UFC 245: Kamaru Usman silences pantomime villain Colby Covington to keep hold of welterweight title

Champion dropped his challenger multiple times in the final round before the bout ended

Alex Pattle
Sunday 15 December 2019 10:31 GMT
Kamaru Usman (right) finished Colby Covington late in the pair's UFC 245 main event to retain the welterweight title.
Kamaru Usman (right) finished Colby Covington late in the pair's UFC 245 main event to retain the welterweight title. (Getty)

Some of the most interesting endings are the ones in which the villain wins, but on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, fans witnessed a more traditional scene.

Late in the main event of UFC 245, with bitter rivals Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington likely even on the scorecards, the former finally found the shot to put down his challenger.

Usman (16-1), the welterweight champion, got as close to shutting up Covington (15-2) as is humanly possible, shattering the jaw of the UFC’s most flagrant trash talker and retaining his title in the process.

If it weren’t already apparent, Covington is the UFC’s pantomime supervillain – a friend of Donald Trump, a MAGA hat-wearing character in the mould of a WWE superstar, who has no time for ‘nerds and virgins’, as he’ll tell you through a sickly smile and Aviator shades.

But while his persona is about as genuine as that of a WWE superstar, his wrestling credentials are legitimate. So are Usman’s, as he demonstrated in March when he out-grappled Tyron Woodley to become the UFC’s first African-born world champion. But on Saturday night in Las Vegas, whatever respect the 175 lb foes lacked for each other as people, they made up for in a mutual appreciation of the other’s wrestling abilities.

Not a single takedown was attempted by the fighters, who entered the main event with identical records. Instead the pair stood in the centre of the Octagon and traded strikes, each man determined to put the other away for good. It was Usman’s power versus Covington’s volume.

Covington, who goes by the nickname ‘Chaos’, caused pauses in the action on numerous occasions – the first time by striking Usman in the groin, the second by poking the champion in the eye. While neither instance seemed intentional, they certainly fitted the script. Later, the American twice accused Usman of eye pokes. Replays suggested fake news.

And still a section of the Vegas crowd chanted Covington’s name between spurts of “U-S-A”. Trump would be proud.

Even after Usman had finally dropped his enemy with a straight right hand and pummelled him on the mat, the slack-jawed Covington was able to conjure a complaint to referee Marc Goddard over an ‘early’ stoppage.

For better or worse, there really is no quit in Covington. For that, you have to give him credit.

Like all great villains he’ll find a way back, armed with a new plan to rid the UFC of its reigning welterweight champion. If that means another bout as enthralling as Saturday night’s, bring on the sequel.

In the evening’s co-main event, fan favourite and featherweight champion Max Holloway (21-5) of Hawaii was dethroned, losing a unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 50-45) to Australian Alexander Volkanovski (21-1). The challenger dominated over 25 minutes to extend his winning streak to 18 in a row.

Meanwhile, double champion Amanda Nunes (19-4) retained her bantamweight belt by defeating Germaine de Randamie (9-4) for the second time in her career. The Brazilian, who knocked out the ‘Iron Lady’ in 2013, outpointed De Randamie 49-44, 49-46, 49-45 this time around.

Elsewhere on the main card, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (28-6) suffered a split decision defeat (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in his bantamweight debut against ‘Magic’ Marlon Moraes (23-6-1), a former title challenger in the division.

In another bantamweight bout, Urijah Faber (35-11) was stopped by Petr Yan (14-1) 43 seconds into the third and final round. The contest was 40-year-old Faber’s second since coming out of retirement this year.

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