KO

Gian Villante -130 (DK $7900, FD $15) vs Chris Barnett +110 (DK $8300, FD $14)

  • Anthony: This will be a funny fight at heavyweight between Gian Villante and Chris Barnett. Villante has announced that this will be his final fight as a mixed martial artist. It has been a long UFC career for Villante who enters this bout with a 7-10 record inside the promotion. He was an athletic light heavyweight but has since ballooned in weight and fallen off in terms of cardio and durability. There used to be a lot to like about him, but Villante simply did not evolve his game while the rest of his peers were. He enters on an ugly losing streak and there is no justifiable reason this line should be so close. Barnett has been fighting and winning at heavyweight and even super heavyweight for quite some time now. He is extremely powerful and athletic despite his husky build. I think Barnett is far more likely to find a finish in this fight and I question Villante’s motivation having already announced that this is his final walk to the octagon. Barnett’s losses are not at all embarrassing and I think Villante is an opponent he can certainly outwork and finish. Chris Barnett by Round Two KO
  • Nick: What we have here is a potentially fun, but low-level matchup at heavyweight. Chris Barnett has power as a striker, but he’s extremely unconventional. He throws more spinning attacks and high kicks than we usually see from a short and stocky heavyweight. His overall technical ability leaves a lot to be desired but he’s a fun fighter to watch and he does pack enough power in his punches to end a fight with a single strike. Gian Villante will be retiring after this matchup and he is not a natural heavyweight. He’d likely dominate this bout in his prime, but it seems he’s entirely disengaged and simply showing up for a check in this spot. Villante hasn’t shot for a takedown since 2015, so all signs seem to indicate this will be a battle taking place on the feet. Villante will likely have a technical advantage, but he’s far less athletic than Barnett at this point in his career. He is also far less powerful. As long as Barnett can maintain his gas tank here, I expect him to secure his first UFC win. Chris Barnett by Round Three KO
  • GB: Chris Barnett by Round One KO

Ian Garry -400 (DK $9500, FD $22) vs Jordan Williams +300 (DK $6700, FD $8)

  • Anthony: The early prelims close with Ian Garry making his UFC debut here at welterweight against Jordan Williams. This should be a very fun fight as the promotion looks to build another highly touted prospect from overseas. Garry is undefeated in his young career with seven victories. His overall skillset is a work in progress, but he already has incredible striking fundamentals for the young age of 23. I very much like his intelligent forward pressure and patience from range. He also has thunderous kicks that he can throw to the leg, body, or head of his opponents. Garry has spent this camp at Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach which is an excellent gym to help round out his game. Williams is a dangerous striker in his own right but powerful hands are about all that he has. Garry is the bigger and more technical fighter. This should be a relatively easy debut for Garry as long as he fights with sound defense. Gameplan is of little to concern for me backing him as his corner is comprised of Henri Hooft, Greg Jones and Jason Strout for this fight. Ian Garry by Round One KO
  • Nick: Garry enters this fight as the Cage Warriors welterweight champion. He is still developing as a prospect as he’s only 7-0. However, he already seems to be very well rounded. His striking continues to improve, he has powerful hips and enough power standing to find success against a wide range of opponents. Williams is pretty sharp with decent power in his strikes, but he also takes a lot more damage than he should in exchanges. He has diabetes and thus issues maintaining quality nutrition, but he has recently begun working with the UFC Performance Institute to improve his weight cutting. Williams is coming off an ugly loss to a mediocre fighter in Mickey Gall. It feels like the UFC is setting up Garry to succeed here. He feels a bit overpriced for DFS, but I expect him to roll in this spot. Ian Garry by Round One KO
  • GB: Ian Garry by Decision

Preliminary Card- Starts 8:00pm EST

Nassourdine Imavov -120 (DK $8500, FD $16) vs Edmen Shahbazyan +100 (DK $7700, FD $15)

