Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is gearing up to stage one of its biggest pay-per-view (PPV) events of the year TONIGHT (Sat., Nov. 6, 2021) as UFC 268 goes down from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. The ESPN+-streamed event will feature a highly-anticipated rematch between current Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, taking on his bitter rival Colby Covington. Another championship rematch will co-headline the event as Rose Namajunas defends her women’s Strawweight fight against Weili Zhang, the woman she took it from earlier this year.
In the history of mixed martial arts (MMA), there have been several historic rivalries that, to be honest, make the sport better. From Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz, Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, and Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, real beef just raises the level of anticipation and makes fight fans feel like kids on Christmas morning once fight night finally rolls around.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington is the current rivalry that is up there with those previously mentioned because the disdain between the two of them is beyond genuine. The two men absolutely hate each other and have made it known every chance they get. Plus, when you have a heel like Covington, the intrigue only increases that much more. Their hatred toward each other came to a head at UFC 245 two years ago and what resulted was one of the best title fights in UFC history. Once the dust settled, Usman retained his title by scoring a late fifth-round technical knockout victory, leaving Covington in a puddle of his own blood thanks to a busted-up face and broken jaw — seriously. But, don’t get it twisted, Covington did have his moments and made the fight competitive, but just like he’s done for the last eight years, Usman proved superior to his opposition.
Now, Covington is out for revenge and Usman is still hungry for more blood and it’s safe to say there will be plenty of it when they mix it up one more time for the 170-pound title. It’s cliche to say that both men have improved since then, which could very well be true, but Covington has only competed once since — a technical knockout win over Tyron Woodley — while Usman beat Jorge Masvidal twice and knocked out his old training partner, Gilbert Burns. Indeed, no one can ever say that “The Nigerian Nightmare” wasn’t an active champion, and if he keeps on winning the way he is he could surpass Georges St-Pierre as the best 170-pounder in the promotion’s history. For Covington, handing Usman the first loss of his UFC career and first in nearly 10 years would be a huge feather in his cap.
There really isn’t much to complain about here. The PPV main card is stacked with two title fights and the undercard boasts a bevy of intriguing match ups to get fight fans ready for the main dish. After a run of “Fight Night” events that were very underwhelming, UFC is determined to end the year off strong with solid PPV events. The only problem — at least for UFC — is that it will be going head-to-head against the Canelo Alvarez vs. Caleb Plant title fight.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
T.J. Laramie was forced out of his scheduled fight against Melsik Baghdasaryan after he was diagnosed with an MRSA infection. Stepping in to take his place in the Featherweight fight is UFC newcomer Bruno Souza, whom we will discuss further a bit later.
This card would have been a bit more loaded had it not been for several unfortunate injuries. Germaine de Randamie was forced to bow out of her scheduled Bantamweight bout against Irene Aldana after she suffered an undisclosed injury. As a result, Aldana was yanked from the event altogether. Also, a Middleweight bout between former division champion Luke Rockhold and Sean Strickland was lined up to take place on this card before Rockhold suffered a back injury that put him out of commission. No replacement was found for Strickland.
After five straight wins and a great showing on Dana White’s “Contender Series,” C.J. Vergara will get to show his stuff in his first official UFC fight when he battles Ode Osbourne in Flyweight action. Osbourne is coming off a loss to Manel Kape at UFC 265, his second loss in three fights. Going 1-4 under the UFC banner isn’t ideal for an up-and-comer so he needs to get a win here if he wants to hang around a bit longer.
Long-time LFA standout Bruno Souza got the call up to make his UFC debut after Laramie was bounced from the event with a serious infection. Winner of 10 straight, the submission specialist is eying an impressive first fight for the promotion against Melsik Baghdasaryan, who is on a six-fight win streak, including an impressive debut of his own earlier this year.
Former Cage Warriors Welterweight champion Ian Garry will make his highly-anticipated UFC debut against Jordan Williams. The undefeated (7-0) Irishman has the backing and approval of Conor McGregor, who has been singing “The Future’s” praises ahead of the 23-year-old’s UFC debut.
Alex Pereira will make his UFC debut when he takes on Andreas Michailidis in a Middleweight bout. Pereira is just 3-1, but has been fighting professionally since 2015. That’s because he took a four-year break from 2016 to 2020. But, perhaps what he’s most known for is his knockout win over Israel Adesanya in a kickboxing match. Everyone is foaming at the mouth for a potential fight between them again, but that won’t happen for quite some time. Michailidis, meanwhile, is 1-1 so far in his UFC career, so he needs another win to pick up some steam.
