UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 11 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: Sept. 17, 2020 • 9:20 AM ET

Tyron Woodley is looking to snap a two-fight losing skid this weekend.

With no shortage of bad blood between them, former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and former interim champion Coby Covington will main event the UFC’s return to the Apex in Las Vegas this Saturday.

Each fighter has an unquestionable amount of resentment for the other, dating back to when Woodley reigned as welterweight champion from July 2016 through March 2019. Talks of a Woodley title defense against Covington often came up, but the chatter always seemed to stall with one accusing the other of not signing the contract. Nevertheless, Covington and Woodley will finally meet in the Octagon on Saturday, but under much different circumstances.

Woodley, now the UFC’s No. 5 ranked welterweight, is coming off a dominant, unanimous decision loss to No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns in May. The loss was the former champion’s second straight after losing the title to current champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 in 2019. The 38-year-old Woodley (19-5-1) will have no easy task getting back to his winning ways against Covington.

Covington is known for not only controlling the pace of fights, but also making that pace hectic. He throws a high volume of strikes, which could pose problems for Woodley, who likes to fight moving backwards. But despite back-to-back losses, Woodley isn’t buying into the idea that he may be slowing down. He’ll use his disdain for Covington in hopes that it fuels him to a dominant victory.

“I want to knock him out to the point that when they’re raising our hands and they’re talking, they’re still gathering him, hopefully stretching him out and then hopefully trying to get his legs to unstiffen and still trying to get the mouthpiece out of his mouth,” Woodley recently said via The Hollywood Beatdown on TMZ Sports.

Woodley already has a Hall of Fame worthy resume, and a win over Covington could cement that status. He won the welterweight title with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler in 2016 and defended the belt four times with a draw and win over Stephen Thompson, and wins over Demian Maia and Darren Till. Woodley also has key victories in his career over Kelvin Gastelum, Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck, Paul Daley and Tarec Saffiedine.

Woodley is undoubtedly in the back half of his career, but he still holds the power in his right hand to knock out any welterweight. While he says he is being driven by fighting a guy he hates, he also has a legacy to protect. Woodley still believes he can reclaim the title he lost, and a win on Saturday would offer a glimmer of hope at getting a shot. The belt will likely be out of reach, however, with a third straight loss.

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The No. 2 ranked Covington will fight for the first time since losing to Usman by fifth-round TKO in December, his first shot at the title. The loss snapped Covington’s seven-fight win streak, which included victories over Lawler, Rafael dos Anjos and Maia.

Covington has portrayed a professional wrestling-like character, the heel, to garner the attention of UFC fans, which also makes people want to see him lose. He also uses his Donald Trump endorsing conservative character to get under his opponents’ skin. With it comes rehearsed insults and a red MAGA hat, and the 32-year-old will once again have the President on his side leading up to this weekend’s bout.

Covington had an awkward one-on-one moment with Trump this past Sunday at the latter’s Nevada Rally. After the two posed for pictures, it appeared that Covington attempted to kiss Trump’s hand. The President frantically pulled his hand away, leaving viewers of the exchange wondering what they just saw.

While his relationship with Trump may send media outlets into a frenzy and generate clicks, the real story for Covington is what a win on Saturday would do for him. If he defeats Woodley, he’ll be one step closer to challenging for the title again and could trash talk his way into facing the winner of Usman vs. Burns.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will also be in the welterweight division between fan favorite Donald Cerrone and battle-tested Niko Price.

Cerrone, ranked No. 14 in the lightweight division, is one of the most active fighters in UFC history. The 37-year-old’s desire to fight any time, anywhere is what has made him loved by fans, but he’s also coming off four straight losses with his last being a questionable decision to Anthony Pettis.

Humble in victory and defeat, Cerrone has wins over many top names in MMA, including Al Iaquinta, Alexander Hernandez, Mike Perry, Yancy Medeiros, Matt Brown, Rick Story, Patrick Cote, Alex Oliveira, Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, Jim Miller, Edson Barboza, Jeremy Stephens and Charles Oliveira.

A fifth straight loss could mean the approaching end of a long career for Cerrone, but a win would put him right back in the mix for another high profile co-main or main event spot.

The 30-year-old Price is coming off a bloody fight with Vicente Luque at UFC 249 in May, losing by TKO (doctor stoppage) in the third round. While Price is 4-3 in his last seven fights, none of them have been boring, and he always tries to put on a show.

Despite recent wins over Randy Brown, Tim Means and James Vick, a win over a marquee name such as Cerrone could solidify Price’s contender status in a growing division.

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. EST

Middleweight bout - Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gerald Meerschaert

Light heavyweight bout - No. 11 Johnny Walker vs. No. 12 Ryan Spann

Women’s strawweight bout - No. 15 Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos

Middleweight bout - Kevin Holland vs. Darren Stewart

 

ESPN+ Prelims at 5 p.m. EST

Flyweight bout - No. 13 Jordan Espinosa vs. No. 14 David Dvorak

Featherweight bout - Mirsad Bektic vs. Damon Jackson

Women’s flyweight bout - Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Mara Romero Borella

Women’s bantamweight bout - Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Sarah Alpar

Featherweight bout - Darrick Minner vs. T.J. Laramie

Bantamweight bout - Journey Newson vs. Randy Costa

Bantamweight bout - Andre Ewell vs. Irwin Rivera

Bantamweight bout - Tyson Nam vs. Jerome Rivera

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