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Making the Grade: UFC 272 edition, Covington vs. Masvidal

UFC 272: Spivak v Hardy Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Not since Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor shared an octagon has a rivalry been as nasty as the one witnessed at UFC 272 when former teammates Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal went to war in the main event.

While the bad blood was all too real, the fight didn’t play out in back-and-forth fashion, as Covington largely dominated the action over five rounds before winning a lopsided unanimous decision. Covington was a heavy favorite going into the fight, but he still had to dispatch an opponent who knew him very well, yet Masvidal couldn’t really do much outside of a couple flash knockdowns that didn’t result in any serious damage done.

In the co-main event, Rafael dos Anjos spent the better part of 25 minutes beating up Renato Moicano, who stepped into the fight on less that one week’s notice after Rafael Fiziev contracted COVID-19. Moicano was more than ready for the challenge, but Dos Anjos just overwhelmed him, particularly on the ground, where the former lightweight champion bludgeoned Moicano with punches and elbows continuously throughout the fight.

There’s a lot to dig into from the pay-per-view this past Saturday night, so let’s see what passed and what failed. This is Making the Grade for UFC 272: Covington vs. Masvidal.


Rivalry Settled

Colby Covington loves to make enemies these days, but it’s hard to imagine he’s had a more intense rivalry than the one shared with former American Top Team friend and teammate Jorge Masvidal.

For all the personal shots these two took at each other in the weeks and months leading up to Saturday night, Covington was ultimately just the better fighter, with Masvidal struggling to defend takedowns and ground control over five rounds. It was a grueling performance from Covington, who outworked Masvidal in nearly every position during the fight.

While a knockout would have certainly felt better, Covington demoralizing Masvidal over 25 minutes had to feel even more difficult to overcome. At least if he was caught with a punch, Masvidal could chalk it up to bad luck and eventually call for a rematch.

Now, after losing a one-sided fight, Masvidal will have a hard time ever getting back to Covington again, while the always outspoken former interim welterweight champion can likely put this rivalry behind him once and for all.

No matter what was said between these two, Covington has proven time and again that whether you like him or not is inconsequential to his performance. He’s absolutely the best welterweight in the sport not named Kamaru Usman.

Covington’s work rate is nearly impossible to match and his ability to punish his opponents minute after minute, round after round, is probably worse than just getting caught with a haymaker and waking up staring at the lights. Instead, Masvidal spent more than 16 minutes buried underneath Covington, who was bullying him around the cage and pummeling him on the ground.

Taking away all the trash talk and the way he loves to get under an opponent’s skin, Covington is a force of nature when he’s inside that octagon, and it’s going to take an awful lot for anybody at 170 pounds to beat him outside of the reigning welterweight champion.

Rock of Ages

If there’s one thing that doesn’t get celebrated enough in mixed martial arts, it’s longevity.

Championships are great and long title reigns are even better, but there’s something to be said about a fighter who can constantly remain a top-10 talent for several years — or in the case of Rafael dos Anjos, who has been doing it for over a decade.

It’s one of the most remarkable runs in UFC history when you really start to consider the murderer’s row of talent that dos Anjos has faced throughout his career while competing at both lightweight and welterweight, arguably the two toughest divisions in the promotion. Dos Anjos has faced 10 former champions or title contenders in the UFC, and this November he’ll be celebrating his 14-year anniversary with the organization.

Of course, dos Anjos claimed the 155-pound title back in 2015 before eventually moving to 170 pounds, where he quickly earned a shot at an interim championship. At 37, he’s now back at lightweight again, where he’s rattled off two wins in a row including his unanimous decision win over Renato Moicano on Saturday night.

Originally, dos Anjos was scheduled to face Rafael Fiziev, who is a rising star at 155 pounds, but after he fell out the Brazilian essentially told the UFC to give him anybody they could get to accept the fight. He even tried to score a fight against Russian bear Islam Makhachev, who has been laying waste to his opponents lately.

Even that didn’t make dos Anjos blink, and that just speaks to the character and fortitude he’s shown so often throughout his career.

When lists about the all-time greatest fighters get put together, dos Anjos rarely hears his name mentioned — and maybe he doesn’t have the best resume in history, but a quick look at the opposition he’s faced since joining the UFC in 2008 should make anybody’s jaw drop.

Ukraine Strong

The tragedy unfolding in the Ukraine since the Russian invasion has been the biggest story across the globe, but the situation was obviously much more personal for UFC flyweight Maryna Moroz.

