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MMA: Usman, Covington fight holds Saturday

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UFC 245’s main event is a bout that has drawn the attention of fans and fighters alike. Everyone has an opinion on how the December 14 bout will play out inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. Several fighters from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator MMA, the Professional Fighters League and One Championship graciously gave Sherdog their personal predictions on the highly-anticipated contest.

Ever since Kamaru Usman took the welterweight strap from titleholder, Tyron Woodley in dominant fashion in March, the mixed martial arts world has had their hopes pinned on a showdown between the new champion and Colby Covington.

However, the industry had to wait 11-months as injuries, drawn-out negotiations, a hotel buffet skirmish and an August Covington and Robbie Lawler bout played out before an agreement was finalised. Now, the moment has come as arguably the two best 170-pound fighters in the organisation finally face off. The fight will take place on December 14, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, United States.

  Kamaru Usman has a record (15-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC)

  Colby Covington (15-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC)

The main event for UFC 245 features a feud for the welterweight title between two wrestlers who have evolved into well rounded fighters familiar with the themes of pace and pressure.

The sitting champion, Kamaru Usman, stepped onto the MMA stage with a primary skill set of wrestling and has made marked jumps in his striking ability under the care of Henri Hooft.

A Dutch style striking coach who emphasizes pressure, Hooft has been able to help Usman’s power and presence blossom on the feet, throwing shots much smoother in transition and off of breaks. In addition, the Nigeria-born fighter also appears to be a natural when it comes to his footwork.

Whether he is feinting forward or shifting his stance in combination, Usman will persistently corral his opposition toward the cage, attacking them with impunity whenever they step near it. The 32-year-old champion is also smart about shifting away from his opponent’s power side when advancing, all while throwing corralling hooks that help him close space.

Nevertheless, as efficient as this approach has been for Usman, he is still not beyond reproach defensively, which means successfully suffocating space will be crucial against a high-output opponent like Colby Covington.

A lifelong wrestler, Covington has been steadily improving solid striking fundamentals from fight to fight, something that assists his high pressure and pace. From not crossing his feet to resetting his angles on the outside, Covington can create lanes for his favoured kicks and crosses off of his power side – shots that are often set up by his jab.

The 31-year-old American also does a decent job of rolling off of his crosses, keeping his head off the center line while throwing and moving.

Though many will still point to Covington’s defensive behavior in his fight against Demian Maia, I have to imagine that a lot of that can be attributed to his prioritization of takedown defense and pressure (not to mention Maia’s underrated ability to strike and make fights ugly).

Known for  his   better distance and risk management, cleaning up both his technique, as well as his “where’s” and “when’s.” That said, high-volume offense is a potent two-way street that the American challenger needs to be mindful of – particularly with his propensity to cut.

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