Saturday night will see one of MMA’s longest-running rivalries come to a head.
Former interim UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington will take on ex-UFC welterweight king Tyron Woodley in the main event of UFC Fight Night 178 inside the UFC’s Apex facility.
The event will mark the last UFC show in Las Vegas before their return to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island for another “Fight Island” run.
To mark the occasion, the promotion has put together a big fight card filled with intriguing match-ups.
Here is our preview of the main event and we will also highlight a fight on the undercard which is one you should definitely look out for.
Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley Preview
This grudge match may feel like it’s happening a year or two late, but there is plenty of anticipation to see Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley square off in the Octagon – and that’s even with a press conference which peculiarly had the men give separate interviews to the press.
Given the deep-seated disdain the pair hold for one another, there is plenty riding on this fight. When you factor in that each man is coming off a loss, you realise there is even more to this contest than what initially meets the eye.
Woodley held UFC gold at 170 pounds for two-and-a-half years after defeating Robbie Lawler with a spectacular knockout at UFC 201 in 2016.
“The Chosen One” went on to retain and defend his belt four times against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (x2), Demian Maia and Darren Till before losing a unanimous decision – and his title – against Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in March, 2019.
The Missouri native couldn’t do anything to turn the tide in the fight as Usman asserted his grappling dominance and outboxed Woodley en route to a five-round unanimous decision win.
The 38-year-old returned to the cage little over a year later, taking on Gilbert Burns in May. Woodley again looked unable to deal with his opponent’s pace and being forced to fight with his back to the cage and lost another unanimous decision as a result.
There has been plenty of talk of Woodley losing the spark which saw him win the title and be considered one of the best welterweights the sport had ever seen.
Woodley, without going into details, has since attributed those poor performances against Usman and Burns to a tumultuous time in his personal life, but is now back in the right frame of mind to take on Covington.
“I needed those lessons I took in those fights to put myself in position,” Woodley told Yahoo Sports. “Now, I’m back. I’m back where I need to be. I’m back in my right place. This fight is happening at the right time.”
Covington had long been considered a top welterweight contender, but the fight he wanted with Woodley never materialised during the latter’s reign as champion for one reason or another.
Due to what was perceived as title inactivity from then-champion Woodley, the UFC offered Covington an interim championship fight with Rafael dos Anjos in 2018 while “Chaos” and the promotion waited to see what Woodley was doing next with his title.
Covington won that interim belt, but he was stripped of it when he was unable to meet the date the UFC proposed for him to fight Woodley at UFC 228.
With his interim championship not in play, the Oregon-raised wrestler showed off his improved striking skills as he dominated the aforementioned Lawler in a five-round unanimous decision in his following contest.
Next up for Covington was his first crack at the UFC welterweight championship proper against another rival in Usman, who, of course, won the strap off Woodley. After adding Lawler and dos Anjos to a list of victories, Covington went into that bout with a seven-fight win streak in tow.
In a damaging, back-and-forth bout, Covington came off worse against Usman as he succumbed to strikes in the fifth round for his first loss in four years.
Though many disagree with the way the American conducts himself outside of the cage, there are few doubts about his abilities inside it.
Despite that, Covington will enter the Octagon feeling he has something to prove on Saturday night.
“I’ve got to move on, and I’ve got to keep proving to the UFC, proving to fans, proving to the world that I’m the best welterweight in the world,” Covington told MMA Junkie. “That just means ‘next guy up,’ so Tyron Woodley, he’s a legend in the game. He’s a former champion. So I can add a former champion to my resume. I’ve already beaten multiple former champions, but here’s another one I can add to my resume.”
This is a grudge match and both fighters have chips on their shoulders after coming off disappointing losses. That alone makes this contest an intriguing prospect, but their proven skills in the cage makes this fight a must-watch attraction this weekend.
Undercard fight to watch: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gerald Meerschaert
One of the biggest MMA stories since the world went into pandemic-induced lockdown has to be that of Khamzat Chimaev.
A relative unknown to North American audiences, Chimaev stole the headlines and broke records thanks to his two dominant victories over John Phillips and Rhys McKee in the space of 10 days on Fight Island – the first being his UFC debut.
The Chechen-born Swede dominated both of his British opponents with spectacular takedowns and control on the mat, but in Gerald Meerschaert, Chimaev will be facing his toughest test yet.
Meerschaert is a talented grappler himself, boasting 23 victories coming by submission on his resume.
The American is highly motivated to hand the undefeated Chimaev his first career loss, too. Controversially, the UFC has already booked Chimaev in another fight with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace Demian Maia afterward.
Any self-respecting fighter would see it as a slight if their opponent already has another bout arranged before they throw down. Meerschaert is no different.
Chimaev has been highly impressive in his brief UFC run and he will be facing a hardy veteran in Meerschaert who will be absolutely raring to go.
Make sure you give this fight the attention it deserves this weekend.
UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley full fight card
Welterweight: Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley
Welterweight: Donald Cerrone vs. Niko Price
Middleweight: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Light Heavyweight: Johnny Walker vs. Ryan Spann
Women’s Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos
Middleweight: Kevin Holland vs. Darren Stewart
Flyweight: Jordan Espinosa vs. David Dvořák
Women’s Flyweight: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Mara Romero Borella
Women’s Bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Sarah Alpar
Featherweight: Darrick Minner vs. T.J. Laramie
Bantamweight: Journey Newson vs. Randy Costa
Bantamweight: Andre Ewell vs. Irwin Rivera
Bantamweight: Tyson Nam vs. Jerome Rivera