After five straight wins, Chris Curtis finally got the call up to the big leagues to take on Phil Hawes, who is on a tremendous run with seven straight wins, including winning his first three fights inside the Octagon. Five of those wins have come via first-round knockout, while Curtis has finished four of his last five opponents. Putting these two hard-hitting men in the cage will surely produce some fireworks.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
We’ve already discussed several “Prelims” fights in the section prior, so let’s take a look at the rest of the loaded undercard.
Bobby Green and Al Iaquinta are two long-time veterans who are in desperate need of a win. Both men are coming into the event on two-fight losing streaks, with Iaquinta coming off a two-year layoff and is just 1-3 since 2018. As for Green, he hasn’t tasted victory in more than one year after dropping consecutive fights to Thiago Moises and Rafael Fiziev.
Nassourdine Imavov has quietly won seven of his last eight fights but is just 2-1 under the UFC umbrella. He is coming off a knockout win over Ian Heinisch and now looks for his first back-to-back wins since 2019. As for his opponent Edmen Shahbazyan, he quickly went from the next big thing to just a blip on UFC’s radar. “The Golden Boy” was once considered just that, but after suffering back-to-back losses to Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson, he has sort of been the forgotten man. An impressive win over Imavov will help remind fight fans just why he was once considered a legit prospect.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Simply put, Gian Villante is walking on thin ice going into his Heavyweight fight against Chris Barnett. Villante has lost three in a row and four of five overall since 2018. If we want to go back a bit further, he is just 2-6 since 2017. I just don’t see how the promotion can justify keeping him around if he loses his fourth straight if he didn’t announce his recent decision to retire after the fight. Then again, Sam Alvey has lost six of seven and he’s still on UFC’s roster. Despite revealing that he will walk away, I’m sure he’d love nothing more than to go out with a win.
Interest Level: 9.5/10
In the co-main event, Weili Zhang will get the chance to get revenge on Rosa Namajunas and win her title back after “Thug Rose” stunned her at UFC 261, knocking her out in the very first round. I was a bit puzzled when they booked this instant rematch so quickly because Namajunas absolutely creamed “Magnum” — who only had one title defense under her belt — so the need for an instant do-over was a bit of a head-scratcher. Nevertheless, Zhang gets the chance to prove she is superior by getting one back on Namajunas. That said, what happens if she does tie the series at one apiece? Are we headed for a trilogy fight immediately after?
In another important fight at Lightweight, Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje will collide in “The People’s Main Event” that has fans foaming at the mouth for the guaranteed violence we’re about to witness. Gaethje is one of the most exciting fighters in the game today and Chandler is pretty much his doppelgänger and has already made his presence felt inside the Octagon, even though he came up short in his championship fight against Charles Oliveira. Both men have the extra motivation to get a spectacular win because Islam Makhachev solidified himself as a legit title contender last weekend at UFC 267 by taking Dan Hooker’s arm home with him. If they don’t want to get overlooked, Chandler and Gaethje need an impressive win here to get consideration.
In Featherweight action, Shane Burgos will attempt to snap his two-fight skid when he takes on Billy Quarantillo. It will behoove both men to make the most of their opportunity on the big stage and, to be quite honest, this bout could steal the show in a stacked main card. Quarantillo has won four of his first five fights inside the Octagon, so a win over Burgos could be what puts him into the Top 15.
Since 2018, Frankie Edgar hasn’t been as consistent as he would have liked, going just 2-4 over his last six fights, but “The Answer” is still trucking along after 16 years in the fight game. He is 1-3 since 2019 so Edgar needs a win badly here if he wants to prevent falling further down the ladder, A victory won’t come easy against Marlon Vera, who is looking for his first back-to-back victories since 2019. Edgar’s star power may have diminished some over the years, but he is still as scrappy as ever and is out to prove it at MSG.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 268 PPV Main Event on ESPN+:
170 lbs.: UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington 2
UFC 268 PPV Co-Main Event on ESPN+:
115 lbs.: UFC women’s Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
UFC 268 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje
145 lbs.: Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo
135 lbs.: Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera
UFC 268 Prelims Card on ESPNN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Andreas Michailidis vs. Alex Pereira
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Al Iaquinta
185 lbs.: Chris Curtis vs. Phil Hawes
185 lbs.: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
UFC 268 Early Prelims Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Ian Garry vs. Jordan Williams
265 lbs.: Chris Barnett vs. Gian Villante
205 lbs.: John Allan vs. Dustin Jacoby
145 lbs.: Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Bruno Souza
125 lbs.: Ode Osbourne vs. C.J. Vergara
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 268 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPNEWS/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 268: “Usman vs. Covington 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.