Though there have been a lot of special main cards this year, UFC 268 has the potential to be the best one yet. Taking place on November 6th in Madison Square Garden, this main card is flat out stacked with talent, history, and legacy as two champions seek to defend their belts while others look to stake their claims for a potential title shot.
Characterizing this event is the well-known UFC coach Trevor Wittman. Following Wittman’s commitment to running ONX Sports in 2016 (a company that sells training equipment personally made by Wittman), he still decided to dedicate his invaluable knowledge and experience towards three of the finest mixed martial artists in the UFC.
Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas, and Justin Gaethje highlight the top three fights of the main card and will each illustrate the influence and insight Wittman has bestowed upon them in preparation for their matchups.
But what makes this card that much more special is which mixed martial artist each Wittman disciple will take on in this highly-coveted event. Usman will fight his toughest challenger once again in Colby Covington; Namajunas will rematch the former Strawweight Champion in Zhang Weili; while Gaethje is up against an explosive Top 5 lightweight title contender in Michael Chandler.
However, from these three intense showdowns on Saturday, only three mixed martial artists will come away with a victory, belt in hand or not. Without further ado, here are the three fighters that stand to have the best chance at walking away with a win following UFC 268.
3. Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler
Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje:
Justin Gaethje is one of the UFC’s premier knockout specialists. In fact, ever since he stepped into the octagon in 2017, all of Gaethje’s five wins have come by KO/TKO. His incredible striking package of raw power, volume, and precision have led him to demolish most of his opponents ruthlessly, leaving no room for the judges to jeopardize his performances.
Following his four-fight KO/TKO win streak that went from August of 2018 to May of 2020, Gaethje’s streak came to an end at the hands of the undefeated former lightweight champion in Khabib Nurmagomedov last October. Losing by submission, Gaethje hasn’t fought anyone since and is certainly looking to get back into the win column following a year of rest and recovery.
“Iron” Michael Chandler:
Michael Chandler is still relatively new to the UFC. At age 35, the Missouri native really established his credentials in mixed martials over his decade-long tenure in Bellator. During his time there, the three-time Bellator lightweight champion took out top-tier talents in the likes of Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, and Patricky Freire.
Stepping into the UFC this year in January, Chandler really put himself on the map with a tremendous clip-shot KO/TKO against lightweight Dan Hooker who’s currently ranked 6th overall in the division. His knockout was so impressive that it landed him an instant title shot against seasoned veteran Charles Oliveira a few months later. Though he ended up losing that showdown in the second round, Chandler nearly pulled off a technical knockout just as the first round came to a close.
From his one-punch knockout power to his wrestling strength on the mat, Chandler has all the tools he needs to succeed. And in just two fights, has proven why he belongs in the Top 5 of this division.
Winner: Justin Gaethje
Despite the fact that Chandler just started his UFC career this year, he brings a lot of heart and upside. Whether he chooses to keep the fight standing or takes it to the mat, Chandler can pull off the upset, but a lot of key components will need to fall in place for that to happen.
That said, since his back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier nearly four years ago, Gaethje has grown into his potential as a mixed martial artist. Outside of Poirier, his striking is unmatched in this division right now, delivering combos that are overwhelming and very damaging. Even if Chandler does decide to push it to the mat, Gaethje has an established wrestling background and is quite versatile on the ground. When all is said and done, Gaethje’s number two overall in this division for good reason. And expect him to come out on top with an authoritative victory on Saturday.
2. Rose Namajunas vs Zhang Weili
“Thug” Rose Namajunas:
Rose Namajunas has made a name for herself. Not only within the women’s strawweight division but in Women’s UFC history period. At only age 29, Namajunas has already managed to capture the strawweight belt twice, seizing it for the second time back in April of this year against none other than former champion Zhang Weili.
What makes Namajunas so talented is the lethal precision of her striking combined with her quickness and strength on the ground. Though Namajunas is recognized more for her impressive KO/TKO’s against Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she has notable submission wins against the likes of Michelle Waterson, Paige Van Zant, and Angela Hill.
“Magnum” Zhang Weili:
Ever since China native Zhang Weili set foot into the octagon back in 2018, she’s been a force to contend with and imposingly so. Following three straight victories against Danielle Taylor, Jessica Aguilar, and Tecia Torres, Weili overthrew Andrade for the belt with her first UFC KO/TKO before brutally crushing Jedrzejczyk for her first title defense in what was viewed as one of the greatest women’s MMA fights to date.
