Colby Covington told anybody who would listen that he was going to walk out of Chicago with the interim UFC welterweight title.
Few believed him and wrote the brash American Top Team product off as a man who was simply trying to oversell himself. But in the co-main event of UFC 225 against Rafael dos Anjos, the former All American collegiate wrestler proved his worth by taking a hard fought unanimous decision and having his first taste of UFC gold.
Covington’s strategy was a simple, but deliberate one. He refused to give dos Anjos space to operate and sought to utilize his wrestling to smother his opponent.
For the first three rounds, Covington pressured the former UFC lightweight champion and pressed him against the cage and secured several takedowns. Dos Anjos tried to create distance to deliver strikes, but Covington refused to back off. Dos Anjos had his moments, but they never caused Covington to switch his strategy.
It was a suffocating performance, albeit not visually pleasing, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Colby Covington has won six fights in a row and is now in position to challenge Tyron Woodley to unify the titles after hearing scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 in his favor.
Covington pushed the pace from the opening bell and was glued to RDA in the first frame. The Brazilian demonstrated exceptional takedown defense, but he struggled to prevent Covington from initiating the clinch. Things continued in the same manner in Round 2. Covington scored an early takedown but RDA found his way back to his feet. When space permitted, dos Anjos would land the cleaner strikes. But Covington wasn’t laying down and engaged in a striking battle when he felt it was necessary. But as soon as dos Anjos sought to take a breath, Covington was all over him. The third round was Covington’s best as he kept RDA glued to the fence and snuck in some strikes to secure the round.
Dos Anjos had a strong fourth and turned the tide by securing takedowns and being the aggressor. A clean punch that opened the round may have put other welterweights down, but Covington refused to go away easily and closed the round with a takedown and in top position. The final frame saw Covington back to doing what he does best, clinching and smothering. With RDA visibly slowing down, the fight appeared to be close to secured. But a wild exchange to close the fight brought the fans to their feet.
Overall, it wasn’t pretty but it was Covington effectively outworking and bullying Dos Anjos en route to the decision. As always, Covington had some words to say afterward. He promised to take the title to President Donald Trump and then challenged Tyron Woodley to face him for the “real” title.
“This is the real championship belt,” Covington said. “If you have something to say, come see me, [expletive].”
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