Usman made the fifth defence of his welterweight title by beating Colby Covington for the second time whilst Rose Namajunas outpointed Weili Zhang in their rematch
Kamaru Usman outpointed Colby Covington to retain his welterweight title whilst Rose Namajunas did likewise against Weili Zhang to keep hold of her strawweight belt at UFC 268.
Usman was defending his belt against Covington for the second time having stopped the brash American two years ago.
And a dominant opening two rounds proved enough to edge out his bitter rival at Madison Square Garden.
“I know there was a lot of trash talk and bad blood and I’m sure theres still going to be some after tonight, but this guy is a tough son of a b****.
“He’s a as tough as s***; I wanted to get crazy and get him out o there but I knew he would creep back into it.”
The main event began tentatively with little action taking place in the first round.
Usman was measured in his striking and was landing the harder shots, however, as he upped the pace in the second round to twice drop Covington.
Covington looked deflated on his stool but enjoyed a much better third round, upping his striking output and beginning to land on the champion.
The challenger’s success continued into the fourth round as the fight started to heat up with Covington landing a big uppercut at the bell.
Covington likely needed a finish heading into the final round, but Usman controlled the pace and did enough to earn the unanimous decision nod by scores of 48-47 twice and 49-46.
In the co-main event, Namajunas and Zhang met six months after their first fight ended in former’s favour in the first round.
The opening session of the rematch saw little action with Zhang eventually slamming Namajunas to the mat and following up with ground and pound as ‘Thug’ defended well.
Zhang was peppering away with leg kicks and stunned Namajunas with a left hand in round two and a scramble at the end of the third round saw Zhang mount Namajunas just as the bell sounded.
Namajunas had a better fourth round scrambling well on the mat to end up on top of Zhang and chip away with short shots.
The final round saw the champion take Zhang down and control her for the entire round, doing enough to earn the split-decision victory.
Earlier, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar suffered another KO loss as Marlon Vera earned up one of the biggest wins of his carer.
Edgar worked well on the inside against Vera in the opening round and utilised his superior wrestling against the Ecuadorian.
Vera stunned Edgar with a flying knee in the second round, but ‘The Answer’ recovered well and fired back with shots of his own.
As it seemed Vera would be cruising to a decision win, he split the guard of Edgar with a front kick that dropped the former champion and concluded the fight.
Contender Series standout Billy Quarantillo faced a big step up in competition against Shane Burgos, but would come up short against the ranked featherweight.
Quarantillo opened up with a hectic pace the two men stood toe-to-toe and traded in the pocket for the whole round.
Burgos has Quarantillo badly hurt at the end of the second round as Quarantillo could barely stand on his injured left leg.
Quarantillo’s leg impeded him for the entirety of the third round as he desperately tried to take the fight to the mat.
Burgos capitalised on Quarantillo’s injury to dictate the pace and steer the fight in his favour.
Opening the main card was a three-round barnburner between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, as Gaethje won by unanimous decision in a Fight of the Year contender.
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After the opening bell sounded, the two stood in the pocket throwing with reckless abandon.
Chandler had Gaethje hurt as he pressed for the finish, but the chin of Gaethje held up as he turned the tide by hurting Chandler as the epic first round came to a close.
Gaethje dropped Chandler in the second round with an uppercut, but Chandler desperately held on to stall Gaethje’s follow up shots.
The third round was equally as violent, Chandler walking through Gaethje’s punches and calling for more from the former champion.
Despite being thrown to the mat on his head, Gaethje finished the fight on top as the two embraced at the final bell.