  • Anthony: Here we have a high-level middleweight matchup between Edmen Shahbazyan and Nassourdine Imavov. Shahbazyan had a rocket strapped to his back upon entering the UFC as one of the more hyped prospects in this division. He began his promotional career with three straight finishes, including a knockout of Brad Tavares at Madison Square Garden just two years ago. Since then he has faced top tier competition at 185 pounds and it proved to be a bit too much too soon. Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson are elite fighters and Imavov is certainly not of the same ilk quite yet. The Russian Sniper has put on rather solid performances but I have not yet seen high output or much of a killer instinct from him. He can hurt opponents with his strikes but not to the same caliber of Shahbazyan who is the bigger threat to sleep his foes. I believe this fight is contested largely on the feet and that very well may indicate a single shot could decide things. It is not a confident pick at all but I am siding with Shahbazyan given the current odds. He should have a slight advantage here in terms of speed and power on the feet. Edmen Shahbazyan by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Shabazyan is one of the more intriguing up-and-comers at middleweight. He’s only 23, but he has shown elite level striking and a serious ability to finish fights early. While striking seems to be his strength, Shabazyan is about as well-rounded of a fighter as you’ll find at his age. Shabazyan grew up training multiple facets of the MMA game and his grappling ability is a strength more than it is a weakness. He’s coming off tough losses to tough competition in Jack Hermansson and Derek Brunson. However, both those guys are considered true top contenders at middleweight. Nassourdine Imavov is coming off an impressive win over Ian Heinisch. He mixed his grappling in effectively to control Heinisch for the better part of three rounds. He also showed considerable improvements in his pacing and cardio. Imavov does a good job circling away from the strengths of his opponents and swinging out of his wide stance. He’s a quality wrestler, but more often than not he seems content to stand and trade. In this particular fight, I expect Imavov to be outclassed in most exchanges. This is one of the tougher matchups on the card to call, but Shabazyan is the more dangerous striker. I’ll have shares of both sides for DFS, but I like the value on the underdog. Edmen Shahbazyan by Decision
  • GB: Edmen Shahbazyan by Decision

Phil Hawes -310 (DK $9400, FD $22) vs Chris Curtis +240 (DK $6800, FD $9)

  • Anthony: Next up is a fight at middleweight between Phil Hawes and Chris Curtis. It was quite a long road for Curtis to make his UFC debut but we have finally arrived at it here this evening. He is a very fun fighter to watch given his forward pressure, extremely high volume and willingness to eat shots in order to throw them. Curtis has fluctuated between weights his whole career but going up against a 185er like Hawes could spell trouble. This fight was put together on relatively short notice and there will be a noticeable size different between these two in the cage. Hawes is very well-rounded and I think in this matchup his power will cause a lot of problems for the newcomer. It is going to be very tense whenever these two engage largely due to the heavy hands of Hawes. We have also seen Hawes implement a wrestling heavy approach in the past which is certainly a solid gameplan to secure this victory. The line has gotten very wide but it is almost warranted given the divide in skills between these two. Curtis may be able to melt Hawes with his pressure, but I think the far more likely scenario is a rather clean victory for the favorite. Be wary though as Curtis is an extremely live dog. Phil Hawes by Decision
  • Nick: Phil Hawes is well-rounded, but his greatest strength is his knockout power. Seven of his eleven professional victories have come by way of KO. He’s a capable grappler but in most matchups he’d absolutely prefer to stay on the feet. We’ve seen in many of Hawes’ fights that his massive frame seems to be a lot to carry for a full fifteen minutes. He seems to always gas out late in fights if he can’t finish his opponents early. Chris Curtis will be making his UFC debut here, but there is no denying he has faced an elite level of competition. He has wins over several former UFC fighters and he poses an interesting threat to Hawes in this spot. Curtis has made a career of comeback wins, so Hawes will need to pace himself here and maintain his gas tank. Curtis becomes live for an upset as this fight wears on, but he is not a natural 185er. I expect Hawes’ size and power to be enough to stop Curtis early. This line has gotten out of hand but Hawes is the pick. Phil Hawes by Round One KO
  • GB: Phil Hawes by Decision

Bobby Green -190 (DK $8600, FD $19) vs Al Iaquinta +155 (DK $7600, FD $12)

  • Anthony: This should be a very fun lightweight scrap between Bobby Green and Al Iaquinta. This fight is flying under the radar given the excellent main card, but I am expecting fans to get quite the show. Iaquinta is a nine-year veteran of the UFC after finishing runner-up on The Ultimate Fighter Season 15. He is a New York resident and certainly someone the fans and judges may gravitate toward backing in this bout. He has lost three of his previous four fights but has been facing a very high level of competition. Green entered the promotion at around the same time as Iaquinta after a successful Strikeforce career. In his last fight he displayed the crisp boxing, excellent head movement and the taunting that we all know him for. Green has gone to decision in ten consecutive bouts and out landed opponents in seven of those, but only had his hand raised four times. All signs point to a Bobby Green decision win here but judges do not seem to score any of his matchups correctly. He is my pick to win but I do not feel confident enough to put any money on him, especially in enemy territory. Bobby Green by Decision
  • Nick: Bobby Green is a well-rounded fighter, but his shoulder-roll boxing style is what stands out when you watch him on film. He usually wins fights out striking his opponents at boxing range, but he often favors showmanship over effective game planning and Fight IQ. Green is a quality boxer, but he tends to keep his hands down a lot more often than he should. He fights down to the level of his opponent, which could cause him trouble here against an intelligent veteran like Iaquinta. Al Iaquinta is a well-rounded but gritty fighter who has found most of his success mixing things up between his striking and grappling. He is likely going to find himself outclassed on the feet here, but I cannot imagine him shooting for takedowns much at all. This is another close fight that could go either way. However, I like Green as he’s likely to put out more volume while this fight is standing. Bobby Green by Decision
  • GB: Bobby Green by Decision

