Columnists, Mixed Martial Arts, Sports

The Red Corner: UFC 272 Preview, friends turned fiery foes

The mixed martial arts leader returns this Saturday with a fight card headlined by a rivalry clash of former welterweight title challengers Colby Covington (16-3) and Jorge Masvidal (35-15). 

Covington fell to current champion Kamaru Usman (20-1) at UFC 268 in November, but still holds the division’s No. 1 contender ranking. Covington tested the champion as part of his second crack at undisputed status, claiming two rounds on two judge’s scorecards.



Masvidal also twice tasted defeat at the hands of Usman as part of his own two-bout saga with the champ. The second outing at UFC 261 in April 2021 saw Masvidal suffer his first career knockout loss — a vicious right hand that was minted “Knockout of the Year” by the UFC. 

Aside from avenging their failed title bids, an enormous amount of bragging rights are on the line in the main event. A once sunny friendship has devolved into a deeply personal feud that has seen both men predict the other will be seriously harmed as a result of the fight.  

Despite being part of the same fight camp in American Top Team as early as 2011, both fighters had entirely different paths getting there. Masvidal’s “Street Jesus” persona originated from his dominant run in Miami’s viral backyard street fighting circuit, where he crossed paths with the legendary Kimbo Slice. Before breaking through with the UFC in 2013, Masvidal tallied a 23-7 record across various lesser fighting promotions. 

Covington earned All-American honors as an Oregon State University wrestler, and qualified for the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships. After graduating in 2011, Covington would begin to foster a close bond with Masvidal after joining ATT. Covington made his MMA debut in 2012, and later his first UFC walk in 2014 after five straight victories.

The pair would become training partners, roommates and essential members of one another’s corner. When one of them claimed victory, the other celebrated at their side. In his Octagon interview after defeating Dong Hyun Kim (22-4-1) in June of 2017, Covington praised his camp, coach and other half: “[I] can’t say enough about American Top Team, Mike Brown, my head coach [and] my best friend Jorge Masvidal.”

Their friendship would sour, however, after Masvidal alleged that Covington had dodged paying one of their striking coaches after weeks of sessions preparing him for an interim title bout against Rafael dos Anjos (30-13) in June 2018. Adding to the fire was Covington’s newly developed persona as an unapologetic heel that rubbed many of his ATT teammates, including Masvidal, the wrong way. By May 2020, Covington closed his ATT chapter when he split from the gym entirely. 

Since the fracture of their relationship, Covington and Masvidal each found success in the Octagon. Covington would earn himself two title shots, where, even in defeat, he would prove to be the greatest threat to the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. 

Masvidal would score the fastest knockout in UFC history with a five second flying knee finish of Ben Askren (19-2) in June 2019. In his next bout, Masvidal claimed the symbolic BMF belt with a victory over Nate Diaz (20-13) as the headliner of UFC 244 in November 2019. 

How Covington can win:

Covington has elite wrestling and cardiovascular chops, and uses this skill set to control fights with suffocating pressure. In his last outing, Covington nearly scored a takedown on Usman, who has yet to be taken down in his 15 UFC fights. Despite the scorecard saying otherwise, Covington was still able to get the champion, albeit briefly, down to the canvas.

While wrestling may be Covington’s bread and butter, his striking is nothing to frown at. In his two bouts with Usman, Covington was able to cut through Usman’s guard on multiple occasions and land with authority. 

That said, Covington’s clear path to victory is to deploy his wrestling and score points with control time and ground strikes. If he sticks to his game plan and avoids being goaded into a brawl, it should be a quick night at the office for “Chaos.”

How Masvidal can win:

Masvidal’s claim to fame is his crisp striking game, which has won him battles in backyards and in the cage. Masvidal moves fluidly and issues his strikes with deadly accuracy.

In order for Masvidal to have full access to his arsenal of slick striking, he’ll have to be perfect in the realm of takedown defense. Masvidal has proven to be an excellent scrambler and is never controlled on the ground for long stretches of clock. 

If Masvidal can shed takedowns early, when his cardio and power are the most deadly, “Gamebred” could live up to his promises of violently finishing this fight.

Peter’s Prediction: Covington via Decision

Charlie’s Prediction: Covington via R5 KO/TKO

Be sure to follow @TheRedCornerDFP on Twitter for live-fight results, card predictions and more. 

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