By Josh Neighbors
UFC 240 headlined a busy, though somewhat uneventful, weekend of combat sports. Max Holloway furthered his case as the greatest featherweight of all time with a comprehensive beatdown of the resilient Frankie Edgar. Cris Cyborg dominated, but was unable to put away a game Felicia Spencer. And finally, Joe Rogan upset throngs of MMA fans with his commentary.
In the squared circle there was a bit more action. Gervonta Davis showed out for his hometown of Baltimore with a second round TKO to retain his WBA Junior lightweight title. In Texas, Jose Ramirez took out Maurice Hooker in the fifth round and became the unified WBO and WBC Light welterweight champion. All around, a really fun weekend for the smaller weight classes highlighted by a couple strong performances in title fights.
This weekend, quality fights are scarce, but big names are aplenty! The UFC heads to Newark, New York for UFC on ESPN 5 headlined by Colby Covington and Robbie Lawlor. Also in MMA, ONE Fighting Championship heads to the Philippines for Dawn of Heroes where former UFC champions Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez will make their second appearances for the Asian Promotion. Let’s take a look at the tests those big names face this coming weekend in our three fights to watch.
1: UFC on ESPN 5 Welterweight Main Event: Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler
One year ago Colby Covington (14-1) was the Interim UFC Welterweight Champion and was poised to get a unification bout with then-champion Tyron Woodley. Due to injuries, that opportunity never materialized and all the steam that Covington once had faded. The opportunity to regain some of that momentum will come this Saturday in Newark. UFC President Dana White has said that if Covington wins, he gets the next crack at the champion Kamaru Usman. If I’m Covington, I am not taking that as gospel. After seeing the consecutive performances from Jorge Masvidal, a statement win is needed to vault Covington into the conscience of the casual fan. Boring performances have caused the likes of Dana White and UFC matchmaking to abort some of their previously made plans.
On the other side of the cage, former UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler (28-13-1) is looking to get back on the winning track and avoid three straight losses. Lawler seems to be unaffected by the controversial loss to Ben Askren and the fact he did not receive a rematch. It has been over four years since Lawler scored a stoppage victory, but a dramatic win here puts him right back in the title picture. If he can pull it off, a rematch with Tyron Woodley or a fight with Leon Edwards would seem to be the next logical step. As big of an opportunity as this is for Covington, the 37-year-old former champ Lawler has an even greater one.
The advantage for Covington in the wrestling department is dramatic. Covington converts on 51% of his takedown attempts. We already know he can go five hard rounds, and you have to question whether Lawler can handle the pressure of Covington. Lawler is going to need to slow the momentum while preserving enough energy to get the better of the striking exchanges later in the fight. If this thing goes five full rounds, it’s Covington’s fight.
Prediction: Colby Covington by unanimous decision
2: One Championship Lightweight Grand Prix Semi-final: Eduard Folayang vs. Eddie Alvarez
Former Bellator and UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (29-7) is getting a second chance in the ONE Championship Lightweight Grand Prix after suffering a TKO loss in his debut with the promotion. Alvarez should beat Folayang (21-7), who is a two-time ONE lightweight champion and is also coming off of a loss. Alvarez is 35, and the damage he has accumulated over his career is more evident than ever.
He is 1-3-1 in his last five fights. His first fight during this run was a stoppage loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 205. He followed that up with a no contest against Dustin Poirier where both fighters were badly hurt. He then stopped Justin Gaethje in a fight that saw Alvarez’s cheek bone looking like a baseball at the fights conclusion. He was then stopped in the rematch with Poirier and suffered the same result in his ONE debut fight with Timofey Nashtyukhin.
Alvarez at 35 needs to begin to fight smarter if he wants to prolong his career. It has been a while since we have seen him really use his wrestling, and I would love to see him use it more in this fight with Folayang. The goal for him should be to control the fight and just get the win. He should use his wrestling, preserve his gas tank and really try to take the fight to Folayang in the later rounds.
Prediction: Eddie Alvarez via unanimous decision
3: ONE Championship Flyweight Grand Prix Semifinal: Demetrious Johnson vs. Tatsumitsu Wada
Out of the big signings ONE FC made, Demetrious Johnson (28-3-1) is the one that actually went right. After a slow start in the first round against Yuya Wakamatsu, “Mighty Mouse” went on to display world class fight IQ, cage awareness and wrestling in a dominant second round in which he picked up the win by standing guillotine. This is another contest where Johnson should do the same.
Despite ONE FC’s flyweight division being set at 135 lbs as opposed to the 125 lb limit we see in the UFC, Johnson still looked very comfortable there. Expect another sharp performance from Johnson as he continues his charge towards the ONE FC flyweight championship. It feels like a long time since we have seen the former UFC flyweight champion with a belt, and it shouldn’t be too long until we do.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson via second round submission
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org