Alex Pereira -250 (DK $9100, FD $20) vs Andreas Michailidis +200 (DK $7100, FD $10)

  • Anthony: The prelims close with this middleweight bout between Alex Pereira and Andreas Michailidis. This is just the fourth professional mixed martial arts bout for the debuting Pereira, but he has long been a Glory Kickboxing champion. He captured the Glory light heavyweight championship this year while also having five previous title defenses as a 187-pound middleweight. His striking is phenomenal with devastating knees up the middle and a left hook that has put out numerous opponents in the past. Pereira has also been the primary training partner of UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira for well over a year. I am certain that he has picked up plenty of grappling tips from the veteran of 40 professional MMA fights. Not to mention the wealth of experience gained in his own 40 kickboxing bouts. Michailidis could perhaps cause problems for Pereira here by taking this fight to the mat, but he is also primarily a kickboxer. I could see Michailidis getting one or two takedowns in this fight but I doubt he can hold down a much bigger opponent. This matchup was tailor made for Pereira and I think he wins it with either a left hook or perhaps his first career submission. Alex Pereira by Round Two KO
  • Nick: Michailidis is a powerful and aggressive striker, but he often leaves himself open to counters. There are questions around his cardio coming into this matchup and he’s going to need to lean on his grappling here against Pereira, one of the more decorated kickboxers in the world. Pereira makes his UFC debut here as a world champion kickboxer, touted as the only man to ever knockout Israel Adesanya professionally. Michailidis has been KO’d in all four of his professional losses. It’s very clear that the UFC is looking to build Pereira in this spot. As long as he doesn’t spend too much time on his back, I expect the favorite to roll. Alex Pereira by Round One KO
  • GB: Alex Pereira by Round Two KO

Main Card- Starts 10:00pm EST

Justin Gaethje -210 (DK $8900, FD $18) vs Michael Chandler +170 (DK $7300, FD $13)

  • Anthony: It will be fireworks to open the main card as lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler do battle. The previous two title fights at 155 pounds saw these men finished, but either can claim themselves the number one contender with a victory tonight. I was confident betting against Chandler when he challenged Charles Oliveira for the belt in May. This seems like another very tough test for him but the oddsmakers got the line right making him a much harder fade. He has phenomenal wrestling but at this point of his career, Chandler has fallen in love with his hands. He has fight ending power and throws every strike to hurt his foes. Gaethje is the much better technical striker. He has devastating leg kicks that he has torn apart opponents with in the past. Gaethje also has weapons in every limb and an excellent striking coach cornering him, the great Trevor Wittman. When imagining this fight all I see is violent striking exchanges. Gaethje should be the more sound fighter defensively and I trust his chin a hell of a lot more than I do that of Chandler. He has a significantly bigger frame and I think he steps into the cage quite a bit heavier than Chandler tonight. This fight is going to be one of the most exciting bouts all year and the winner will very likely be an optimal DFS play. While I think Gaethje dominates, I will have high exposure to both given Chandler’s ceiling at such a modest price tag. Tune in, this is some must see action. Justin Gaethje by Round Three KO
  • Nick: Before he began his career in MMA, Chandler was an accomplished NCAA Division I wrestler. He is going to be one of the better wrestlers in the lightweight division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired. However, he is likely to stand and trade here in a fight fans have pegged as a matchup that guarantees violence. Justin Gaethje is a brawler. His kill-or-be-killed style has landed him Fight of the Night or Performance of the Night bonuses in seven of his eight bouts in the UFC. He had a lot of success utilizing leg kicks in his fight against Tony Ferguson, but he’s most known for his ridiculous gas tank, chin and overall durability. Michael Chandler is going to come out firing here, but there are questions surrounding his durability as he’s been KO’d in three of his last four losses. He will be live for the KO early, but the longer this fight wears on the more likely it seems that Gaethje will find his chin. If I was confident he’d lean on his wrestling I could see backing Chandler as an underdog. However, this will likely be a firefight and I expect the more durable fighter to win out. Justin Gaethje by Round Two KO
  • GB: Justin Gaethje by Round One KO

