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UFC 272 takeaways: Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal was beginning of the end to a welterweight era

Colby Covington is a man of his word. The former interim welterweight champion backed up his trash talk and dominated Jorge Masvidal in UFC 272’s lopsided main event, outclassing his former friend and teammate to win a unanimous decision on Saturday night. Between Covington’s victory, the uncertain next step of both headliners, and an array of impressive performances throughout the card, there are plenty of threads to tug on after UFC 272.

Let’s hit our six biggest takeaways.

1. From the moment the UFC booked Saturday’s main event, seemingly everyone with a Twitter account predicted a cardio-heavy, wrestling-aplenty, volume-punching decision for Colby Covington. It was that straightforward. Outside of one fateful flying knee, Jorge Masvidal has historically struggled with high-level wrestlers. It’s been the same story throughout his career. Likewise, no one in the welterweight division other than Kamaru Usman has proven capable of stopping Covington’s pressure, so it’s hard to feel as if we came away from UFC 272 learning anything new about its two main players.

Covington is still the No. 2 in the division without an immediate path back to the title. Masvidal is still the fun, popular name who’s going to get decisioned by any wrestler worth their salt.

No, if nothing else, UFC 272 had all the feeling of a penultimate episode to a long-running TV series, where it may not have been the end of something, but you could feel the end coming. Four of the past five UFC welterweight title challenges were represented by Saturday’s headliners. That’s nearly three years worth of recycling the same names in and out of the title picture — a period where every conversation about 170 pounds revolved around the trio of these two men and Usman, and the relationships they all shared. Now, with each of those relationships finally reaching some level of finality, we can all move on.

That’s a good thing. Usman still reigns supreme, but he’s also a 34-year-old with bad knees who’s spoken openly of retirement over the past few years. Who knows how much longer he’ll have? A new crop of contenders is bearing down at 170 pounds, and their time won’t be denied much longer; talents like Leon Edwards, Khamzat Chimaev, Vicente Luque, Sean Brady and others are — at last — going to get their shots. The result of Covington vs. Masvidal wasn’t going to change that, but in a strange way, seeing the ex-teammates finally answer their own questions still felt as if it closed the loop opened in 2019 at UFC 245.

But where do Covington and Masvidal go from here?

The Dustin Poirier fight Covington called for — while, of course, taking potshots at Poirier’s wife and daughter — isn’t going to happen anytime soon, for one, because Poirier isn’t going to give Covington the satisfaction of making a single penny off his name, and two, because in his heart of hearts, Poirier probably knows it’s a terrible idea to move up in weight just to fight one of the two best pressure wrestlers in a heavier division. The callout was a good thought; it’s just not happening. With Covington already dismissing a change in weight class of his own, his best course now is likely to follow the Joseph Benavidez blueprint, hope to wait Usman out, and eventually sneak in a title run once he’s gone, as Benavidez nearly did before Deiveson Figueiredo twice sent him to hell.

A bizarre subplot to UFC 272 was that Masvidal actually became Covington’s first win over a fighter currently ranked in the UFC’s welterweight top 15 — a direct byproduct of how long the aforementioned Usman-Covington-Masvidal triangle has jammed up the division. For Covington, now feels like the time to finally start adding names to that list.

As for Masvidal, he’ll still be one of the most popular fights in the sport, because that’s how fame works in MMA — it’s almost impossible to attain, but once you have it, you generally have it for life. Now would be the perfect time to strike for a Conor McGregor mega fight, as it’d be a chance to refresh the “Gamebred” brand against a big-time striker who isn’t going to wrestle. But considering that McGregor may waltz straight into a title shot off two TKO losses, the idea of Masvidal taking a bit of a break to reassess an ever-shifting landscape and wait for the right opportunity to pop up may not be the worst play either.

However it works out, with a new contract in hand, Masvidal has his options.

2. There was no real reason for UFC 272’s co-main event to stay a five-round fight after the loss of Rafael Fiziev — and just because Moicano mounted some sort of a late charge, it doesn’t mean that bout had to continue past a point of no return. In boxing, the massacre dos Anjos was putting on his countryman would’ve been stopped by someone — the referee, the doctor, Moicano’s corner, anyone — by the end of the third round.

Did Moicano go out on his shield? Yes. Did he earn plenty of people’s respect by gutting it out as long as he did? Of course. But here’s a dirty little secret: That respect? It’s fake. It doesn’t mean anything. It isn’t going to pay his bills, and it certainly isn’t going to help him in any tangible way 10 years down the line. Not every fight needs to be framed as some sort of moral victory. Moicano suffered the kind of beating that can take years off a career while losing any sense of upward momentum he once had. Sure, he’ll get called a “warrior” by a few Instagram randoms for the next few days, but at what cost? Just look at his face. There were no positives here. MMA may have a rocky relationship with throwing in the towel, but in no world is Moicano better off this Sunday morning for having taken the extra abuse.

