By Paul Wales

UFC 268: A Breakdown

Dana White, thank you. Over the last two years the UFC has been on fire and the sport continues to spoil their fans with great fight cards, especially recently. Just under two weeks ago, we got to watch top middleweight contenders, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori, face off in an absolute brawl where Vettori came out on top despite Costa’s weight-cutting issues.

This past weekend we were spoiled with UFC 267 where Chimaev and Makhachev dominated and showed they were more than just up and coming prospects.  Yan and Sandhagen both put on world class performances in the co-main event where Yan showed why most people believe he’s the best bantamweight in the world by regaining his title after a controversial knee stripped him of his title, and Glover Teixeira became the second oldest UFC champion ever at 42 years old and making a life-long dream come true.  

This Saturday we are getting spoiled, yet again, with UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden, and the card is a UFC fan’s dream come true. Marlon Vera vs Frankie Edgar, Gaethje vs Chandler, the rematch between Rose vs Weili on he women’s side, and one of the most highly anticipated rematches in UFC history in Usman vs Covington. Saturday can’t come soon enough, and here’s why.

To open the pay-per-view event, we have a matchup between two top 15 bantamweights in Vera vs Edgar. 8th ranked Frankie Edgar is a legend in the sport. Edgar is the former lightweight champion who has fought the best of the best over the last decade. Since joining the UFC in 2007, Edgar has beat Gray Maynard, BJ Penn 3 times, current lightweight champion Charles Oliviera, Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Cub Swanson, and Yair Rodriguez. Although Edgar has lost 4 of his last 6 fights, the opponents he lost to are the 4th ranked featherweight and 3 fighters who have fought for the belt of their respective divisions this year.

Despite being 40 years old, there’s no denying that Frankie Edgar deserves to be a top ranked bantamweight after his split-decision win a year ago against Pedro Munhoz. Standing across the Octagon from Edgar will be “Chito” Marlon Vera. Vera broke through the bantamweight rankings after his upset win over rising star Sean O’Malley that ended due to a bizarre foot injury to O’Malley. After his victory, Chito faced off against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo and lost by unanimous decision. Vera is coming off a bounceback win and now faces another legend in the sport to prove that he deserves to climb up the bantamweight rankings. 

Chandler vs Gaethje promises to be the fight of the night and has fight of the year potential. The only complaint I have about this fight is that it isn’t 5 rounds, but then again, there’s a good chance the fight won’t even last 3 rounds. These fighters are two of the scariest fighters in the UFC with very similar styles. Both fighters love to scrap on the feet, can knock anyone out at any time, love to put overwhelming pressure on their opponents, and have decorated wrestling backgrounds.

It’s safe to say Justin Gaethje has the nickname, “The Highlight”, for a reason. Since his debut in 2017, only 1 of his 8 fights hasn’t end with someone getting knocked out, and most of the time Gaethje was the one delivering the last punch. After absolutely dismantling Tony Ferguson and winning the interim lightweight belt, Gaethje was given a shot at Khabib but was submitted in the second round. Since then, The Highlight has waited a year for his next opponent and is anxious to get back in the Octagon and put on a show against Michael Chandler.

Chandler has only fought twice in the UFC, but is already regarded as one of the most exciting fighters on the roster. After knocking out Dan Hooker in the first round of his debut, Chandler was offered a shot at the vacant lightweight belt against Charles Oliviera. Chandler looked like he was going to finish Oliviera and almost knocked him out in the first round but was knocked down by a big left hand to open the second round followed by a flurry of punches to end the fight. Despite the loss and fight barely entering the second round, Chandler put on a hell of a performance in what was one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever seen. This is going to be a brawl and whoever comes out on top is likely next in line for another shot at the lightweight title. 

In the co-main event, we have two of the top 4 pound-for-pound female fighters facing off for the second time this year. Rose Namajunas came out victorious in their last fight after delivering a beautiful head kick to knock out Weili Zhang early in the first round and reclaimed the strawweight title. Before that fight, Weili had won her previous 5 fights, which included overthrowing Jessica Andrade for the strawweight title, then defending her title against former champion Joanna Jedrzejeck in what was fight of the year in 2020.

During her rise to the top of the division in 2017, Thug Rose pulled off a huge upset by knocking out the champion, Jedrzejeck, in the first round. In a rematch the following year, Rose proved the first fight wasn’t a fluke and came out on top. Then after taking a year off due to battling with injuries, she lost her title to Jessica Andrade but avenged her loss a year later to set herself up for a title shot earlier this year. Weili believes that she is the better fighter despite the early knockout in their last matchup, and looks to reclaim the title she believes belongs to her.

Then we have the main event, Usman vs Covington, and these guys HATE each other. In arguably the biggest and most passionate rivalries currently in the UFC, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman will face off for a second time to determine who’s the king of the welterweight division. Their first fight was an exciting brawl that seemed to be tied at 2 rounds each going into the final round. Usman was able to finish Covington in the last minute of the final round with a TKO victory to retain his belt, but there was a sense at the end of that fight that these guys would face off again in the near future.

Colby Covington might be the most hated fighter in the UFC. Covington loves to talk trash and insult his opponents in any way that comes into his mind without hesitation, but don’t let that distract you from how great of a fighter he is. Covington held the interim title after defeating former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in 2018, then followed that fight a year later defeating another former champion in Robbie Lawler which set him up for the title shot against Usman. After his loss to Usman, which he felt wasn’t a fairly officiated fight, Covington added another former champion to his hit list by defeating Tyron Woodley just over a year ago.

His arch rival, Usman, is currently the top ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Usman has dominated the welterweight division having won 14 fights in a row with his last 5 fights being title defenses and two of them ending in KO/TKO. Usman continues to look better and better after every fight and looks to continue cleaning out the division.

Two years ago, it looked like these two guys were clearly the best welterweights on the planet. If Usman wins, Usman proves there won’t be many other people left in the division for Usman to fight. But if Colby wins, it will likely lead to a rematch to settle the score in what would be one of the biggest trilogy fights in UFC history. If this fight is anything like their last fight, we are in for some fireworks.