Shane Burgos -200 (DK $9000, FD $19) vs Billy Quarantillo +160 (DK $7200, FD $11)

  • Anthony: Next we have a great featherweight scrap between Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo. This should be another extremely competitive fight largely contested on the feet. Quarantillo is really solid no matter where the fight goes. This is clearly going to be his toughest test to date but I think he has a lot of weapons that can give Burgos some trouble. Quarantillo’s cardio and grit are two assets that have played a factor in just about every one of his wins thus far. He throws seven significant strikes per minutes and finally gets to face an equal who actually lands at an even higher clip. One issue is that Quarantillo will be putting together the more sloppy and looping combinations while Burgos’ style fits that of a traditional boxer far more. Tiger Schulmann has really refined the striking of Burgos and we have seen him targeting the body and legs more and more in every fight. It will be interesting to see whether these two can keep the high output for a full fifteen minutes here. I have to side with Burgos given the higher level of competition he has already proven himself against. He may be coming off of consecutive losses but we need not forget those came against ranked opponents in this division. Shane Burgos by Decision
  • Nick: This is an excellent scrap with a serious chance to be awarded Fight of the Night. Burgos is a volume machine. He throws a ton of strikes and does a good job keeping his opponents guessing by mixing in body shots. He’s an outstanding boxer, and on fight day he’s a lot bigger than most of the other guys in the division. The one knock on Burgos is that likes to lean forward to bait opponents into strikes. He’s a fighter more than willing to take shots to throw them, which could spell trouble for him here against another volume striker in Billy Q. Quarantillo, like Burgos, pushes an outstanding pace. Thirteen of his sixteen professional victories have come via finish and while he’s been known as a slow starter he has a knack for finishing fights in the later rounds as he builds up momentum and speed. While Quarantillo feels like one of the more live underdogs on the card, I’m not sure he can extend this as long as he needs to. Burgos is going to outclass him early, but he’ll need to be careful not to play with his food and let Quarantillo work his way back into contention. The price is a bit heavy, but Burgos is the pick. Shane Burgos by Decision
  • GB: Billy Quarantillo by Decision

Marlon Vera -150 (DK $8800, FD $16) vs Frankie Edgar +125 (DK $7400, FD $13)

  • Anthony: Tonight’s featured bout is a matchup at bantamweight between Marlon Vera and Frankie Edgar. It is rare that a fighter moves down in weight at the tail end of their career but that is exactly the case for Frankie Edgar. The former UFC lightweight champion has made the gradual decent to 135 pounds and now makes his third walk to the octagon as a bantamweight. He was starched by the knee of Cory Sandhagen in his most recent fight, but had a very competitive bout with Pedro Munhoz in the matchup prior. I honestly was shocked to see Edgar get that decision victory having only convincingly won a single round, the second. He still fights with the pressure he always has but is not as relentless with the wrestling that had made him such a threat in the past. I find it very difficult to bet on the 40-year-old bantamweight here. Chito Vera simply has a better body of work as of late. The only flaw on his resume since UFC 227 was a loss to Jose Aldo and there is absolutely no shame in that. Vera has submissions that can certainly get a wrestler like Edgar caught and quite clearly the striking advantage on the feet, boasting a near three-inch reach advantage. It is not a very confident pick at all but I think Vera is the rightful favorite and a decent bet here at the current odds. He should have a lot of room to work in this cage and questions surrounding Edgar’s chin certainly make this pick seem rather clear on paper. Marlon Vera by Decision
  • Nick: Frankie Edgar is one of the more decorated bantamweights in UFC history and he can still hang with anyone on the roster. He’s coming off a brutal KO loss to Cory Sandhagen, but Sandhagen is considered one of the best strikers in the division. Edgar’s one real advantage in this matchup is his wrestling. He has the lower and more powerful base compared to that of Vera, but outside of his chokes and back takes he is mostly a positional grappler. Vera is one of the tougher guys in this division, borderline impossible to put away and he’s shown a serious ability to up his pressure and pace as the fight gets into the later rounds. He’s sometimes considered a slow starter, but he continues to improve everywhere and he seems to gain momentum as his fights build. Edgar’s clearest path to victory here will be to try to keep Vera grounded and ride him out for a decision, but I expect that could be tough here against a fighter who has continued to show improved takedown defense. This is another really close matchup that could go either way, but I’ll back Edgar in a razor thin decision. It wouldn’t surprise me if Vera caught him with something, but he’s not really known as a power puncher. Additionally, any questions about Edgar’s cardio should be negated by the fact he took a five-round win over Pedro Munhoz. The judges should give him the nod here in his home state. Frankie Edgar by Decision
  • GB: Frankie Edgar by Decision