All that aside, major credit is still due for Rafael dos Anjos, who handled a tough week like the absolute professional he’s always been. Sixteen months was way too long to not have the former lightweight champ in our lives. He called to fight Masvidal for the BMF belt next — and honestly, when you look at his résumé and his strength of schedule since 2012, you won’t find many veterans more deserving of the payday — but I still love the gimmick and genuine stakes of the Fiziev matchup. Let’s run that back and hope for the best.

3. We tend to heap superlatives upon our athletes on nights like UFC 272, waxing poetic about words like bravery and courage if only because participation in fight sports requires a mental strength most of us average folks can’t comprehend.

But what Ukraine’s Maryna Moroz pulled off on Saturday? It goes beyond words.

After her dominant second-round submission of Mariya Agapova, an emotional Moroz spoke in detail about what has been the hardest week of her life — being stuck half a world away from everyone she loves, watching wanton ruin and destruction rain upon her homeland, the unavoidable specter of war hanging over her every waking second ahead of her first UFC fight in two years. “Many of my friends have died right now,” Moroz said post-fight, holding back tears while explaining her concern for the safety of her mother.

That Moroz was able to block out an ongoing nightmare and simply compete at UFC 272 is laudable enough, but that she actually did so while turning in one of the most complete performances of her UFC career? Next level strength. Some fights are bigger than just a random matchup on the prelims, and this was one of them. Henry Cejudo said it best: There wasn’t a more impressive performance at UFC 272. Here’s hoping Moroz’s family makes it out OK.

4. Bryce Mitchell sauntered into Saturday off a 17-month layoff and still slapped down a mean 30-25 on Edson Barboza. No matter how you frame it, that’s a hell of a feat.

The fighting pride of Arkansas has been the forgotten man at 145 pounds in the pandemic era because of his time away — but boy howdy, that patented cook-him-to-the-bone brand of grappling certainly seems to work, huh? It’s now 6-0 for the undefeated Mitchell since the start of his UFC run, and such a monstrous win over Barboza means it’s high time to see just how high his ceiling really is. With his obvious cardio and mat advantages, I have a sneaking feeling Mitchell will be a threat to surprise a lot of very good names at 145 pounds.

There are options. If the UFC feels like it needs to see one more, give him a borderline title contender like Calvin Kattar — or if the matchmakers think he’s ready, throw him into the deep end and see what our old friend Brian Ortega is up to these days. Personally? I favor the latter. Just imagine the scrambles and grappling exchanges in that one. It’s sink or swim time for featherweight’s good ol’ boy, and y’all, I cannot wait.

(Also, before we move on, it ultimately didn’t end up mattering, but you have to love that Sal D’Amato has been doing this longer than almost every major MMA judge out there and apparently still needs to see a near-death before he hands out a 10-8 scorecard. Yeesh. It’s 2022 and our officials remain as frustratingly inconsistent as ever, even the ones who have been doing this every weekend for the last decade or two.)

5. I wasn’t big into Kevin Holland’s initial callout of Donald Cerrone, mostly because I’m not that anxious to see Cerrone continue to get his brains battered in by men much larger and younger than him — however I am very much into Holland’s second callout, which he made after walking back the Cerrone shoutout in his post-fight press conference.

“You know me, I be just talking. But I think the other ‘Cowboy’ and me should not fight, to be honest with you,” Holland said. “I think I should be fighting Daniel Rodriguez next.”

Um, yes please.

Holland was entertainment personified before his middleweight run crashed into the wall of the division’s most dominant wrestlers. Fortunately, that same eagerness to become a human meme hasn’t changed at 170 pounds, where Holland’s “eff it” mentality instantly makes him one of the most fun action fighters in the welterweight ranks. His come-from-behind win to put Alex Oliveira on a four-fight losing skid may not have inspired confidence for his chances against the elite, but Holland is going to be a mainstay on the post-fight bonus train for the next half-decade, and there’s suddenly plenty of fresh matchups to be had. Let’s get the Rodriguez fight on the books for the summer and have some fun.

6. Pour one out in advance for the poor graphic designer who lands the unenviable task of figuring out the poster kerning for the inevitable Nurmagomedov vs. Nurmagomedov bantamweight title clash between Umar Nurmagomedov and Said Nurmagomedov sometime around 2024-25 — because once Umar absorbed just one significant strike en route to squashing the always-game Brian Kelleher on Saturday’s undercard, a mere six weeks after Said’s 47-second demolition of Cody Stamann, it was never more apparent that we’re still only in the early chapters in the era of Nurmagomedov UFC dominance.

UFC 272: Kelleher v Nurmagomedov Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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