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This might be one of the best years for combat sports simply because of the amount of humongous MMA and boxing cards taking place on the same weekend. Once again the worldwide leader of MMA shared a stage with a boxing icon, as UFC 268 and Canelo Alvarez captured the night for sports fans around the world.
Saturday 10pm ET, UFC 268
• HIT Kamaru Usman (-290) wins via Decisions vs. Colby Covington (+220): Kamaru Usman is officially lapping his competition in the UFC with back to back wins in rematch fights, and the Nigerian native is being compared to MMA royalty after his spectacular performance against rival Colby Covington at UFC 268. Outside of a few grappling sequences, Saturday’s main event was very similar to the first fight at UFC 245 where the two outstanding wrestlers stood and traded blow for blow. And like their first fight, Usman came out on top by unleashing devastatingly powerful punches that took the steam off of Covington’s engine. This rivalry is closed, for now, and Usman continues his reign atop the UFC’s welterweight division as he is one win away from tying all-time great Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive wins to start a UFC career with 16. Wow!
• HIT Rose Namajunas (+100) wins via Decision vs Zhang Weili (-130): Like her teammate and main event fighter Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas won a rematch that will silence the doubters and start the conversation about all-time ranking. Namajunas had a clean knockout of Zhang Weili back at UFC 261 and then in an encore performance on Saturday night, she won a grind-it-out type of fight. It wasn’t Namajunas’ beautiful boxing or taekwondo that got her hand raised in the rematch, it was her ability to make a huge adjustment late in the fight and dominate the fight on the mat. This win, once again, shows Namajunas’ versatile skill set, as well as her ability to perform on a big stage.
• HIT Justin Gaethje (-210) wins via Decision vs Michael Chandler (+165): If you missed Justin Gaethje being Justin Gaethje against a very formidable dance partner in Michael Chandler you missed the fight of the year. Damage, pace, and heart were just a few words to describe what unfolded between two top UFC lightweights both vying to get another crack at UFC gold. A fight that garnered more “ohs” and “ahs” from the Madison Square Garden crowd than any other fight of the night ended with both warriors embracing one another and acknowledging the three rounds of beautiful violence.
• MISS Marlon Vera (-165) wins via 3rd-Round Knockout vs. Frankie Edgar (+130): Sad day for New Jersey fight fans who had to see their guy Frankie Edgar, a former champion, get viciously knocked out in what has been a frequent occurrence during the ladder stages of Edgar’s career. Early in the fight Egar was landing some good shots on the feet and then was able to secure takedowns to handily win at least the first round, but then he started to fade. It’s out of the ordinary to see Edgar get tired and hang his mouth wide open as cardio used to be a weapon he could always rely on, yet his lack of energy is what gave Marlon Vera the chance to forge a comeback and land a devastating front kick that shut down any chance of a poetic victory for the legend Frankie Edgar.
• MISS Bobby Green (-222) wins via 1st-Round Knockout vs. Al Iaquinta (+155): It wasn’t a great night for local fighters. As previously mentioned, New Jersey native Frankie Edgar got knocked out, but so were New York natives Al Iaquinta and Gian Villante. Focusing on Iaquinta’s fight opponent, Bobby Green used the MSG stage and Iaquinta’s name to establish that he’s a real threat in the division and that he will go toe to toe with anyone regardless of pedigree. It was a huge bounce-back win for Green as well, who was in a brutal battle in his last fight against elite muay thai striker Rafael Fiziev. I believe the book isn’t closed on Iaquinta in this always opportune division.
Saturday 11pm ET, Canelo Alvarez vs. Caleb Plant
• HIT Canelo to Win Fight (-1250): Once again, King Canelo dominates a willing opponent to defend his throne and pad his #1 pound-for-pound ranking. Now, after 57 career wins you’d think it’d be hard to learn something new about a highly-dissected fighter like Canelo, yet he showed that he will not be intimidated by no man regardless of mental warfare attempts! Many fans were clinging to the fact that Canelo might have shown a lack of discipline in the initial press conference when the two fighters got into a scrap while wearing street clothes, but Canelo stayed the course on fight night and kept his legacy intact with a phenomenal performance. After keeping his defense tight to avoid counter shots and painting Plant into corners, Canelo really opened up late in the fight to land some heavy bombs that sent Plant to the canvas. It started with aggressive body work to break down Plant’s defense and ended with Canelo breaking the younger boxer’s spirit when he opened up with vicious uppercuts and hooks that sent Plant falling into the ropes in the 11th round for the TKO victory.
• MISS Fight Goes The Distance (+160): Deep down I had a great feeling that the undefeated and dynamic Caleb Plant would be able to stretch this fight to a decision. Though he made it into the 11th round, he needed to use the same mental warfare tactics that got him to the dance. Normally Plant is dancing and doing exaggerated movements to get into his opponent’s head, but against Canelo, he tried to outbox one of the greatest boxers in history all to no avail. Canelo was in full control of the entire fight; trapping Plant in corners, working in power shots, and most importantly, being larger than life when the lights shined the brightest.
More combat sports action coming your way this weekend with UFC Fight Night 197, Bellator 271 in MMA and David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui in Boxing!
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