Kamaru Usman defeated Colby Covington by unanimous decision to keep the UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 268 in New York on Saturday night.
With the win, Usman improved to 20-1-0 and won 19 fights in a row, including five title defenses.
“I’m the best pound for pound alive right now,” he said.
Covington, the former interim welterweight champion, dropped to 16-3-0.
New York State Athletics Commission judges Derek Cleary (49-46), Dave Tirelli (48-47) and Sal D’Amato (48-47) presented scorecards in favor of Usman.
Going into the fight, Covington said he had recalibrated his approach and wouldn’t fight the same way he did in their first fight. And the start of the opening round revealed a more cautious fighter, although as the round progressed, Usman’s pressure seemed to force Covington into a defensive stance.
Usman got the first knockdown of the fight at the end of the second round and attempted to finish Covington with a flurry of punches before the bell rang. He started the third round from where he left off, but Covington ended the five minutes by pinning Usman against the cage.
The two spent much of the fourth and fifth rounds exchanging blows. Covington staggered Usman with a shot in the fifth but was unable to put it away.
Usman and Covington starred in the fifth UFC pay-per-view event at Madison Square Garden and had a couple of rematches in the co-main event and the main event.
The Usman-Covington fight was a rematch of their classic title bout at UFC 245. Usman won that five-round standing fight with a Covington technical knockout with 50 seconds left in round five, though Covington immediately protested referee Marc Goddard’s decision, and continued to grumble about the call in the 22 months following the fight.
There was no such controversy in the first Rose Namajunas-Zhang Weili fight for the women’s straw weight title, as Namajunas knocked Weili out 1:18 in the first round in their UFC 261 bout in April to retain her title.
Seven months later, the result was the same for Namajunas, even though the path she and Weili took was unfamiliar. After a five-round display of jiujitsu, Namajunas defeated Weili with a split decision in the co-main event.
Judge Michael Bell presented a 48-47 scorecard for Weili, while Eric Colon (49-46) and Doug Crosby (48-47) saw Namajunas win the match.
“It was different,” said Namajunas, who was serenaded by chants of “USA” and “Let’s Go Rose” from the partisan crowd during the fight. “In the end, I was pretty confident I had won it.”
Justin Gathje opened the main card of the five fights with a unanimous decision on three rounds on Michael Chandler. Promoted as “The People’s Main Event” and considered a contender for the Fight of the Night title, Gathje and Chandler may have been the authors of MMA’s Fight of the Year and one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
The two lightweights had an all-action fight. Gathje landed the first knockdown, dropping Chandler nearly two minutes into the second round, and then spent the next minute trying to subdue his rival. But Chandler maneuvered his way out.
Chandler returned the favor in the third round while suplex Gathje, who was able to get back on his feet. The two strikes exchanged for the rest.
Gathje, who received scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27 from the judges, praised Chandler in his post-fight interview.
“We should have fought in the Colosseum (a Roman curse),” said Gathje, who lobbied for a title fight against championship bout winner Charles Oliveira-Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 on 12 December. 11. “I’m number 2 (in the division).”
After the Gathje-Chandler fight, Shane Burgos got a unanimous decision on Billy Quarantillo, And Marlon Vera recorded a knockout victory in the third round on Frankie Edgar.
Ode ‘Osbourne (unanimous decision), Melsik Baghdasaryan (unanimous decision), Dustin Jacoby (unanimous decision), Chris Barnett (TKO), Ian Garry (KO), Nasourdine Imavov (TKO), Chris Curtis (KO), Bobby Green (TKO ) and Alex Pereira (TKO) won undercard matches.