UFC 268 takes place tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden in New York City and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Usman got one-up on his rival Covington the last time they fought two years ago as he not only TKO’d him in the fifth round, but also dismantled his jaw during the fight for good measure.
Usman has only went from strength-to-strength since, racking up three more convincing wins against Jorge Masvidal (twice) and Gilbert Burns that’s not put him in the discussion as one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
Covington has been markedly less active since that loss, with his only Octagon appearance since then being a fifth round TKO stoppage of former titleholder Tyron Woodley last year.
As such, heading into this fight there’s no real feeling that Covington is bringing anything new to the table this time around, whereas Usman’s striking ability appears to have become noticeably more refined and he’s now a bigger finishing threat in that regard than ever before.
That’s a big concern for Covington as Usman has already proven he could more than match his volume of strikes and energy reserves, while also having the wrestling ability to shut down his attempts to get the edge there too.
Covington’s never been a big power puncher, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how he can get the upperhand here, and I think he’ll find himself outgunned by Usman for a considerable period of time before the TKO finish arrives in the fourth round.
Pick: Kamaru Usman wins by TKO in Rd4.
Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
Another title rematch, but it feels like there’s still a lot to learn about how these two will do against each other given that ‘Thug’ Rose was able to KO Weili with a head kick only 78 seconds into their first encounter back in April to seize the title.
Weili had been on a 21-fight winning streak prior to that though, so she does deserve an immediate title shot and I’d expect to see a longer, more drawn-out battle this time around.
Namajunas finish off Weili was certainly no fluke though as we’ve also seen her take out Joanna Jedrzejczyk quickly too at the peak of the Polish star’s powers, so while she’s not the most physically imposing fighter, it’s clear that the current champion’s finely honed technique, excellent technique and speed can combine to great effect at times.
Weili is a very good striker in her own right though, with her constant pressure, high pace and relentless volume of strikes often overwhelming her opponents.
That’s a style that does leave openings for a faster, more clinical technician like Namajunas though and she does a good job of working from range and has proven in the past that she can compete well for the full five rounds, as she had to do in her rematches with Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade.
The ground battle could be interesting this time around as Weili is the physically stronger fighter and may see an avenue where she could outwrestle Namajunas on the mat, but at the same time ‘Thug’ Rose has a razor-sharp offensive submission game, so it would be very risky to tangle with her there.
I really feel this fight remains very finely balanced despite the outcome last time out and would not be surprised at all to see Weili emerge victorious this time around. Nevertheless, I am going to pick Namajunas as I feel her slicker, faster strikes and smart fight IQ will help her to edge her way to a tight decision victory this time around.
Pick: Rose Namajunas wins by decision.
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
This one should be an action-packed battle for as long as it lasts as these two former title contenders are fast-paced finishers with dynamite in their hands.
It’s hard to find a more offensive fighter than Gaethje as he just throws everything but the kitchen sink at his opponents and is willing to eat strikes in order to land his own. It’s a ferocious, hard-hitting style that’s paid dividends many times for him, with 19 finishes from 22 career victories, but he’s also no stranger to being rocked, and while he has very good powers of recovery, since joining the UFC he’s no longer immune to being stopped at times.
Chandler isn’t quite as pathologically aggressive as Gaethje, but he’s still a very active, dangerous striker who also carries heavy hands. Like ‘The Highlight’, Chandler is there to be hit though and he’s been in many wars over the years, which takes it’s toll and he was TKO’d last time out.
However, Chandler is the more well-rounded fighter of the two as while both men here have a solid wrestling background, he’s the one that actually makes the effort to utilize it and will also pursue submissions on the mat, while Gaethje tends to just use his defensively to keep the fight standing.
Both fighters records and their offensive weaponry suggest that there’s going to be a finish one way or another here. I think Chandler would be wise to make full use of his skill-set here to get the better of his opponent, but I can see it ending up being primarily a striking battle and I feel that Gaethje will be able to weather that storm better while landing the more punishing blows to take Chandler out by TKO In the second round.
Pick: Justin Gaethje wins by TKO in Rd2.
Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo
Burgos was in a relatively competitive striking battle with Edson Barboza last time out before he suffered a bizarre delayed-reaction KO that didn’t kick in until several seconds after the fight-ending blow had landed, which was a bit alarming to witness at the time.
Meanwhile, Quarantillo is coming off a TKO win and is now 4-1 in his UFC run, but this is his biggest test to date and against an opponent who has a somewhat similar style as they are both all-action strikers who keep a high tempo from start to finish.
Quarantillo’s sheer volume of offense can find his opponents wilting, but I don’t see that being the case against Burgos as he will match that pace and possesses the more technical, powerful boxing ability here and will be aided by a 5.5″ reach advantage.
There does still remain that lingering doubt about how Burgos will have recovered from his previous KO earlier in the year, but assuming he is fully recovered then I see him getting the better of the action here, though Quarantillo’s toughness will enable him to prevent a finish inside the distance
Pick: Shane Burgos wins by decision.
Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera
At 40-years-old Edgar is finding it harder to fight off the effects of Father Time these days as he’s coming off a brutal KO loss to Cory Sandhagen and has only emerged victorious twice in his last six Octagon outings.
Vera is 12 years younger and has been on somewhat of a rollercoaster in recent times, picking up good wins over Sean O’Malley and Davey Grant, sandwiched in amongst losses against Jose Aldo and Song Yadong.
So, Edgar’s durability is certainly a concern these days, but he still keeps in very good shape for his age and that enables him to continue to push a hard pace from start to finish, while darting in and out of range with strikes that are more focused on scoring points than putting his opponent’s lights out.
Vera’s a seasoned striker in his own right though and is the fresher of the two, so he will be eager to test Edgar’s chin.
As such, at this point in his career it feels like Edgar would do well to take a leaf from Glover Teixeira’s playbook and switch his focus to make better use of his well-rounded skills as he possesses a very robust wrestling game that could really help to give his late-career run more longevity.
Vera is a very capable BJJ player, but I do think Edgar’s savvy skills on the mat could prosper there. Meanwhile, I don’t think Vera necessarily has that one-punch KO ability to put Edgar away, so if ‘The Answer’ can limit his opportunities on the feet by keeping him on the canvas more often than not then I’ll cautiously tip him to eek out a decision win here.
Pick: Frankie Edgar wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Alex Pereira vs. Andreas Michailidis
Al Iaquinta vs. Bobby Green
Phil Hawes vs. Chris Curtis
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Ian Garry vs. Jordan Williams
Gian Villante vs. Chris Barnett
Dustin Jacoby vs. John Allan
Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Bruno Souza
CJ Vergara vs. Ode OsbourneEdit status