Woodley vs. Usman: Did Matchmakers Get it Right?

The co-main event for UFC 235 was recently revealed to include second ranked contender Kamaru Usman challenging incumbent welterweight champ Tyron Woodley. (Poster Credit: UFC Twitter)

Yesterday’s MMA news cycle was dominated by recent fight announcements with Jon Jones now set to meet Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235, Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes made official, and Rose Namajunas looking to defend her title against Jessica Andrade at UFC 237.

Also announced was that Tyron Woodley (19-3, 1 NC) will be defending his belt against Kamaru Usman (14-1), added to an already stacked UFC 235 card. Woodley fought through a tough 2018 in which injuries limited the Mizzou product to just one appearance, where he was able to finish top prospect Darren Till by D’Arce choke late in the second round of their UFC 227 main event.

While Woodley was largely inactive in the Ocatagon over the past year, Usman weathered a storm of tough opponents and rounded out a strong year with three wins. He was able to stave off all 15 of Demian Maia’s takedown attempts in their main event booking in May while also outlanding the former title challenger 97-33 in total strikes according to FightMetric. In another impressive showing, yet again a main event, Usman outmatched former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos in the TUF 28 Season Finale and carried a 227-84 strike differential as well as hitting 12/18 takedowns.

For many following the sport, the announcement that Usman would be stepping up to face the champ made sense largely due to the fact that “The Nigerian Nightmare” had an incredible year previously and also served as a back-up for the UFC 227 main event; however, this would all become overshadowed by former interim welterweight champ, and number one contender, Colby Covington (14-1) and his bid to climb to the top.

Covington was given the opportunity to present his side of the story on Monday and pulled no punches in offering his opinion on the matter.

“I think there’s some, ugh, things going on behind the scenes that, that people don’t know about yet,” said Covington in an interview with Luke Thomas on “The MMA Hour”. “So I guess, you know, some managers have a little bit more pull than other managers and, ugh, you know the UFC wants to devalue their product.”

Covington went on to criticize the promotion, Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz, and went as far as to call for his release from the UFC if he won’t be afforded an opportunity at the belt.

“I’m gonna sit and wait until I get what I was promised,” said Covington. “And if I don’t get what I (was) promised, then you know, then they’re gonna have to make a decision. They’re gonna have to start, you know, I don’t know, release me.”

Covington’s staunch antics and hype have drawn the ire of many, but in the not-so-distant past he served as an ambassador of the sport. A well-known supporter of the President of the United States, Covington earned the opportunity, upon becoming the interim welterweight champion, to visit the White House along with Dana White in August. Shortly thereafter Covington went through surgery to repair a deviated septum as well as chronic sinusitis, which put him out of commission this fall and seemingly out of favour with the promotion.

While a polarizing figure, Covington has matched Usman with equally impressive victories and currently boasts a six fight win streak including both of his last two wins coming over common opponents Maia and dos Anjos. While the sentiment has gone back and forth, Covington’s snub and subsequent request for release have many questioning which fighter is more deserving of a title shot.

In your opinion, did matchmakers get it right?

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