A native of the Ukraine, Moroz was preparing for her fight at UFC 272 while also dealing with the horrific events unfolding in her home nation, where her family and friends still reside. Despite the unbelievable turmoil she was feeling, Moroz not only managed to make it to fight night, but she put on one of her strongest performances to date while taking out former teammate Mariya Agapova.

Moroz was dominant with her grappling and submission game, completely negating whatever advantage Agapova might have felt she had on the feet. The fight ended after Moroz locked up a head-and-arm choke in the second round. Then the emotion of the moment finally overtook her.

With tears in her eyes, Moroz addressed the crowd.

It’s unreal that Moroz still managed to make it to her fight considering everything she’s dealing with right now, but the fact that she went out and soundly defeated her opponent makes it that much more awe inspiring. Moroz was rewarded with a $50,000 performance bonus as well as being showered with cheers from the crowd in Las Vegas, which surely felt great after the win.

Fighters deal with outside forces all the time that can ultimately affect a performance — sometimes it’s an injury, other times it’s personal turmoil.

Moroz had every excuse in the world to just scrap her fight and focus on what’s happening in the Ukraine, but instead she walked to the octagon, scored a victory, and left feeling the love and adoration of the entire world.


He Turned It Down

In the lead-up to UFC 272, dos Anjos lost his opponent after Fiziev tested positive for COVID-19 and there was a mad scramble to find a late replacement. The most notable name on that list was lightweight wrecking ball Makhachev, who was just days removed from a TKO win over Bobby Green in his own UFC main event.

Dos Anjos and Makhachev had been matched up numerous times in the past but the fight always fell apart before it could ever actually happen. Once Fiziev was out, Makhachev put his name into contention as a possible opponent for dos Anjos, which then led to some back and forth on social media as the fighters argued over weight class for the fight.

According to UFC president Dana White, he believed a deal was done to book the matchup, but then he claims Makhachev “turned down” the fight and ultimately Moicano was granted the opportunity. White added that because Makhachev passed on fighting dos Anjos on less than one week’s notice, he would now have to face Beneil Dariush as his next opponent rather than potentially earning a title shot later this year.

Now to be clear, Makhachev deserves at least a little bit of blame for piping up about taking the fight with dos Anjos only to have it fall apart less than a day later. That said, the fact that the UFC may punish Makhachev for that decision by forcing him to take another fight rather than giving him a title shot is utterly ridiculous.

Until contracts are signed, nothing is guaranteed, so Makhachev could have ended up facing Dariush anyways just based on timing and availability. The problem is White flat out said, ‘since he turned down this fight, we’re going to remake the Dariush fight,’ as if he’s facing recourse for opting not to take on dos Anjos just days after his previous fight ended.

Short-notice fights should always be viewed as a luxury, but never a requirement.

What does that mean exactly? It means celebrate a fighter when he or she takes a short notice opportunity, but never condemn them for turning it down, and especially don’t punish them for it.

In this case, Makhachev can absorb some public scrutiny for trying to land the fight and then not actually taking it — assuming that’s what actually happened — but to somehow deny him of a title shot (if that was the plan) is beyond egregious, and he deserves better.


It’s Time for New Material

In a sport where superstardom often trumps (no pun intended) actual wins and losses, Covington was only playing within the rules set for him when he suddenly decided to start bashing teammates and became the poster boy for the MAGA movement in MMA.

Unfortunately, Covington’s schtick hasn’t evolved, and lately his constant attacks on the wives and children of his opponents has crossed the line from trash talk to just plain trash.

In the lead-up to his fight this past weekend, Covington constantly brought up Jorge Masvidal’s ex-wife while trying to get under his skin. That’s nothing new, because Covington did much of the same to Tyron Woodley for years before they finally met in the octagon, and now he’s targeting Dustin Poirier and his family.

To make matters even worse, Covington has not only decided to take shots at Poirier’s wife — he’s also invoked his daughter, which really feels like the lowest of the low when it comes to verbal warfare.

When it gets to the point where even Dana White — a constant champion for his athletes saying pretty much anything in order to build hype for a fight — is against that type of trash talk, perhaps Covington should go back to the drawing board for some new material.

Originally taking a page out of professional wrestling, Covington went viral with his outlandish statements because people were always legitimately curious about what he might say next. At his best, Covington managed some funny — albeit at times cringey — trash talk when taking aim at an opponent or even future opposition.

These days, while Covington absolutely remains the second best welterweight in the sport behind UFC champion Kamaru Usman, his commentary before and after his fights has gotten so out of hand that it’s more likely you’ll run for the mute button, because no one wants to hear what he has to say anymore.

Overall Grade for UFC 272: C

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