UFC 245 breakdown: Does Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington come down to only grappling?


MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC 245.

UFC 245 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.

Kamaru Usman (15-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Tyron Woodley (March 2, 2019)
  • Camp: Hard Knocks 365 (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ UFC welterweight champion
+ “The Ultimate Fighter 21” alum
+ NCAA Division II national champ
+ 3x NCAA All-American
+ 6 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Improved overall striking
^ Puts together punches well
+ Strong inside the clinch
+ Excellent takedown ability
^ In the open or against the fence
+ Superb top game and control
^ Rides and transitions intelligently

Colby Covington (15-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Robbie Lawler (August 3, 2019)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ UFC interim welterweight title
+ 2x NCAA Division I All-American wrestler
+ Pac-10 wrestling champion
+ Multiple grappling accolades
+ 3 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Relentless pace and pressure
^ Well-conditioned athlete
+ Improved overall striking
^ Footwork, combos, head movement
+ Excellent takedown ability
^ Chains attempts, constantly re-wrestles
+ Tremendous top game
^ Pins, strikes, cooks to submission
+ Superb wrist-rides and positional awareness

Point of interest: Pace and pressure

The main event for UFC 245 features a feud for the welterweight title between two wrestlers who have evolved into well rounded fighters familiar with the themes of pace and pressure.

The sitting champion, Kamaru Usman, stepped onto the MMA stage with a primary skill set of wrestling and has made marked jumps in his striking ability under the care of Henri Hooft.

A Dutch style striking coach who emphasizes pressure, Hooft has been able to help Usman’s power and presence blossom on the feet, throwing shots much smoother in transition and off of breaks. In addition, the Nigeria-born fighter also appears to be a natural when it comes to his footwork.

Whether he is feinting forward or shifting his stance in combination, Usman will persistently corral his opposition toward the cage, attacking them with impunity whenever they step near it. The 32-year-old champion is also smart about shifting away from his opponent’s power side when advancing, all while throwing corralling hooks that help him close space.

Nevertheless, as efficient as this approach has been for Usman, he is still not beyond reproach defensively, which means successfully suffocating space will be crucial against a high-output opponent like Colby Covington.

A lifelong wrestler, Covington has been steadily improving solid striking fundamentals from fight to fight, something that assists his high pressure and pace. From not crossing his feet to resetting his angles on the outside, Covington can create lanes for his favored kicks and crosses off of his power side – shots that are often set up by his jab.

The 31-year-old American also does a decent job of rolling off of his crosses, keeping his head off the center line while throwing and moving. Though many will still point to Covington’s defensive behavior in his fight against Demian Maia, I have to imagine that a lot of that can be attributed to his prioritization of takedown defense and pressure (not to mention Maia’s underrated ability to strike and make fights ugly).

In his fight with Robbie Lawler, Covington displayed much better distance and risk management, cleaning up both his technique, as well as his “where’s” and “when’s.” That said, high-volume offense is a potent two-way street that the American challenger needs to be mindful of – particularly with his propensity to cut.

Ultimately, I see stanzas on the feet coming down to whether or not Usman can successfully (and smartly) corral and close down space on Covington. And if he can, then that’s when I suspect to see the majority of wrestling exchanges between these two.

Next point of interest: Wrestling advantages?

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Brendan Loughnane wants to send notice to Lance Palmer and featherweight field at PFL Finals on Dec. 31

Ryan Loco

Brendan Loughnane has endured a very interesting 2019 to say the least.

His name shot to prominence after a dominant decision over Bill Algeo on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, only to be passed over for a contract by the UFC president, who berated him for a late takedown that helped secure the decision victory.

White took a lot of grief for that decision, but Loughnane didn’t cry over his lost opportunity. Instead, he inked a multi-fight deal with the PFL that kicked off with a unanimous decision victory over Matt Wagy in October.

Now, Loughnane makes his second PFL appearance opposite Brazilian veteran David Valente at the upcoming finals show on Dec. 31 from New York. A strange start to this year could net his third win and bring the chance to compete for $1 million in the next 145-pound season for the PFL.

“Absolutely the best promotion I’ve ever fought for,” Loughnane told MMA Fighting. “I can’t complain. I absolutely love fighting for them. Another guy I’m training with right now, Emiliano Sordi, he lost on the Contender Series, and now he’s about to fight for $1 million a year later. It just shows that there are options out there. It’s great that PFL is around. They made me a great offer and I’m really happy.

“A chance to win $1 million in five months, I don’t think any other promotion can offer that. I don’t think any other job can offer you that. I can’t wait to roll the dice next year against some of the best guys in the world.”

