Kamaru Usman’s stature is such that he’s already a 3-1 favorite in the rematch of his toughest fight as the UFC’s welterweight champion.
Usman will meet Colby Covington on Saturday in the main event of UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden in New York in a rematch of their scintillating 2019 bout at UFC 245 that Usman won by fifth-round TKO.
He went off as a little over a 2-1 favorite that time. This time around, Usman's -300 at BetMGM while Covington is +240.
Covington has fought once since he met Usman, routing ex-welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Usman has scored two wins over Jorge Masvidal and another over Gilbert Burns since.
They’re incredibly similar as fighters, as both are elite wrestlers whose striking breaks down their opponents.
The difference in their first fight was Usman’s punching power. It eventually wore Covington down and led to referee Marc Goddard stopping the fight.
Covington can’t afford to allow Usman to fight like he’s going downhill, which he did for most of the second half of their first fight. Covington has to find a way to slow Usman’s forward attack, whether it’s by trying for a takedown or using his kicks to beat on Usman’s legs.
Covington hasn’t used kicks to a high degree in any of his fights since he defeated Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 225 in 2018.
Usman lands at a significantly higher percentage than Covington — 54 percent to 38 percent — and that jibes with what happened at UFC 245. Usman landed 175 significant strikes, connecting on 48 percent. Covington landed 143, connecting on 36 percent. When you’re fighting someone who hits as hard as Usman, and punches as accurately as he does, you need to find a way to slow down that output.
There’s no need for Covington to try to win Fight of the Night. He needs to slow it down and grind it out and pick his spots.
I think Usman is so versatile that he’ll adapt, but that’s Covington’s best hope.
I don’t like laying 3-1, but when I have the No. 1 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world going for me, it’s a little easier to swallow. I’ll lay the $300 and play Usman to win. BetMGM doesn’t have its prop bets up at this point, but I’d take a hard look at the fight going the distance.
Rematch for women’s strawweight belt
Zhang Weili went off as a -200 favorite over Rose Namajunas at UFC 261, while Namajunas was +175. Namajunas covered as the underdog, ending Zhang’s reign as UFC strawweight champion with a stunning head-kick knockout.
In the rematch, Zhang is a slight favorite, though the line is moving. She’s currently -115 while Namajunas is -105.
Zhang has worked hard on her wrestling with former two-division champion Henry Cejudo, and I think that may be the difference for her. I like her to win the fight and I’ll lay the $115.
Gaethje-Chandler should be explosive
Bets aren’t taken on Fight of the Night in the U.S., but if there were odds, the lightweight bout between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler might be something like 1-20 to win it.
If ever there were a can’t-miss fight, it’s this one.
This will be a crazy, high-energy fight that may well be determined by which fighter has the better chin.
I’ll lay the $200 on Gaethje and play him to win because this is his style of fight and his chin is virtually impregnable. I’d also seriously consider a bet that the fight ends in less than three full rounds.
Other bets for UFC 268
• It’s hard to not play Al Iaquinta fighting at home as an underdog, so I’ll take the +145 and bet him to win. Bobby Green is the favorite at -175.
• I’ll take the +165 and play Billy Quarantillo to defeat Shane Burgos, who is -200.
• I will lay -175 and take Chito Vera to defeat the legendary Frankie Edgar, who is at +145.