The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday with what is probably its most loaded card of 2021, an occasion that options two championship fights and a No. 1 contender identifier for the promotion’s best division.
The pay-per-view, offered within the United States by ESPN+, begins at 10 p.m. Eastern and prices $69.99.
Here are the belongings you want to learn about a very powerful bouts on the cardboard:
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Kamaru Usman turned the welterweight champion in 2019 after defeating the previous champion, Tyron Woodley, by way of determination. Since then, he has defended the belt 4 instances, ending three fights by knockout.
His first title protection got here in opposition to Colby Covington in 2019, a aggressive five-round battle that ended within the final spherical when Usman landed pictures to Covington on the bottom that compelled the referee, Marc Goddard, to finish the bout. Covington contends that the stoppage was early as a result of he claims he was defending himself, and he additionally accused Usman of exaggerating his reactions to a kick shut to the groin and a watch poke that brought about Goddard to pause the struggle twice.
The two males genuinely dislike one another, as evidenced by the insults they’ve hurled at one another and heated broadcast interviews they participated in. Covington specifically has been brash, latching himself onto the previous President Donald J. Trump, carrying “Make America Great Again” hats and selling Donald Trump Jr.’ s ebook.
In the cage, Usman is the extra muscular man, however Covington absorbed most of his punches effectively throughout their final struggle. To win, Covington will want to use his cardio benefit and set an aggressive tempo whereas additionally various his assaults between placing and wrestling. Usman is a extra well-rounded fighter and is a -300 betting favourite. His gentle, straight jabs maintain sufficient energy to ship an individual to the bottom. He might win in a wide range of methods, however will possible try to use his attain benefit to maintain Covington at a distance.
Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
Rose Namajunas stripped Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who on the time had dominated the ladies’s strawweight division, of the title in 2017 by way of technical knockout. She misplaced the belt in 2019 however regained it in April, when she head-kicked Zhang Weili, her left foot tapping Zhang’s chin and sending her to the bottom. Zhang, as soon as up, contested the stoppage.
Zhang turned the primary Chinese champion in U.F.C. historical past in 2019, and her defeat to Namajunas was considered as a fast finish to what ought to have been a aggressive, fast-paced struggle between the world’s finest 115-pounders. Since the loss, Zhang started coaching with Henry Cejudo, the previous U.F.C. flyweight and bantamweight double champion. Namajunas will probably use her attain benefit and superior placing, whereas Zhang will look to grapple within the clinch.
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
This is actually an audition for the subsequent opponent for the U.FC.’s light-weight championship. With the 155-pound champion Charles Oliveira scheduled to struggle Dustin Poirier in December, the winner of that struggle will both face Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje.
Chandler first fought within the U.F.C. in 2020 after a profitable run in Bellator M.M.A., thought-about the second-largest blended martial arts promotion behind the U.F.C. He gained his first struggle however misplaced to Oliveira within the second spherical by way of technical knockout in a contest to fill the vacant light-weight title after the dominant champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired.
Before dealing with Nurmagomedov in October 2020, Gaethje had a four-fight win streak and gained the interim light-weight title.
Both Gaethje and Chandler characteristic the same model as succesful wrestlers and explosive strikers. This struggle begins off the primary card, so seize your beer and wings early and don’t blink. This possible gained’t final lengthy.