This weekend the UFC leaves the friendly confines of the Apex and heads down the road to the T-Mobile Arena for UFC 272: Covington vs. Masvidal. The main event is a clash between welterweight contenders Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. Unlike nearly all UFC pay-per-view events, this fight card isn’t headlined by a title bout. Instead, the UFC executives opted to forego a title fight and capstone the event with a fight that has a robust storyline.
Masvidal and Covington are former teammates, roommates, and self-described best friends who had a falling out over Covington’s supposed refusal to pay a coach. Best friends turned bitter rivals will meet in the center of the cage to settle their score once and for all.
The co-main event was supposed to be Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev, but, at the last minute, Fiziev tested positive for COVID-19 and Dos Anjos was left in search of a new opponent. Many fighters offered to step in, including Islam Makhachev, Tony Ferguson, and even the recently retired Paul Felder. Ultimately, it was Renato Moicano who was chosen to replace Fiziev, and he will take on fellow Brazilian dos Anjos. Moicano just recently fought at UFC 271 on Feb. 12, where he notched a second-round submission victory over Alexander Hernandez. The fight will take place at a catchweight of 160 pounds.
Also on the main card is a featherweight clash between Edson Barboza and Bryce Mitchell. Barboza was a perennial contender at lightweight for years before moving down to the featherweight division. Mitchell is an undefeated prospect on the cusp of becoming a contender, and a win over a veteran like Barboza would cement his status as a fighter to watch at 145 pounds.
Elsewhere, middleweight standout Kevin Holland drops down to welterweight, and he will take on all-action wild man in Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. Opening up the main card in the heavyweight division is Serghei Spivac vs. Greg Hardy. Spivac is coming off a loss to Tom Aspinall, whereas Hardy has lost two fights in a row, getting stopped in the first round in each of those fights.
The UFC 272 early prelims air live on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+ starting at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the preliminary card, which airs on ESPN and ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET. The main card will air on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
The pre-fight storyline for this main event has excited many fans; does the fight live up to the hype?
Sumian: Yes. While some might be critical of the main event being headlined by two fighters who combine for a 2-4 record in their last three respective fights, there is enough to be excited about as both a casual and hardcore MMA fan.
It is hard to tell just how much disdain there is between Covington and Masvidal behind the curtains. The two top-10 welterweights certainly know what sells and have successful careers out of not only their fight ability, but also their mouths. Everyone knows the history that Covington and Masvidal share, including their longtime friendship and days living together. If you ask Masvidal, what triggered the fallout between the two was a disagreement involving Covington not paying one of Masvidal’s coaches. That has led to an all-out war of words, which will culminate physically on Mar. 5. There is no denying that the pair do not like each other at this point in their careers. However, it is likely that they are taking it to the next level when the cameras are present, fully aware of what is at stake financially.
If it were not for the existence of Kamaru Usman, Covington would undoubtedly be the best welterweight on planet earth, and the current UFC welterweight champion. He is one of the most well-rounded, conditioned and resilient fighters in UFC welterweight history, and he has compiled an impressive 11-3 record in the UFC. Covington’s wrestling, volume striking and cardio are generally unmatched in the cage. His only weakness is that he possesses little-to-no knockout power, which was ultimately the difference maker in his two fights with Usman. He was able to match Usman strike-for-strike but fell victim to Usman’s newfound thunderous power in both fights. Still, he is capable of defeating any other welterweight using his robust skillset and will be considered a top-ranked welterweight for several more years.
From 2013 to 2017, Jorge Masvidal compiled a 9-6 record in the UFC and was considered nothing more than a fun fighter to watch. During this time, he compiled a three-fight winning streak and earned a title eliminator bout against Demian Maia. He was able to compete with Maia on the ground, but lost via split decision. After a year and a half away from competition, he returned to action against the surging Darren Till in enemy territory. He absorbed Till’s best shots in the first round and knocked out the much larger Brit in in the second round via devastating fashion. He went on to defeat Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in 2019 and quickly established himself as a title contender. Masvidal suffered back-to-back losses to Usman, and he suffered a brutal defeat by knockout in their second meeting. He will look to get back to his winning ways by defeating friend-turned-rival Covington in what could be his last chance at a title run.
