Colby Covington backed up his bravado with a dominant performance and stoppage win over former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on Saturday night.
Woodley’s rib injury, which saw their fight come to an abrupt halt, may have been an anticlimactic end to a bitter long-term rivalry between these former American Top Team stablemates, but Covington’s performance opens up a lot of opportunities for him. Likewise for Woodley if he decides to continue fighting on in the sport to rebuild and reclaim his place as welterweight top dog.
Further down the card, there were plenty of other standout performances – namely that of rising star Khamzat Chimaev.
We will take the night’s performances into consideration and give our picks for five fights that should be made as a result of UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley.
Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal
We’re well aware that Jorge Masvidal is, in all likelihood, going to be booked in a rematch with Nate Diaz for a “BMF” title re-run later this year. However, the money to be made for the UFC lies with Colby Covington as Masvidal’s next opponent.
It also makes sense for these fighters, too. Coming off the back of a disappointing performance against Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight championship, Masvidal should be looking at taking fights which will propel him back into the title picture. A win over Covington will do that whereas it’s unclear whether another win over Nate Diaz would.
As for Covington, “Chaos” called out Usman and Masvidal after his Tyron Woodley win. UFC welterweight champ Usman is already tied up with his upcoming title defence against Gilbert Burns so Masvidal is the better option there.
We don’t need to dive too deep into their histories, but it’s been made very publicly clear that neither Covington nor Masvidal like each other.
The former American Top Team teammates have plenty of dirt on each other and fights between former training partners usually make for an intriguing match-up in itself. Book it!
Tyron Woodley vs. Leon Edwards
This fight was all set to take place in London’s O2 Arena in March, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic hit.
Leon Edwards hasn’t fought since, but Tyron Woodley has now taken on two big challenges in a matter of months, coming off the worse to Covington on the weekend and Gilbert Burns beforehand.
Former UFC welterweight champion Woodley needs a respected name to try and get his run at his title going again – that’s if he wants to, anyway.
Edwards is in a similar position. He boasts an eight-fight winning streak, but needs another respected name added to his resume of wins to help him reach title contender status. Woodley provides that value.
This was a really interesting match-up when it was initially announced and it is still an enticing prospect today.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Neil Magny or Geoff Neal
Khamzat Chimaev continues to impress since making his heralded UFC debut on “Fight Island” on 16 July. Since submitting John Phillips that day, he’s added two more notches to the win column with dominant victories over Rhys McKee and Gerald Meerschaert.
The trouble with booking the Chechen-born Swede is that he floats between two divisions: welterweight and middleweight.
If welterweight is Chimaev’s home for the future, then he should be looking at opponents like Neil Magny or Geoff Neal to propel him up the UFC rankings.
Magny and Neal were due to fight each other in August, but the latter pulled out of the contest citing health issues. Magny took on a late-notice replacement in Robbie Lawler and won on that date instead.
It’s unclear whether the UFC will look to re-book that fight between Magny and Neal. If they do, Chimaev should face the winner. If not, seeing Chimaev be put up against dangerous all-rounders such as Magny or a vicious striker in Neal would make for interesting viewing.
Johnny Walker vs. Anthony Smith
Johnny Walker’s knockout victory over Ryan Spann halted a two-fight losing skid to re-insert his name as one to watch in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
Anthony Smith has lost two of his last three bouts – a win over Alexander Gustafsson overshadowed by losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic – since dropping a unanimous decision in his title fight with Jon Jones at UFC 235 in March, 2019.
Walker still has some doubters and Smith has shown how he wishes to stay active to turn his fortunes around at 205 pounds to ascend back up to the title picture. I believe this is the perfect contest for each fighter to look good if they get the result they’re fighting for.
There is also a distinct clash of styles between these two men which is something that eludes a lot of fights in modern MMA. Walker is a wild power striker, while Smith has power in his hands but his best skills lie down on the ground.
With Walker at #11 and Smith at #8 in the UFC rankings at the time of writing, I feel this is the match that makes sense for both parties.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill
Mackenzie Dern showed off her renowned submission skills in her victory over the tough Randa Markos on Saturday night with a first-round armbar victory.
While Dern is a wizard on the mat, it’s unclear how much she has improved in the striking department since focusing on MMA full-time away from the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world. Angela Hill is a woman who would test that and her takedown abilities. This is another fun fight between two fighters from different martial arts backgrounds.
Hill has lost two fights on the bounce, but both fights were close and contentious split decision defeats. “Overkill” favours fighting on her feet and has shown how good her takedown defence is against high-level grapplers like Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson in recent times.
Dern has said that she wants to compete again in 2020 as she looks to continue her momentum and Hill has displayed how active she is as a fighter – she competed in the Octagon four times in 2019 and has already racked up another four fights in 2020 despite the pandemic.
At the time of writing, Dern is ranked #15 and Hill is at #13 in the UFC women’s strawweight division. This is the step up in competition Dern has earned and is the big name Hill will be hoping she snatch victory from.