The death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach once again worked wonders for Colby Covington.
Covington minimized risk and maximized results, as he took care of onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder and former American Top Team stablemate Tyron Woodley in the UFC Fight Night 178 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Thoroughly outclassed for 20-plus minutes, Woodley yielded to an apparent rib injury 1:19 into the fifth round.
Pressure and output powered Covington’s engines. The MMA Masters representative overwhelmed Woodley with volume, pursued a frustrating clinch and incorporated takedowns and ground-and-pound once fatigue and resignation took hold. By the time it was over, Covington had outlanded “The Chosen One” by a stunning 232-67 margin and exacted a considerable toll, mentally and physically. Woodley reached his limit in Round 5, where the snap, crackle and pop of cartilage, bone or both resulted in his surrender.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Covington vs. Woodley,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Colby Covington vs. Leon Edwards: Where Covington goes from here depends largely on the motivations of UFC matchmakers. Do they try to cash in on a potential blockbuster with Jorge Masvidal, think outside the box with someone line Nick Diaz or lean more toward meritocracy? All those options seem feasible because of Covington’s polarizing persona, but a date with the often-overlooked Edwards makes the most sense from a competitive standpoint. On an eight-fight winning streak and undefeated since 2015, Edwards has not fought since he took a five-round unanimous decision from Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC on ESPN 4 headliner more than a year ago.
Johnny Walker vs. Ovince St. Preux: A live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword action hero with brain-rattling power and a suspect chin, Walker never seems to disappoint. The 6-foot-6 Brazilian survived a harrowing encounter with a Ryan Spann left hook, rebounded from nearly being finished and put away the Fortis MMA export with elbows and hammerfists while defending an ill-advised takedown in the first round of their light heavyweight showcase. Spann wilted 2:43 into Round 1, closing the book on his eight-fight winning streak. Walker may never develop into a championship-level fighter, but his charisma and entertaining style figure to keep him in the UFC’s plans for the foreseeable future. St. Preux last appeared at UFC Fight Night 176, where he knocked out Alonzo Menifield in the second round of their Sept. 5 encounter.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Virna Jandiroba: When Dern springs her trap, few women escape. The 2015 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist submitted Randa Markos with an armbar in the first round of their strawweight feature. Having elected to engage the decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on the mat after she slipped while throwing a kick, Markos conceded defeat 3:44 into Round 1. Dern remains a work in progress in the striking department, but she has rebounded from her first career setback—a decision defeat to Amanda Ribas in October—with back-to-back submissions of Markos and Hannah Cifers. A former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder, Jandiroba sports a 16-1 record that includes victories over Felice Herrig, Mallory Martin and Mizuki Inoue.
Kevin Holland vs. Andrew Sanchez: Holland has carved out a nice niche for himself at 185 pounds, where his creative offensive skills and willingness to chat with his opponents in the middle of fights have made him a fan favorite. He moved to 6-2 in the UFC with his third straight win, as he eked out a split decision over Darren Stewart on the main card. All three judges turned in 29-28 scorecards, two of them siding with Holland. He outstruck Stewart in the first and second rounds, then weathered a furious comeback attempt that nearly resulted in his being finished in Round 3. Sanchez last competed at UFC Fight Night 174, where “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 winner knocked out Wellington Turman in the first round of their Aug. 8 pairing.
David Dvorak vs. Kai Kara France-Brandon Royval winner: Dvorak looks more and more like a dark horse contender in the resurrected flyweight division. In his latest assignment, the well-rounded and technically sound Czech put forth an endless barrage of kicks to the lower leg and countered to great effect in a three-round unanimous decision over Jordan Espinosa. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Dvorak, who has rattled off 15 consecutive victories since Filip Macek stopped him on a cut at a regional event on May 11, 2012. Kara France and Royval are scheduled to lock horns at UFC 253 on Sept. 26.
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