It is reasonable to assume that Covington will utilize his wrestling and attempt to take Masvidal down. However, that will not happen. This will be an all-out brawl between two very skilled competitors. Covington will continuously march Masvidal down and fire off consistent combinations to keep Masvidal on his toes and moving backwards. On the other hand, Masvidal will utilize leg kicks and counters to clip Covington when he comes in close to flurry and clinch. This fight will barely hit the floor as both men will want to hurt each other early and often with their fists.
At this point in their careers, Covington is certainly the better and more well-rounded MMA fighter. Despite this, the evening will belong to the Miami native. Covington will likely win the first two rounds due to volume and forward movement. In round three, Masvidal will hurt Covington with a powerful counter hook that wobbles the California native. ‘Gamebred’ will quickly react and blast Covington with vicious shots to end the fight via strikes. The performance will earn Masvidal much praise, but it will not culminate in a third title shot unless the belt changes hands. This fight will live up to the hype and close books on a murky friendship-turned-rivalry.
Petela: I disagree wholeheartedly here. The most exciting thing about this matchup is the pre-fight trash talk and the seemingly personal nature of the hatred these two fighters have for each other. How much of that disdain is legitimate, and how much is manufactured is unclear, as is everything with Colby Covington’s persona? To me, it seems as if these two former teammates knew a showdown between the two was inevitable and decided that, to make as much money as possible, they would plant the seeds of a bitter rivalry that largely exists only in front of the cameras.
When it comes to the fight itself, it is more likely that we will hear the boo birds in the audience rather than the oohs and ahhs that come with a fan-friendly affair. Covington will mitigate risk and close the gap early, implementing his wrestling and taking away Masvidal’s opportunities to batter him on the feet. Expect that to be the case throughout the fight and for Covington to win a lopsided decision. It will be an ironic performance out of Covington, who has famously called champion Kamaru Usman “Snoozeman” on several occasions. While Usman picked up a devastating knockout win over Masvidal, Covington will be the one turning this into a snoozefest.
Bryce Mitchell is an outspoken, undefeated rising star making waves inside and outside the cage; does his perfect record remain intact against Edson Barboza?
Petela: Mitchell’s fighting ability speaks louder than anything he has said, or will say, outside of competition. He is a phenomenal grappler, and his striking is noticeably improving with each bout. That’s not to say that he is going to pick up a win if he stands and trades with Edson Barboza. He certainly won’t, but he is growing into a truly complete mixed martial artist. This is a tricky matchup because the people who have given Barboza the most trouble historically have been powerful wrestlers, as opposed to tricky grapplers, and Mitchell is surely the latter. It won’t be easy for Mitchell to get this contest to the ground. He will probably fail on several takedown attempts before succeeding. However, once he gets Barboza’s shoulders on the mat, he will methodically pass his guard and threaten submissions. The grappling heavy affair will wear down the gas tank of Barboza, and, by the final minutes of the fight, Mitchell will lock in a submission that forces an exhausted Edson Barboza to tap out.
Sumian: Mitchell is a crafty grappler to say the least and is only getting better with every Octagon performance. However, he is facing a considerable step-up in competition and will be at a significant experience disadvantage. Barboza will use his technical striking, athleticism and underrated grappling to outpoint Mitchell in a closely contested affair. This fight will only make Mitchell a better competitor and help him realize he needs to focus on becoming more well-rounded when it comes to competing against the top tier of the division. Barboza will pick up a much needed win as he enters the close of his MMA career.
Who’s the biggest winner at UFC 272?
Sumian: Marina Rodriguez. She is the third-ranked women’s strawweight in the world and will make it four-in-a-row when she defeats Yan Xiaonan on the preliminary card of UFC 272. Rodriguez is a well-rounded fighter with prolific striking. She will win a unanimous decision and guarantee herself the next title shot after Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza square off.
Petela: Serghei Spivak. He has an opportunity this weekend to be the guy who hands Greg Hardy his proverbial pink slip. The Greg Hardy experiment has been a colossal failure, from the UFC and his team, including Din Thomas, refusing to acknowledge that Hardy is an irredeemably bad human to a UFC run that is littered with disqualifications and losses. With a win over the domestic abuser, Spivak should gain heaps of popularity by being the man who finally showed Greg Hardy his promotional exit.