Loughnane actually tried to get a late entry into the featherweight finals this year after news surfaced that Daniel Pineda had tested positive for a banned substance and was in danger of losing his opportunity to face Lance Palmer in the finals in December.

Since then, the PFL has announced that Pineda is appealing his drug test results in mid-Decembert. But if he’s unable to compete, then Alex Gilpin will instead draw Palmer on Dec. 31 in New York.

Obviously, Loughnane understands why Gilpin was the choice as an alternate for the fight. But he’s been keeping a watchful eye on Palmer ever since he signed with the PFL in hopes of inevitably running into him at some point in the future.

“It’s all Lance Palmer right now,” Loughnane said about the reigning PFL tournament champion. “He’d probably be top-five in the UFC; he’s 9-0 in the PFL, (and) probably going to win his second million. He’s no pushover. I’m really looking forward to joining him and seeing what I can do, especially with two fights in one night.

“I tried to slide into that fight. I tried to jump in the queue, but Alex Gilpin rightly got the fight. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be watching that with a close eye.”

Because Palmer has been so dominant through the first two seasons of the PFL format, Loughnane knows that’s exactly the fight he wants when the next tournament kicks off in 2020.

“I’m coming strong for that fight next year,” Loughnane said about Palmer. “I’ve been in training camp the whole year, this is my third fight this year and I’ll get a bit of a break in January, and then it’s go time.”

First things first: Loughnane has to get through Valente on Dec. 31. Because the only way to set the tone for PFL season 3 is by winning his second fight for the promotion later this month.

“Every fight, I’m looking to display my talents,” Loughnane said. “I just got my opponent yesterday, David Valente, he’s 11-4, he’s a striker, too, he’s got nine knockouts. We’re both exciting strikers. It’s going to be a good fight.

“He’s got everything to gain in this fight. He’s a big, experienced veteran from Brazil and this ain’t no easy fight. If you watch this guy, he can bang. I’m excited for a good fight in Madison Square Garden.”

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UFC Rio Rancho Update: Mark De La Rosa Joins Wife on Feb. 15 Card in New Mexico

For the first time in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, a husband and wife will compete on the same card. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

UFC Athletes Visit Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Anthony Smith: Corey Anderson fighting Jan Blachowicz instead of me ‘probably the smart move’

WASHINGTON – Anthony Smith thinks Corey Anderson chose the easier path to a title shot.

Anderson is slated to headline UFC Rio Rancho on Feb. 15 in what is being dubbed a No. 1 contender fight vs. Jan Blachowicz.

Smith (32-14 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who challenged Jon Jones for the title earlier this year, has been calling out Anderson for a while now. But instead Anderson (13-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) will rematch Blachowicz, whom he already beat in 2015.

“Honestly, he’s easy to talk (expletive) to. He talks like he’s got a flip-flop in his mouth, and his analogies don’t make any sense, so it’s fun too,” Smith told MMA Junkie. “He’s a fun guy to go back and forth with, which is why I was hoping we would fight. That would be a really fun build-up, but I think he took the easier route, which, if we’re looking at career trajectories, it’s probably the smart move.”

After taking out Johnny Walker in the first round at UFC 244, Anderson demanded a title shot, but he’ll have to take at least one more step before he gets his wish. He received quite a bit of criticism for his choice of words from UFC president Dana White, and Smith thinks Anderson is acting entitled.

“So he’s talking about all these things that he thinks he deserves, and he’s mad at me. He’s mad at Thiago Santos because we came in the division – I came in the division and had three fights and got a title fight,” Smith said. “Corey Anderson has been in the division his entire career and hasn’t even sniffed a title shot yet. I understand why he’s upset about that, but that’s not my fault. He needs to be mad at himself.”

Another thing that rubs Smith the wrong way is Anderson’s comments towards Jones and how his recent wins have come over former middleweights. Smith is one of those fighters to fall short, but he was a pretty big 185 pounder, which is why he thinks Anderson’s comments aren’t relevant.

“He turned me down a couple of times on my way up, and you know, it is what it is. I’m used to it by now; lots of people turn me down,” Smith said. “But then he not only turned down the fight with me, then he would do interviews talking trash about Jon’s out here beating middleweights, and Anthony Smith is just a middleweight. Listen, I’m not just a middleweight anymore. Not only was I the biggest middleweight in the division, I’m not the smallest 205’er. So, I don’t know where he’s going with that, but it’s a really silly dig at me, and it’s not what he’s saying, it’s the point he’s trying to make.”

