Former friends turned bitter rivals finally step into the cage this Saturday night at UFC 272 as Colby Covington takes on Jorge Masvidal. Despite the intrigue surrounding the matchup, Covington has been firmly set as a 3-1 favorite. Based on the style matchup and past opponents, I have to agree with Colby being favored. I do expect him to get the job done but I’m not expecting the most thrilling matchup. Significant time in the clinch seems likely, along with moments of muted offense. Unless Masvidal uncorks another Hail Mary power strike for the upset win, fans may be let down by how this one plays out.
On the feet, there’s no question Masvidal is superior. His technique is cleaner, he has more power and the better chin as well. Unless the knockout loss last time out to Kamaru Usman permanently rattled his brain, he should be able to land the much harder, cleaner offense standing here. Covington has excellent pressure and volume, so I expect him to land his fair share of strikes as well. But there should be a clear difference in whose strikes are landing with more authority. The key for Masvidal will be for him to maintain the space on the feet to land that superior offense, something I expect him to struggle with. I see Colby wading forward like usual, eating some strikes but ultimately closing space and repeatedly forcing the clinch.
Once in the clinch, I expect we’ll be there for a while. Masvidal will be focused primarily on defending the takedowns while Covington will be more than happy to simply hold him there and foot stomp away as the minutes drain on the clock. Colby will likely get some takedowns at points, to which Masvidal has a good shot to work his way back up from — right back into the clinch position. I can see many long, frustrating sequences like this. Masvidal’s fight at 155 pounds against Benson Henderson went like this, with Jorge defending the takedowns but losing a five-round decision while stuck in the clinch.
Should Covington get the takedown and maintain control, he likely won’t threaten much of a finish. Not because he’s incapable, but because Masvidal’s defense is so sound. Guard passes and damaging strikes should be somehow at rare from here, as Colby focuses on preventing Masvidal’s slick get-ups. Plus, both fighters have trained with each other so much that the familiarity limits the opportunity for one to be surprised by something the other presents.
Down the stretch, both fighters have exceptional cardio but the edge does go to Covington. Even when he’s been badly hurt in a fight, his pace does not slow and he does not stop moving forward. That pressure over the course of a long, grueling 25 minute fight should pay dividends in the second half. Despite Masvidal’s elite conditioning, we have seen grapplers wear him down in the past. Overall, I see Colby Covington’s truly relentless pressure, pace and cardio getting the job done on the judges’ cards.
The Pick: Colby Covington -310
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