But up until the knockout she received against Namajunas, Weili never suffered a loss in the UFC. And bouncing back from that kind of adversity, particularly against the same opponent that delivered that first loss, is a really big obstacle to surmount. Though she has the endurance, grit, and remarkable striking power to take down anyone in this division, Weili will have to deliver her best yet if she has any hopes of beating Namajunas.
Winner: Rose Namajunas
At age 32, Weili is in her prime and brings a diverse skillset that has proven to be lethal. To add to it, her striking power is arguably the best in the division. And considering her significant striking accuracy is 49.74%, the damage she inflicts with each shot she lands is simply brutal. The former strawweight champion has everything at her disposal to take the belt back and has the toughness to go the long haul.
However, Namajunas has only suffered one loss in her last six fights, which consisted of a body slam knockout she received at the hands of Jessica Andrade (who’s now a women’s flyweight contender). But since that tough setback, she’s transformed into a new, dangerous version of herself that has become awfully difficult to slow down, defeating Andrade in a rematch before rocking Weili with a mean leg-kick knockout back in April.
Though this has the makings of a close fight, Namajunas is poised to come out on top once again. Carrying a significant edge with her experience in the UFC, Namajunas just so happens to be really good in rematch fights, defeating Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision in their second matchup and Andrade via split decision in their second clash. Expect “Thug” Rose to do the same against Weili when they meet once again on Saturday.
1. Kamaru Usman vs Colby Covington
Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman:
The best men’s pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the UFC right now, is Kamaru Usman and deservedly so. From his consistent fight appearances to the level of competition he’s defeated within his division, Usman has certainly made a fair case for establishing himself as one of the greatest UFC talents this sport has ever seen and has yet to suffer a loss since stepping into the octagon in 2015.
What makes Usman so special starts with his unparalleled, all-encompassing level of athleticism. In sports as a whole, this kind of high-octane athleticism can significantly elevate an individual’s rise in success and potential. To provide some current-day examples outside of the UFC, we’ve seen this with LeBron James and Giannis Antetokoumpo in the NBA to players like Derrick Henry and Aaron Donald in the NFL.
Usman has that same level of athleticism that influences his success in so many different ways, be it with his talent on the ground or with his striking. As a result, he’s become extremely difficult to defeat and breakthrough, taking down Top 10 contenders one after the other over the last two years.
Colby “Chaos” Covington:
If you put aside the drama, the trash-talking, and the political controversy he brings to the table, and you just evaluate him as a mixed martial artist, Colby Covington has developed into a special talent in the welterweight division and takes his work very seriously.
Over his seasoned MMA career, Covington has managed to go 16-2 and won seven fights in a row prior to his loss to Usman in 2019. When it comes to the toughest and most versatile opponent Usman has faced in his career, the fighter that comes to mind right away is Covington. From his piercing jabs to his elusive agility to his astute vision, Covington is truly one tough striker to matchup against and has all the tools at his disposal to succeed on the ground as well.
However, the concern with Covington entering this matchup is twofold. First, it’s important to take a look at the opponents Covington has faced over his UFC career. Though he has beaten prominent welterweight names like Demian Maia, Max Griffin, Rafael Dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler, and most recently Tyron Woodley, none of these fighters are currently in the Top 15 and some of them (Maia, Lawler, and Woodley), he fought well after their respective prime years. In fact, Covington hasn’t fought any of the Top 15 fighters in the current welterweight division outside of Usman.
Secondly, Covington hasn’t been as proactive as he used to and only logged in one fight in nearly two years. Although it might not seem to be much, being away for that long could throw off his ability to find the success and rhythm he needs against a foe who’s been far more active and is more in tune with the talent level of this division.
A key part of becoming great in this sport starts with work ethic and preparation. Covington has that down pat and works his tail off to refine his skills and train for his fights. But the second vital part to being one of the best in the UFC is by putting your skills as well as all of your hard work and training to the test consistently against some of the strongest your division has to offer in order to grow and improve.
Usman has completed both parts. Not only does he put so much dedication, effort, and energy into beating on his craft. But at the same time, he’s stepped up to the occasion and consistently tested his greatness against some of the best this welterweight division has, taking down Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns earlier this year.
Despite fulfilling part one, Covington has come up short with part two. Though Woodley was the former welterweight champion, fighting him in 2020 when he’s 38 years old and well past his prime wasn’t enough to prepare Covington for what he’s going to be up against in his rematch with Usman. In each of his last three fights, Usman has only gotten better. Though this fight has everything to go the distance, expect Usman to secure a major title defense victory over Covington once again.