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Brent Primus vs. Peter Queally set for Bellator Dublin co-main event

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Peter Queally has been granted his wish of facing top Bellator opposition as the promotion will draft in former lightweight champion Brent Primus to face off with “The Showstopper” in the co-main event of Bellator Dublin on Feb. 22 at 3 Arena.

Bellator confirmed the high stakes lightweight fight to MMA Fighting on Wednesday morning. The fight is set to act as the co-main event of the card, MMA Fighting has learned.

Primus (9-1-0) got back to winning ways in his last outing when he travelled to foreign shores to defeat another European fighter, Tim Wilde, who succumbed to a first round submission – an ultra rare omoplata – when they clashed at Bellator Birmingham in May. Primus defeated promotional stalwart Michael Chandler to claim the lightweight strap when the doctor stopped their June 2017 clash due to an injury Chandler suffered. Chandler reclaimed the title in December 2018 when he defeated Primus by unanimous decision.

Queally (12-5-1) scored a huge win over fellow top-rated European lightweight Ryan Scope, a former BAMMA champion, in his last outing. After looking in trouble earlier in the fight, the SBG fighter rallied to claim a second-round stoppage. In his Bellator debut, Queally came out of his much anticpated co-main event bout with rival Myles Price on the wrong end of split decision loss.

Check out the Eurobash podcast for all the latest thrills and spills in European MMA.

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Calvillo Searching For Quick Redemption At QUINTET

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USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie rankings, Dec. 10: Where does big win place Jairzinho Rozenstruik?

A big swing for the UFC kicked into gear last weekend with UFC on ESPN 7. And speaking of swings, Jairzinho Rozenstruik sure did swing and connect in the main event at UFC DC.

The Suriname native capped a tremendous 2019 campaign with his knockout of Alistair Overeem with just four seconds remaining in their main-event fight. That result capped off a breathtaking UFC rookie year for the heavyweight in which he won all four of his fights, three of them via finish.

So where does that place him in the division with the heaviest hitters? The undefeated kickboxer lands No. 10 at heavyweight for now. But we’re pretty sure that if his 2020 is anything like his 2019, this time next year he’s going to be a whole lot higher in the rankings.

There were other consequential bouts at UFC on ESPN 7, with repercussions for competitors like Aspen Ladd, Cody Stamann, and Song Yadong. To see where they place in this week’s rankings — or where your favorite or least-favorite fighter lands — check out the rankings above.

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Heavyweights rule when it comes to ESPN ratings for a third time

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The heavyweights delivered for a third time this year when it comes to television ratings on ESPN.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s hail-mary punch that stopped Alistair Overeem with four seconds left in the fifth round of a fight Overeem had won every round in, did UFC’s largest Fight Night rating audience on ESPN since June 29.

Saturday’s show averaged 1,071,000 viewers, and the main event delivered 1.4 million viewers.

The June 29 show, which did 1,091.000 viewers, was headlined by another top heavyweight fight, Francis Ngannou’s knockout win over Junior dos Santos.

Much of Saturday’s show went against major college football competition, most notably the Big Ten championship game, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, on FOX that did 13,550,000 viewers. It also went against Virginia vs. Clemson, that did 3,979,000 viewers on ABC.

The show placed a close third in the 18-49 demo on cable for the night, doing an 0.46, just behind Thor on TBS doing a 0.47. It won the night in the overall 18-34 demo, as well as the Male 18-49, 18-34 and 12-34 demos.

The show garnered 500,000 searches on Google, which is the equivalent of a lower-level UFC pay-per-view show.

The prelims, headlined by Tim Means victory over Thiago Alves, averaged 696,000 viewers, the second-best prelims number ever on ESPN, behind only the first ESPN special on Feb. 17. That was a card headlined by another heavyweight fight, Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez, which, with 1,463,000 viewers on average, is the most-watched UFC broadcast since moving to ESPN at the start of the year.

With a median age of a viewer at 43.1 years, the UFC was the youngest skewing sports program of a major sports day. The UFC also beat out both of TNT’s NBA games held during the week on easier to draw weeknights.

Of the top ten major markets, the strongest, doing 0.7 ratings, were Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta. The weakest were New York and Washington, D.C., which did 0.3 ratings.

.

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UFC Vet Sergio Pettis to Lock Horns with Alfred Khashakyan at Bellator 238

Sergio Pettis will make his first Bellator foray early next year. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Neal Eyes Statement Win Against Perry

Geoff Neal will face “Platinum” Mike Perry at UFC 245.

