Wittman’s trio goes perfect at UFC 268, retaining two titles in process
Coach of the Year and Fighter of the Year may have been locked up on the same night as trainer Trevor Wittman’s trio of fighters went 3-0 at a historic UFC 268 event Saturday, Nov. 6.
Wittman’s group consisting of Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and No. 2 lightweight in the world Justin Gaethje all won their fights on the Madison Square Garden card.
The rest of the card showcased three impressive debuts and some hometown heroes going down on their shields.
Usman puts finishing touches on fifth title defense beating Covington again
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (20-1) silenced any doubters from possibly his toughest outing in the UFC; beating top contender Colby Covington (16-3) for a second time, this time by decision.
Usman won the fight three rounds to two on two of the three judges scorecards while the last gave him four of the five rounds
Covington attempted to implement wrestling into his gameplan along with a more composed disposition.
Usman rolled through the first takedown attempt and would score one of his own before the end of the first round. That was the 50th takedown of his career, becoming the 25th fighter to do so.
More of the same followed in the second round as the champion landed two big blows both hooks but of much different varieties.
Early in the round, Usman landed a big hook to the body of Covington before he caught the challenger with a short left hook, dropping him on the way in near the end of the round two.
The pace from Covington came in the third round has he began throwing fire in various exchanges with Usman.
It appeared Covington may have taken down Usman however it was not counted by the UFC stat-keepers despite UFC future Hall-of-Famer Daniel Cormier citing it as one.
Usman was credited for stuffing all 10 takedowns from Covington.
Round four may have been the best from Covington as he kept moving forward, catching Usma in another exchange followed by a big body kick.
Near the end of the round, Usman was wobbled by a Covington flurry.
Perhaps tied at two rounds apiece, heading into the fifth Usman got the first momentum shift as a big punch almost knocked out the mouthpiece of his opponent.
Covington would fire back and even look for a takedown but to no avail.
He even suffered an inadvertent eye poke from the champion in the last minute of the fight.
Following the final horn, the two shared a special moment where respect was given through a camera microphone that picked up the audio.
Usman now has 19-fight win streak including going 15-0 in the UFC. This was his third title defense of the year.
In addition, he is now one title defense shy from tying middleweight legend Anderson Silva (6) for first all-time.
Namajunas outpoints Weili to split-decision win in rematch to retain
Many fight fans expected a full 25-minute war between strawweight heavy-hitters Rose Namajunas (11-4) and Zhang Weili (21-3) in their first fight.
What they received was a dominant, quick finish of the champion Weili as Namajunas became the first-ever two-time champion for the division.
This time around, Namajunas retained her belt with a split decision win over Weili in the second bout.
The scorecards were scattered as two of the judges gave each fighter the fight three rounds to two. The final judge scored the fight four to one or 49-46 for the champion, securing her victory as her opponent clapped along with the decision.
Weili was heavy on the low kicks early in the fight, stalling any Namajunas offense, even coming away with a takedown.
As the round concluded, a slip from Weili created an opening for a big incoming shot from Namajunas.
Round two saw both fighters miss with big swings before Namajunas was caught and rocked with a left hand.
The champion would stay composed and get the takedown before ending the frame in top position.
More fluidity followed for Namajunas as she was finding success with low kicks and right hands, stumbling Weili in moments.
Weili would rebound and land a stiff left hook before swapping positions as her opponent the previous round and she ended the round on top.
The fourth round saw the challenger secure her fifth takedown of the fight and even attempted to get in position for a rear-naked choke.
Namajunas would scramble to top position and would finish the round there, tallying more than two minutes of ground control.
The last round saw Namajunas explode for her second takedown of the fight in as many attempts.
More domination followed as Rose would end the round in favorable position yet again.
Namajunas has now won all four of her rematches while she sends Weili to her first losing streak of her career at two fights.
Weili had won 21 straight fights after losing her debut before running into Namajunas.
Gaethje wins war versus Chandler
Moving the lightweight collision between Justin Gaethje (23-3) and Michael Chandler (22-7) to the first fight of the main card proved to be an all-around great decision.
From trainer Trevor Wittman to the UFC itself, this decision forced fans into their seats bright and early and they were treated with a war at 155-pounds.
Heavy calf kicks came in bunches early from both sides along with haymakers galore.
The exchanges helped grow the legend of Gaethje’s chin as he was blasted by the man known as “Iron.”
The legend grew larger when Gaethje dropped Chandler with an uppercut in the second round, resulting in a rushed wrestling attempt from his opponent.
In-between wild exhanges and wrestling scrambles, the pair would share smiles at various points throughout the fight.
Gaethje was poked in the eye prior to the finish of the second round, much to his dismay with referee Mike Beltran.
After being 0-for-4 on takedown attempts prior, Chandler slammed Gaethje to the canvas however, he couldn’t keep the former interim champ from getting back to his feet.
It was all hugs and smiles after the fight from a bloodied Chandler and heavy-breathing Gaethje.
Gaethje won every round on one judges scorecards while he won two of the three on the other two before walking away with a unanimous decision win, almost guaranteeing a championship bout in his next outing.
Hometown heroes go out on shields
Three East Coast legends fell short on the biggest UFC card of the year and perhaps in history.
Bantamweight Frankie Edgar, lightweight Al Iaquinta and heavyweight Gian Villante all were finished in their respective bouts.
Edgar, a Toms River, New Jersey native, was met with a front-kick to the chin from bantamweight contender Marlon “Chito” Vera.
Despite the expected stoppage, Edgar showed displeasure with the outcome and even took it with him into the postfight press conference.
Iaquinta, a New York native and resident, welcomed a potential war with fellow lightweight Bobby Green.
What he received was possibly the best version of Green, who finished him inside of three minutes of the first round.
Villante, a New York native and resident, nearly forced the fight to the third round but was stopped via perhaps the highlight of the night.
Heavyweight Chris Barnett got his first win of the year in two tries, stunning Villante and the crowd with a spinning wheel kick in the second round.
That move would finish the fight and the career of Villante as this was his retirement fight.
After the fight, Barnett opted to use his postfight octagon microphone time to acknowledge Villante’s toughness and his career.
**Three fighters made impressive debuts during the UFC 268 card as well including welterweight Ian Garry, middleweights Chris Curtis and Alex Pereira
Garry (8-0) stayed perfect as withstood the hailstorm from previously undefeated welterweight Jordan Williams, knocking him out with a counter-right hand with one second left in the first round.
Curtis (27-8) also got a first-round finish, this time his TKO stoppage came against knockout specialist Phil Hawes.
Pereira (4-1) needed the second round to get his finish but it took less than 20 seconds into that frame to get it.
He finished Andrea Michallidis and helped to further the whispers that are now full-blown yells as Pereira comes over the UFC already owning a knockout win over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in kickboxing.