Zhang Weili -120 (DK $8000, FD $18) vs Rose Namajunas +100 (DK $8200, FD $17)

  • Anthony: The co-main event will be a rematch for the women’s strawweight championship as Zhang Weili looks to get her belt back from the two-time champion Rose Namajunas. Their first fight was really over before it even began as Namajunas crumpled Weili with a perfectly placed switch kick to the face. Namajunas had set up that kick high by starting the bout off with several kicks low. Her striking has come an incredibly long way and with Trevor Wittman in her corner this should be the best version of her to date. Namajunas had a lot of pressure on her shoulders after winning the belt for the first time in Madison Square Garden four years ago. She seems to now be embracing the role as champion and is oozing with confidence ahead of this rematch. Weili is still the more powerful striker and wrestler but strength is rarely the deciding factor in fights, especially at just 115 pounds. Namajunas will need to fight a smart gameplan and likely stay on the outside in this particular bout, but a win point fighting and counter striking seems very likely in my opinion. Weili desperately wants to get back the strap and I think that over aggression could play to her detriment here. The betting odds are razor thin for very good reason but I find it difficult to fade the champion here after watching her most recent performance. And still. Rose Namajunas by Decision
  • Nick: Namajunas will be defending the title here against the same woman she just took it from back in April. Rose finished Zhang Weili just 1:18 into the first round with an outstanding switch head kick. As impressive as that was, many believe it was a bit of a fluke knockout and as a result Zhang is once again the favorite here. Both of these girls are built for five rounds, meaning conditioning shouldn’t really be a factor. Weili recently changed camps to Fight Ready. She’s likely to show considerable improvements in her grappling and it is certainly encouraging to know she’s been training with a higher level of athlete than she was in her home gym of China. Weili likely has a power advantage here, but I see Rose’s length and speed mostly keeping her opponent at bay. I can sincerely say nothing would surprise me in this spot. However, I have to side with the champ to keep her title. I feel strongly that the move to Fight Ready was the right one for Zhang, but this rematch came quick. And still. Rose Namajunas by Decision
  • GB: Zhang Weili by Round Three KO

Kamaru Usman -300 (DK $9300, FD $22) vs Colby Covington +235 (DK $6900, FD $15)

  • Anthony: Our main event is a rematch of one of the best bouts in 2019. Kamaru Usman will look to make it five straight title defenses as he takes on Colby Chaos Covington. It is undeniable that Usman’s greatest challenge thus far was Covington. That fight was at an even two rounds a piece prior to the early stoppage in round number five. The back-and-forth striking affair saw both men landing heavy shots on the other, but Usman ultimately delivered the more damaging blows. These are two high caliber wrestlers that elected to stand rather than test those skills against the other. Usman has never been taken down in his career and there is always a higher concern for athlete cardio when prolonged grappling exchanges occur. Usman has improved his striking significantly with every fight and I think he tries to keep things standing once again here. Covington would be wise to at least try and wrestle in this bout and I seriously worry about him standing for another five rounds with the champion. I consider Covington the second-best welterweight of all time, but Usman is quite clearly his superior. If a challenger is going to take the belt off Usman any time soon, it needs to be tonight. I had an urge to bet on Covington here all week long but I really find it hard envisioning his path to victory. It is simply a bout I would not be confident betting either way based on the skillset of both men. I truly hope Covington has a trick up his sleeve and is able to dethrone Usman here. However, the champ is likely the one getting his hand raised when all is said and done. Kamaru Usman by Decision
  • Nick: This fight is a rematch of a matchup that took place back in December of 2019. Many considered it to be the fight of the year at the time. Both of these guys consider wrestling to be their greatest strength, but they stood and exchanged strikes in that spot and I expect them to stand and trade once again when they square up here. Covington is coming off a solid win over Tyron Woodley but many consider Woodley to be far from elite at this stage in his career. Usman is coming off a knockout win over a striker in Jorge Masvidal and perhaps an even more impressive victory over a world class opponent in Gilbert Burns. I expect this fight to take place mostly on the feet where Usman will have a technical advantage. Usman absorbs less damage statistically and his overall striking differential is more than .5 significant strikes better. Primarily a wrestler, Usman has shown both excellent defense and a chin on the feet. He recently began training under an excellent striking coach in Trevor Wittman, and his jab and overall boxing ability seems to improve every time we see him fight. Covington is certainly live for an upset here as he’s truly one of the best welterweights in the world. However, I expect Usman has made more improvements since the first time this fight took place. He’s been far more active, and I expect he once again defends his title. And Still. Kamaru Usman by Round Two KO
  • GB: Kamaru Usman by Round Three KO

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