UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 245 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 • 12:41 PM ET

Max Holloway is looking to retain the UFC featherweight title.

Only two UFC events remain in 2019, starting with a stacked UFC 245 card this Saturday in Las Vegas. Three title fights and several battles that hold major title implications will be on the card, headlined by a welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and hated enemy Colby Covington.

Usman will defend the title for the first time since winning it at UFC 235 in March with a dominant, unanimous decision victory over Tyron Woodley. The 32-year-old Usman hasn’t lost since 2013, winning his last 14 fights with key victories over Leon Edwards, Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos.

It’s no secret that Usman and the No. 2 ranked Covington don’t like each other. Covington has made a habit of using trash talk to anger his opponents and get fans interested in his fights, likely using rehearsed lines to portray a calculated image. Usman, however, isn’t impressed.

“Every opponent that I've faced, I've never really had ill will towards...I've never had bad blood to where I was in there maliciously trying to hurt them,” Usman told TMZ. “This is a guy that I have that towards.”

Covington has won seven straight fights with wins over Maia, Dos Anjos and most recently a unanimous decision victory over former champion Robbie Lawler in August. He won the interim welterweight title with his victory over Dos Anjos, but was later stripped after being inactive for more than a year.

Covington was a relative unknown to fight fans until the 2017 bout with Maia in Brazil, where he became the fighter everyone loves to hate. After Covington defeated the Brazilian, he took to the mic and spewed a hate-fueled rant that changed his career trajectory.

“Brazil, you’re a dump,” Covington yelled to a chorus of boos. “All you filthy animals suck.”

Both fighters are great grapplers with some of the best cardio in the UFC. Usman holds the power advantage and a slight advantage if the fight stays on the feet. Covington has yet to push the pace against a fighter with a style similar to his own, so it will be interesting to see where the fight goes if it makes it into the later rounds.

Both fighters have proven they can go five rounds and fight until the final horn, so it might be in Usman’s best interest to inflict damage early and often. Neither fighter wants to leave the fight in the judge’s hands, but both are accustomed to grinding out decisions.

Who will the grinding style benefit more? The champion, or the guy people love to hate?


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be for the featherweight title, as champion Max Holloway will defend the belt against No. 1 contender Alexander Volkanovski.

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Holloway last fought in July at UFC 240, where he successfully defended the title for the third time against Frankie Edgar. The win was a big rebound for Holloway after losing a unanimous decision to Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title in April, one of the best fights of 2019.

Holloway is arguably the best featherweight of all time with wins over Jose Aldo (twice), Edgar, Brian Ortega, Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. Although his first fight in the UFC was in 2012, he’s still just 28 years old.

While Holloway is the best featherweight in the UFC, he envisions moving up in weight in the future.

“I want to be the best mixed-martial-artist in the world,” Holloway said at a media lunch last week. “And being the best mixed-martial-artist in the world is not a guy who stays in his weight and dominates his weight. It is someone who’s willing to go whatever weight…I got a couple belts I want to fight for, the (155-pound) of course.”

Volkanovski has won 17 straight fights (7-0 in the UFC), most recently defeating Aldo in hostile territory in Brazil by unanimous decision at UFC 237 in May to earn the title shot. He’s 20-1 overall with other key victories over Darren Elkins and Chad Mendes.

“The thing is, the lightweight division is too strong for him — that is why he was going to be undefeated at featherweight, but if he moves up he will struggle,” Volkanovski told BJPenn.com. “But if you ask anyone who has trained with me or fought me, they will tell you I feel like a welterweight in there. I have a ton of power.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I am pound-for-pound one of the strongest people you will meet. That is the difference. A lot of people are going to realize that come December 14. I can’t wait to show the world. People are going to have me as an underdog and say Max is too big, but once I get ahold of him, he will feel the power and everyone will see the power.”

The 31-year-old Volkanovski believes he’ll put an end to Holloway’s featherweight streak and send him up to lightweight for good.

“Honestly, I really do believe I can finish him. He is tough, and I respect him as a fighter. But, I’m going to win them early rounds and I reckon I can get a finish,” he explained. “But, if he is as tough as everyone says, I’ll get a decision win. I’m too good to slow down and I set a good pace. If he can keep up, he’ll be a step behind the whole fight, I believe.”

A third title fight will be featured on the main card between women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and No. 1 contender Germaine De Randamie.

Nunes sits with Henry Cejudo as one of two double champions in the UFC, as she also holds the women’s featherweight title. She’s coming off a first-round TKO of former champion Holly Holm at UFC 239 in July, giving her a third successful defense of the bantamweight title.

The fight with De Randamie will be a rematch from 2013, when Nunes won by first-round TKO. Holm and De Randamie are two fighters on a long list of key victories for Nunes, which includes Cris Cyborg, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Raquel Pennington. She plans to continue making history after Saturday’s fight.

"I want to keep doing things nobody has seen before," Nunes said during an interview on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. "I want to be the first one to defend the two belts."

It’s unclear who Nunes would defend the 145-pound belt against; but if she can successfully do so, it will only add to her already Hall of Fame worthy resume.

Since losing to Nunes, De Randamie has won five straight fights and most recently earned a quick TKO of prospect Aspen Ladd in July. She was the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight champion, scoring a controversial win over Holly Holm in 2017, but was stripped of the belt after refusing to fight Cyborg.

The 35-year-old Dutch fighter was offered the fight with Nunes at 145 pounds, but preferred the bout be at 135. She has the opportunity to shake things up at bantamweight and possibly set up a rubber match between the two after Nunes fights again at featherweight.


The rest of the main card

Bantamweight bout - No. 1 Marlon Moraes vs. No. 3 Jose Aldo

Bantamweight bout - No. 4 Petr Yan vs. No. 12 Urijah Faber


ESPN 2 Prelims

Welterweight bout - No. 14 Geoff Neal vs. Mike Perry

Women’s bantamweight bout - No. 2 Ketlen Vieira vs. No. 10 Irene Aldana

Middleweight bout - No. 10 Ian Heinisch vs. No. 14 Omari Akhmedov

Welterweight bout - Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders


UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Featherweight bout - Chase Hooper vs. Daniel Teymur

Flyweight bout - No. 5 Brandon Moreno vs. No. 6 Kai Kara France

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 2 Jessica Eye vs. No. 5 Viviane Araujo

Middleweight bout - Punahele Soriano vs. Oskar Piechota

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