Kamaru Usman said leading up to his headlining bout at UFC 245 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas that he had no intention of losing his welterweight title.
When he exited the famed Octagon on Saturday night, he left no doubt that he is the world’s best at 170 pounds as he turned away hated rival Colby Covington by technical knockout at the 4:10 mark of the fifth round. But the contest was not a walk in the park, as the Nigerian withstood an early storm from the polarizing Covington (15-2) before finally getting the finish.
Covington stormed out of his corner in the first and dished out a seemingly endless volley of punches, most notably his overhand left. Usman absorbed plenty of strikes and in the first few minutes of their showdown, it seemed as though “The Nigerian Nightmare” might lose in his first world title defense. However, Usman (16-1) remained calm, stuck to his team’s game plan and eventually turned the tables on his challenger.
Usman apparently broke Covington’s jaw with a crushing right hook in the third and, because he kept the fight standing, eventually hurt the trash-talking contender and stopped him in the fifth.
“I told everyone I would keep it standing and knock him out and that’s exactly what I did,” a proud Usman said after his triumph. “He chose not to shoot. I did what I wanted. I knew I was hitting hard to the body; I like hitting him there because it’s soft. I wasn’t worried about hitting him in specific spots, I just wanted to hit him over and over wherever I could.”
In typical fashion when two excellent wrestlers meet in the cage, the fight ended up being a glorified kickboxing match. Usman said it was all part of the master plan he and his team concocted.
“I was taking the fight round by round,” he said. “I knew he couldn’t wrestle with me. We have some of the best coaches in the world; I knew he couldn’t have anything for me. When these guys try to wrestle with me, they find out how bad it is.”
Usman was a satisfied winner, to say the least. There was plenty of heated verbal exchanges between the two and Covington was relentless in his pursuit of finally getting a crack at the title. The bitter rivals settled the score in the cage and, unlike most grudge matches, this one lived up to the hype: Both men received $50,000 bonuses for “Fight of the Night.” Usman, though, said his win was more than just a win.
“He talked a lot going into this, so this was a respect thing,” he stated. “I had a responsibility to go in there and teach him a lesson.”