Who’s the biggest loser at UFC 272?
Petela: Jorge Masvidal. This fight is incredibly important for his career. His hopes for another title shot are already slim having lost twice consecutively to champion Kamaru Usman, but a high-profile loss to Colby Covington will take away some of his celebrity status and drawing power. The term “journeyman” has been thrown out by Covington in the lead up to this fight, and, while that’s certainly not the right way to describe Masvidal’s career, his elite-ness will certainly be called into question after dropping a lopsided decision in which he gets thoroughly outgrappled and his exciting offense is totally nullified.
Sumian: Jamie Mullarkey. The Australian is on a two-fight winning streak and has never looked better. However, Jalin Turner will prove to be too much for him, and he will suffer his first defeat since 2020.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Sumian: Alex Oliveira by a mile. The Brazilian is 2-6 in his last eight UFC fights and will almost certainly be cut if he loses on Saturday. He faces Kevin Holland who is making his welterweight debut. Unfortunately for Oliveira, Holland will make quick work of him and send him packing. Oliveira has been a fantastic addition the UFC for over six years, but his time is coming to an end once he suffers a fourth-straight loss to the welterweight newcomer.
Petela: Ludovit Klein. The Slovakian fighter burst into the UFC with a head kick knockout over Shane Young, but has struggled mightily since then. He dropped a unanimous decision to Michael Trizano in a competitive fight, before being submitted by Nate Landwehr this past October. With a 1-2 record and that only win coming in a fight where he missed weight, Klein will likely see his tenure with the UFC end if he falters this weekend.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk. It seems crazy that this fight is buried on the early prelims when it promises to be nonstop action. Neither one of these heavy-handed fighters like to take a step backwards, and they can be lured into taking as much punishment as they dole out. This showdown will kick the night off on the right foot with a back-and-forth slobber-knocker that doesn’t last the full fifteen minutes.
Sumian: Jalin Turner vs. Jamie Mullarkey is going to steal the spotlight on Mar. 5. These are two aggressive and underrated competitors in the lightweight division and are headlining the prelims for a reason. They combine for 24 total finishes and will exchange violently until someone drops.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Sumian: Nicolae Negumereanu. He will defeat Kennedy Nzechukwu by way of knockout and earn himself a third-straight victory. Negumereanu has the ability to be a force in the UFC light heavyweight division as he continues to get better and march up the 205-pound ladder.
Petela: Jamie Mullarkey. He enters this contest on the heels of two knockout victories and is squaring off with an all-action opponent this weekend in Jalin Turner. Despite winning his last two fights by submission, Turner is much more known for his aggressive striking, and that will leave him vulnerable to a well-placed counter-punch by Mullarkey that ends the fight before the first round comes to a close.
Pair this card with…
Petela: Bud Light Lime. This fight card lost the co-main event less than a week out when Rafael Fiziev tested positive for COVID-19, and the main event is going to lack the fireworks that both men are promising in the lead up to the contest. So pair this disappointing card with a beer that is just as disappointing in the way it tastes. Like the beer, this fight card will severely fall short of expectations.
Sumian: The book The Count of Monte Cristo. The tale tells the story of two lifelong friends who had a competitive, yet loyal, friendship. Eventually, one of them completely betrays the other and unlocks a chain of events that leads to a climactic confrontation. Much like that, UFC 272 will culminate with a main event that will settle the score of who is king. While the rest of the card significantly lacks the starpower to make this pay-per-view a powerhouse, one can only hope that the main card, and a few surprises on the preliminary card, result in a memorable night of fights.
Main Card (ESPN+ pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
WW: Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal
Catchweight (160 lbs.): Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Renato Moicano
FW: Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell
WW: Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira
HW: Serghei Spivac vs. Greg Hardy
Preliminary Card (ESPN and ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET)
LW: Jalin Turner vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Women’s StrawW: Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan
LHW: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Women’s FlyW: Maryna Moroz vs. Mariya Agapova
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
FW: Brian Kelleher vs. Umar Nurmagomedov
FlyW: Tim Elliott vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
Women’s FlyW: Jessica Eye vs. Manon Fiorot
LW: Devonte Smith vs. Ludovit Klein
LHW: Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
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