UFC 296 concluded the year’s UFC schedule with a mix of anticipation and unexpected outcomes. Despite its somewhat underwhelming main event, the night was not short of significant developments in the UFC landscape. Here are the major takeaways from Saturday night:
Leon Edwards Retains Title
In a surprisingly tepid main event, Leon Edwards successfully defended his title. The fight lacked the expected intensity, with Edwards maintaining control throughout. His strategy effectively neutralized Colby Covington’s strengths, leading to a unanimous decision victory.
Colby Covington: The End of a Chapter
Colby Covington, in his third attempt at a championship bout, failed to capitalize on his renowned pressure and ground game. Edwards’ leg kicks and precision striking visibly affected Covington, who only found his stride by the fourth round. This loss, at the age of 35, might signal the end of Covington’s championship aspirations. His career trajectory suggests that while he overcame past-prime fighters, he struggled against prime contenders like Edwards and Usman.
Leon Edwards: A Proven Champion
Leon Edwards’ victory solidified his status as a top-tier welterweight. Already notable for his wins over Usman, Edwards extended his impressive win streak, showcasing his skill and resilience against high-caliber opponents. Edwards has proven himself to be more than just a titleholder; he’s a formidable force in the welterweight division.
Tony Ferguson: Time to Reflect
Tony Ferguson’s continued struggles in the octagon were evident as Paddy Pimblett dominated him over three rounds. At 39 and on a seven-fight losing streak, Ferguson’s legendary status within UFC is the only factor keeping him in the competition. However, the declining performances indicate it might be time for Ferguson to consider retirement.
Shavkat Rakhmonov: A Rising Champion
Shavkat Rakhmonov’s victory over Wonderboy Thompson marked a significant milestone, as he became the first to submit Thompson in the division. With an unblemished record of 18-0, Rakhmonov’s dominance suggests he is on a fast track to a championship opportunity. His potential face-off against the current champion, possibly at a landmark event like UFC 300, is highly anticipated.
UFC 296, while lacking in main event spectacle, provided clear insights into the trajectories of several fighters. Edwards and Rakhmonov emerged as undeniable forces, while the futures of Covington and Ferguson seem uncertain. As the UFC moves forward, these developments will undoubtedly shape the landscape of the welterweight division.
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