The main event of the UFC’s final pay-per-view event of 2023 has been confirmed, with the undisputed welterweight title on the line in Las Vegas.
Reigning 170-pound champion Leon Edwards will be looking to make the second defense of his title when he faces former interim champion Colby Covington in the headline bout of UFC 296. The bout was confirmed by UFC CEO Dana White in a video posted across the UFC’s social media platforms.
The event, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena on December 16, will see Edwards put his eight-year, 12-fight unbeaten run, as well as his title, on the line against Covington, who is looking to make it third time lucky after his two prior shots at the undisputed crown ended in defeat to Kamaru Usman.
Edwards subsequently faced Usman at UFC 278 and dramatically knocked out “The Nigerian Nightmare” with a head-kick that saw him nominated for Fighters Only’s Knockout of the Year Award at this year’s World MMA Awards.
The Jamaican-born Briton then faced Usman for a second time at UFC 286 in London and claimed a majority decision victory to cement his status as the UFC’s top 170-pounder. Now he’ll face Covington, who weighed in as a backup fighter for that title fight in London, and gets his shot at the belt once again.
Also confirmed by White was a flyweight title co-main event matchup between newly-crowned champion Alexandre Pantoja and NO. 4-ranked contender Brandon Royval.
Pantoja captured the undisputed 125-pound championship after a thrilling five-round title tussle with then-champ Brandon Moreno at UFC 290. His split-decision win over “The Assassin Baby” saw him capture his first UFC title and extended his win streak to four.
One of those wins came against his foe at UFC 296. Royval and Pantoja faced off at UFC Fight Night in August 2021, with the Brazilian picking up the win via second-round rear-naked choke. But since that meeting, Royval has gone on a tear, winning three in a row to propel himself into title contention.
Royval outpointed Rogerio Bontorin, then followed up with back-to-back first-round finishes as he submitted Matt Schnell via guillotine choke at UFC 274, then stopped Matheus Nicolau with strikes at UFC Kansas in April.
That form put Royval back on collision course with his former foe, and “Raw Dawg” will have revenge on his mind as he looks to even the score with Pantoja and capture the flyweight title in the process.