After UFC 272 Drubbing, Colby Covington Is the UFC’s Undisputed King of Hype

Colby Covington

Colby CovingtonDavid Becker/Getty Images

It’s one of the most familiar sports narratives: an athlete on a quest to prove the pundits wrong.

Sometimes, though, the pundits get it right.

The latter happened Saturday in the main event at UFC 272. And as a result, it appears we’re all stuck with Colby “Chaos” Covington for the foreseeable future.

That blood feud with Jorge Masvidal was a lot more potent in the news cycle than the actual field of competition. Covington battered, bullied and belittled his former friend over five rounds that started to run together sometime around the middle of the first.

He won by just about every metric you can think of, but the only stat that mattered was the 49-46, 50-44, 50-45 unanimous decision victory presented by the three cage-side judges in Las Vegas.

Depending on who you are and what you think of Covington’s public persona, this result was what you had hoped for, feared or both. It was certainly what plenty of media types predicted, including our entire combat sports team right here at Bleacher Report—and not just what would happen but how it would happen.

Covington would have the wrestling advantage, the popular line of reasoning went. Masvidal had the standup but wouldn’t be able to keep Covington off of him and would wear down into the championship rounds, where Covington and his inhuman cardio thrive.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.

Covington (top) and Masvidal

Covington (top) and MasvidalDavid Becker/Getty Images

The former interim champ set the tone from the get-go, pressuring Masvidal back against the cage and looking for takedowns from there. Covington got it to the ground where he’d try to take Masvidal’s back, land ground-and-pound and hunt for a rear-naked choke. This became a familiar pattern.  

Referee Herb Dean warned Covington about strikes to the back of the head. In the first, Covington racked up 3:32 of control time, per official UFC stats.

The second round was easily Masvidal’s best, outlanding Covington 31-20 in significant strikes. It began with Dean giving Covington a “hard warning” for an eye poke he’d missed in the preceding round. Masvidal countered a takedown attempt with sharp elbows. Dean called timeout after Covington landed a knee to Masvidal’s groin. But the round ended with Covington in control.

It went on like this. Covington clung to Masvidal on the ground, not giving him a millimeter of separation in which to try for an explosion. He fought mean, landing sharp elbows here and there and appearing to push and maul Masvidal around on the ground. He very much seemed to enjoy cranking Masvidal’s neck halfway around his head as he looked for the choke, though it’s hard to say how hard he was actually looking.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 05: Colby Covington (L) and Jorge Masvidal stared down each other between rounds in their welterweight fight during UFC 272 at T-Mobile Arena on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

David Becker/Getty Images

“I was off with the wrestling,” Masvidal told UFC broadcaster and podcaster Joe Rogan after the fight. “I needed to wrestle harder. … Sorry to my kids; they’re the only people I’ll say sorry to. My wrestling wasn’t there today. I was flat.”

Covington was better, plain and simple. His takedowns, his control on the ground, his work in transitions and scrambles, even his boxing was all strong and all fueled by stamina that Masvidal simply couldn’t match.

His only true moment of danger came in the fourth when Masvidal dropped him to one knee with a right hook, but Masvidal, be it out of exhaustion or wariness or some other reason, failed to press the issue.

smoogy @smoogymma

Even the aspect of MMA Masvidal is the strongest at has abandoned him. He got old all of a sudden

To put a bow on it, Covington said before the fight he wanted to make Masvidal “suffer,” and that’s exactly what he did. He ultimately outlanded Masvidal 94-67 while piling up 16:14—a full three-round fight’s worth—of control time.

After the fight, Covington made an interesting callout, and of course, immediately started to stir the pot.

As for the fight, that’s a pretty big callout, but Covington has earned the right to be taken seriously when making such requests.

If Covington wasn’t a star before, he certainly is after whooping Masvidal for 25 grueling minutes. His appeal was obvious coming in, given that this all-time great grudge match merited a rare non-title main event. But now it’s in another gear.

And here’s the thing: Every match is a grudge match for Covington. He’s not the first to realize that heat sells tickets, but he does seem extraordinarily good at it, doesn’t he? The enmity between these two was real and well-documented, but so it was and is with champ Kamaru Usman, whose two defeats of Covington are the only defeats on Covington’s record going back to 2015. Same thing with Tyron Woodley.

Ever since Covington openly started channeling the MAGA frequency, he’s dedicated himself to what one might call a “gimmick.” The one that saw him take public aim at Masvidal’s ex-wife, or his insulting comments regarding Brazilian people or giving away spoilers to movies online. Way too many people found out Han Solo died through Covington’s Twitter account. Thank goodness for the block button.

It’s also the gimmick that serially lands him pay-per-view headlining slots. Like it or not, it works, and more importantly, so does his game. Is it more important that he’s the best non-Usman welterweight out there or one of the two or three best trash talkers in the game? It depends on your point of view. Saturday’s victory showed that both will remain in place for a long time to come. It will work until someone proves it can’t.

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