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Thursday, September 23, 2021

UFC Real or Not: Don’t expect Usman vs. Covington 2 to produce a different result

IDBS ART GALLERY

The main event of UFC 268 will feature one of the most anticipated rematches in recent UFC history, as UFC president Dana White announced Monday that welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will defend his title against Colby Covington. The date and location have yet to be announced, but the UFC is hoping for Madison Square Garden in New York City.

On December 14, 2019, Usman defeated Covington via fifth-round stoppage in a brutal fight. After four rounds, the judges scored the fight a draw, but Usman battered Covington in the final frame to earn the TKO.

Usman has improved dramatically since defeating Covington, defeating Jorge Masvidal (twice) and Gilbert Burns. Covington has only fought once since then, in September 2020, when he stopped Tyron Woodley in the fifth round. Is there any reason to believe that the rematch will be any different?

Meanwhile, TJ Dillashaw’s split decision victory over Cory Sandhagen in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event is still making waves. Was it the correct decision?

Real or not: There’s no reason to expect a different result in Usman vs. Covington 2

Raimondi: This is the fight that the UFC, particularly White, has been wanting for a long time. For good reason, White was a huge fan of the first fight. It was a knockout, one of the best welterweight title fights of all time and one of the best UFC title fights of all time.

As a result, I’d say “not real” to this statement. Yes, Usman knocked out Covington in the first round and severely damaged his jaw with punches. And, without a doubt, Usman has improved significantly since that fight. But, as divisive as Covington may be, the man can fight. He has long been regarded as one of the world’s top two welterweights.

The first fight against Usman ended in a tie on the judges’ scorecards in the fifth round. Is it truly impossible for Covington to win the rematch? No, I don’t believe so. Before the first fight, I met with Covington in Coconut Creek, Florida, and it was clear he was no longer at ease training at American Top Team, where he had major issues with his former best friend Jorge Masvidal, as well as other UFC stars Dustin Poirier and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Covington has since left and is currently training part-time at MMA Masters in Miami. It’s impossible to say whether those distractions were a factor against Usman, but the fight was so close before the fifth round that any small differences could have made a difference.

None of this is to say that I believe Covington will win the rematch. Usman has improved significantly since UFC 245. Consider his two performances against Masvidal, as well as his stoppage of Burns.

Pound for pound, Usman is the best fighter on the planet right now, in my opinion. He’s going to beat Covington for the second time. Is that to say that Covington isn’t good enough to even the score? Certainly not. There is nothing guaranteed in this second fight, so fans should be excited.

Real or not: Cory Sandhagen was robbed by judges in loss to TJ Dillashaw

Raimondi: According to data compiled by MMADecisions.com, most media members who posted their scores on Twitter had Sandhagen winning by decision over Dillashaw. I didn’t tweet my score, but Sandhagen did enough to win in my opinion. After rewatching the game on Sunday, I had Sandhagen winning the second, fourth, and fifth rounds – the same card that judge Derek Cleary turned in Saturday night. He was the only one who disagreed. Dillashaw won the fight thanks to judges Sal D’Amato and Junichiro Kamijo.

But what about a robbery? Definitely not true. This was a close fight that came down to the final round.

The reason I gave Sandhagen three rounds was because his blows had more impact than Dillashaw’s, in my opinion. Dillashaw dominated the first round. Sandhagen won the second round after opening up a gnarly cut near Dillashaw’s right eye. And Dillashaw won the third round on all three judges’ cards. That was a relatively simple five minutes to score.

The late rounds were when things became murky in terms of scoring. I believe the fourth round was the most difficult to score. Dillashaw got off to a fast start, landing leg kicks and applying pressure. He appeared to be directing the action. But keep in mind that putting pressure on and dictating the action is not the primary scoring method. Effective striking/grappling is defined by impact, which refers to the fighter who lands the most significant, potentially game-ending blows and submission attempts. Early in the fourth, Dillashaw was that guy, but I thought Sandhagen stole the round late with some hard shots, including a spinning back fist.

Sandhagen received the fourth round from Cleary and D’Amato, while Dillashaw received it from Kamijo. Because he landed the more damaging blows, I assumed the fifth was a Sandhagen round. D’Amato gave it to Dillashaw despite Cleary and Kamijo’s agreement. Because Dillashaw had won two of the first three rounds, which I agree with, those late-round scores were sufficient to give him the victory. Cleary was the only judge to award Sandhagen each of the final rounds. In this case, I prefer Cleary’s card.

But calling it a robbery? No, I don’t think so. The fourth round was competitive, and Dillashaw could have won the fifth. This was not a bad decision, as many have been in the past. This was a close fight, and to be honest, MMA is difficult to score in real time without the benefit of replay to see how hard things land.

Dillashaw overcame a popped knee in the first round and one of the worst MMA cuts of the year to look just as strong in the later rounds as he did at the start. That is admirable. And, while I believe Sandhagen won, Dillashaw should not be discredited in any way. He put up a valiant fight.

The winner of Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire vs. AJ McKee can legitimately claim to be best featherweight in the world

Wagenheim: Yes, this is real, especially if either Freire, the two-division champion, or McKee, his undefeated challenger, performs spectacularly at Bellator 263.

Now, I’m not claiming that this weekend’s winner will be completely correct in his self-evaluation. Alexander Volkanovski, the UFC’s featherweight champion, has a strong case for being ranked first. Former champion Max Holloway looked like a world beater in his most recent fight, but his two losses to Volkanovski have dropped him a few rungs down the ladder. And Brian Ortega looked fantastic in his last fight, so let’s see what he has in store for Volkanovski on September 25.

The Freire-McKee winner, on the other hand, will be rightfully emboldened to stake his claim to the mountaintop because he will have just defeated Pitbull or McKee. That kind of victory is difficult to come by in Bellator, which lacks the roster depth of the UFC. Fighting a two-time champion who has knocked out Michael Chandler (Freire) or an unbeaten young phenom with six finishes in his last seven fights (McKee) is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to demonstrate greatness.

Freire vs. McKee is the biggest fight in Bellator history, pitting two of the best homegrown fighters against each other. It’s by far the most important fight on a weekend Bellator will share with a UFC event. The title fight will not definitively settle the 145-pound pecking order among promotions, but it will broaden the discussion. That’s good for everyone involved and good for the sport.

Uriah Hall will become a title contender with a win on Saturday

Legaspi: It’s not true. We’ve been waiting a long time for “The Next Anderson Silva,” and Strickland doesn’t appear to be a stepping stone at the moment.

Strickland is a technically sound and durable striker who can fight for the full 25 minutes with a high volume of punches or even surprise Hall with his power, as he did in November with Brendan Allen. After watching Allen on Saturday, whose chin looked strong against Punahele Soriano, that victory was all the more impressive.

Hall, 36, is on a four-fight win streak that includes a gruesome injury to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman on a checked kick, the legendary Silva’s farewell fight, and a split decision against Antonio Carlos Junior. The last two have moved on to boxing and the Professional Football League, respectively.

Hall needs a big win to move up the rankings and face Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Jacque Cannonier, or Jack Hermansson for a title shot.

And, despite being ranked lower than Hall, Strickland has looked very impressive in the Octagon since moving up from 170 to 185, and he has also won four straight fights. Strickland is a really tough fight for everyone in the division right now, and Hall may only get a small reward if he doesn’t get a highlight reel finish.

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