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Sergio Pettis gets opponent, main card slot for Bellator 238 debut

Sergio Pettis’ Bellator debut will take place next month.

After a 14-fight UFC stint, Pettis (18-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) switched promotions last month and is set to make his first appearance when he meets Alfred Khashakyan (11-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a bantamweight bout at Bellator 238, which takes place Jan. 25 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

MMA Junkie confirmed the matchup with multiple people close to the situation.

Following a six-year tenure that spanned across the UFC’s bantamweight and flyweight divisions, Pettis closed out his contract with the organization with a unanimous decision win over Tyson Nam at UFC on ESPN+ 17 in September. Just weeks later, he signed with Bellator.

In his debut, Pettis will face a fellow newcomer of the Bellator roster. Khashakyan, who is a veteran of Dana White’s Contender Series, is coming off a streak of three consecutive first-round knockouts.

The latest Bellator 238 lineup now includes:

MAIN CARD (DAZN, 10 p.m. ET)

  • Julia Budd vs. Cris Cyborg
  • Adam Borics vs. Darrion Caldwell
  • Alfred Khashakyan vs. Sergio Pettis

PRELIMINARY CARD (MMA Junkie, 7 p.m. ET)

  • Aaron Pico vs. Daniel Carey
  • AJ Agazarm vs. Adel Altamimi
  • Mario Navarro vs. Jay Jay Wilson
  • Khonry Gracie vs. Hector Saldana
  • David Pacheco vs. Craig Plaskett
  • Brandon Bender vs. Gabriel Green
  • Dominic Clark vs. Ricardo Seixas Filho
  • Tyler Beneke vs. Jarrett Connor
  • Curtis Millender vs. Moses Murrietta

 

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Video: After UFC on ESPN 7 win, Rob Font volunteers to fight Corey Sandhagen at UFC Raleigh 

WASHINGTON – Bantamweight Rob Font talks about his hard-fought unanimous decision over Ricky Simon at UFC on ESPN 7. He also volunteers to make a short turnaround to face Corey Sandhagen, who lost his UFC Raleigh opponent when ex-champ Frankie Edgar was called up to fight Chan Sung Jung at UFC Busan.

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Ovince St. Preux vs. Ryan Spann Removed from UFC 247 Lineup

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UFC 245 Fight By Fight

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Ilima-Lei Macfarlane hopes Bellator signs Liz Carmouche: ‘I want to lose the belt to her’

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane wants good friend and training partner Liz Carmouche to sign with Bellator, and she’s more than open to meeting her in a championship bout.

Not only would Macfarlane (10-0 MMA, 9-0 BMMA) be down to put her Bellator flyweight title on the line against Carmouche (13-7 MMA), but she wouldn’t be mad if she ended up dropping it and suffering the first loss of her career in that fight.

“I want her to come to Bellator,” Macfarlane told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “I want to lose the belt to her. I’m not overlooking (my next fight against) Kate Jackson at all or any of these other girls, but my dream would be to lose the belt to Liz.”

Carmouche, the former two time UFC title challenger, had her nearly seven-year tenure with the organization come to an unceremonious end this past week. Carmouche was informed of her UFC release while doing promotional activities at UFC on ESPN 7 in Washington, and spoke to MMA Junkie first following the news.

Naturally, Carmouche had somewhat of a bad taste in her mouth over the experience. She didn’t rule out Bellator as a potential landing spot, and Macfarlane said her confidant should come to a place where she’ll be appreciated.

“I thought the nature in which (her UFC release) happened was really (expletive), because I think she deserves better,” Macfarlane said. “But I don’t think that her former employer respected her as a fighter or as a person. It’s good. I think it’s ultimately a good thing because Liz deserves to be with a promotion that treats her good. I think this is a new chapter. She’s incredible, she’s done so much for the sport and I’m just excited to see what this next chapter brings her.”

Macfarlane appears to genuinely hope the future brings of a matchup between the two, and said Carmouche coming Bellator is something they’ve discussed privately “for years.” The champ has a title defense against Jackson set for Bellator 236, which takes place Dec. 21 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, but the division is ripe for a new contender to step up afterward.

If that does happen to be Carmouche, then it’s a showdown Macfarlane would be happy to have.

“I’m not planning on fighting forever,” Macfarlane said. “If I’m going to lose the belt I want it to be to somebody who is my mentor and my main training partner and my coach through this entire journey. That’s who I would want to lose to. But don’t get me wrong, we would totally go out there to try to kill each other. It’s not like I’m just going to hand it over. People always ask me my dream fight, I’m like, ‘Liz.’ Hopefully she can come over.”

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