Usman bests rival Covington again by decision

NEW YORK — Kamaru Usman has said repeatedly that he dislikes Colby Covington more than any other opponent he has ever faced. But after their 10th round in the cage together, Usman and Covington could do nothing except embrace.

Usman beat Covington via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 268 on Saturday night here at Madison Square Garden. With a win in their rematch, Usman retained the UFC welterweight title.

“There was a lot of trash talk, a lot of bad blood,” Usman said in his postfight interview. “I’m sure there’s going to still be some after tonight. But this guy is a tough son of a b—-. He’s tough as s—.”

The two fought at UFC 245 in December 2019 with Usman winning via fifth-round TKO in what is considered one of the best title fights in UFC history. This one didn’t disappoint, either. Usman nearly finished Covington with huge left hands in the second round, but Covington rallied late, hurt Usman with a body kick in the fourth round and landed hard combinations in the fifth.

Usman said he tried to be more aggressive and finish Covington, but had to be more tactical in his approach.

“He’s tough — he’s super tough,” Usman said. “I wanted to get crazy and get him out of there. But that’s not what the best do.”

ESPN has Usman ranked at the top of its pound-for-pound list of best MMA fighters. At welterweight, Usman is No. 1 and Covington is No. 3.

Usman (20-1) has 15 straight wins in the UFC, the second-longest such UFC streak behind only Anderson Silva (16), who is considered one of the best of all time. The Nigeria native, who lives in Florida and trains in Colorado, was coming off a second-round knockout win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in April. Usman, 34, has five title defenses and is chasing the welterweight record of nine set by Georges St-Pierre.

Covington (16-3) has won eight of his past 10 fights, with the only losses during that span coming to Usman. The California native fighting out of Florida has had fought since a fifth-round TKO win over former champ Tyron Woodley in September 2020. Covington, 34, is the former UFC interim welterweight champion.

“Love me or hate me, I’m just getting started,” Covington said. “You haven’t seen the best of Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington yet.”

Despite some of the crass things Covington said in the leadup to this fight — including accusations of performance-enhancing drug use and comments about Usman’s father, who served time in jail — Usman said he had no choice but to give his rival props.

“When you share an Octagon with someone this tough, you can’t help it,” Usman said. “That respect is gonna come.”

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