UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2 Preview

UFC has looked to make Madison Square Garden one of their top locations since the sport of MMA was legalized in the state of New York five years ago.

While the promotion had visited the prestigious sports and concert venue for three consecutive years, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to skip out in 2020. Now in November 2021, the promotion is returning to Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, USA for UFC 268.

The stacked pay-per-view lineup includes two title fight rematches at the top of it. In the main event, thus-far unstoppable UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman will meet Colby Covington.

Here’s a full preview of the entire show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)

Bout 1: CJ Vergara (9-2-1) vs. Ode Osbourne (9-4) (Flyweight)

In the first of many UFC debuts on this card, CJ Vergara will meet Ode Osbourne at flyweight.

Vergara secured a UFC contract in September, stopping Bruno Korea in just 41 seconds with strikes on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” He is just the second fighter from the 2021 season of the “Contender Series” to fight in the UFC. He was a regional champion before then, earning the Fury FC Flyweight Championship in March.

Osbourne has a promotional record of one win and two losses. He was stopped last time around, getting finished by Manel Kape in August.

Bout 2: Melsik Baghdasaryan (6-1) vs. Bruno Souza (10-1) (Featherweight)

LFA Featherweight Champion Bruno Souza will make a short-notice debut Saturday, facing Melsik Baghdasaryan on the prelims.

Souza stepped in on short notice after the previous opponent, TJ Laramie, withdrew from the fight. He went five rounds to win a title fight via unanimous decision just three months ago, defeating Javier Garcia on an LFA card.

Baghdasaryan is a product of last year’s “Contender Series” season. He made a strong UFC debut in July, stopping Collin Anglin in the second round with strikes.

Bout 3: Dustin Jacoby (15-5-1) vs. John Allan (13-6) (Light Heavyweight)

Dustin Jacoby’s strong run at light heavyweight will be tested Saturday, as he will take a short-notice fight against the returning John Allan.

It was reported just earlier this week that Jacoby would be replacing Aleksa Camur in a fight against Allan.

Jacoby has scored three wins and one draw result since rejoining the UFC roster last year. His last fight was in August, where he finished Darren Stewart within a round.

Allan will be attempting to score his first UFC win. He has fought twice since signing with the promotion in 2019, producing a no contest and a loss so far.

Bout 4: Gian Villante (17-13) vs. Chris Barnett (21-7) (Heavyweight)

Heavyweight veteran Gian Villante will end his MMA career when facing Chris Barnett on Saturday.

Villante announced recently that his fight at UFC 268 will be his last as a pro. He has fought as a pro since 2009 and has been on the UFC roster for eight years. His record in the promotion currently sits at seven wins and 10 losses.

Villante is currently on a three-fight losing streak, with his last fight being a decision loss to Jake Collier in late 2020.

Barnett will be attempting to earn his first UFC win. The experienced MMA fighter joined the promotion just earlier this year, losing a fight via submission to Ben Rothwell.

Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT) (ESPNews / TSN 5)

Bout 5: Jordan Williams (9-5) vs. Ian Garry (7-0) (Welterweight)

Former Cage Warriors Welterweight Champion Ian Garry will make his UFC debut on the prelims when facing Jordan Williams.

Garry’s entire seven-fight career has taken place in Cage Warriors thus far. He earned a belt in his last performance, going five rounds against Jack Grant in June for a decision victory.

Williams will be fighting to snap a two-fight losing streak, and will also attempt to earn his first win in the promotion. He was submitted last time around, losing to Mickey Gall in July.

Bout 6: Edmen Shahbazyan (11-2) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (10-3) (Middleweight)

Edmen Shahbazyan is no stranger to Madison Square Garden. The last time he was in the venue, in November of 2019, he scored a first-round stoppage win over Brad Tavares. That victory extended his undefeated record to 11 consecutive. However, things haven’t been too good for him since.

Shahbazyan enters his fight Saturday against Nassourdine Imavov on a two-fight losing streak, having lost a fight to Derek Brunson last year and a decision against Jack Hermansson in May. While Shahbazyan has lost two fights, the bouts have come against two of the more notable names at middleweight.

Imavov is riding the momentum of a recent win, having stopped Ian Heinisch in July.

Bout 7: Phil Hawes (11-2) vs. Chris Curtis (26-8) (Middleweight)

Chris Curtis will get his UFC debut on Saturday’s prelims, facing Phil Hawes at middleweight.

Curtis was called on last month for a UFC “Fight Night” card, as the promotion scrambled to find a new opponent for Hawes on just a day’s notice. While Curtis impressively appeared to the weigh-ins for a card and made weight, the fight did not end up happening on the show.

A month later, that short-notice pairing has been re-booked for this card.

Curtis most notably fought in the 2019 PFL season, finishing the year with a record of one win and three losses. He has been on a strong run through the regional scene this year, having picked up four wins since January.

Hawes has yet to lose since joining the UFC roster last year. His last fight saw him score his third win in the promotion, defeating former CFFC champ Kyle Daukaus via unanimous decision.

Bout 8: Al Iaquinta (14-6-1) vs. Bobby Green (27-12-1) (Lightweight)

Experienced lightweights Al Iaquinta and Bobby Green are scheduled to meet as part of Saturday’s undercard.

Both fighters will be attempting to snap a two-fight losing streak.

Green has gone the distance in his last two fights, dropping unanimous decision results to Thiago Moises and Rafael Fiziev.

Iaquinta has been out of the cage since 2019, with his last two fights being against Donald Cerrone and Dan Hooker.

Bout 9: Andreas Michailidis (13-4) vs. Alex Pereira (3-1) (Middleweight)

Decorated kickboxer Alex Pereira will make his MMA debut in the final prelim, facing Andreas Michailidis.

Pereira, 34, has competed in kickboxing since 2012. He is a former GLORY Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion and has been in nine title fights since 2017. He is arguably best known for beating UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya twice in kickboxing, including a stoppage victory in 2017.

Pereira has only fought four times under MMA rules. His last win was a brutal victory, knocking Thomas Powell out with a left hook last year.

Michailidis is coming off his first UFC win, which was a decision victory against KB Bhullar in May.

Main Card (10:00PM EDT) (PPV)

Bout 10: Justin Gaethje (22-3) vs. Michael Chandler (22-6) (Lightweight)

A lightweight fight that has the potential to be explosive will open the main card, as Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler will compete on Saturday night.

Both Chandler and Gaethje have touted this fight as one that will be entertaining. Chandler has a high volume of stoppage wins on his record, and Gaethje is a fan favorite for his brawler style in MMA.

Gaethje was Khabib Nurmagomdeov’s last opponent in MMA, getting submitted by the then-champ in October 2020. That fight was Gaethje’s most recent appearance.

Before that loss, Gaethje had four consecutive finish wins at lightweight.

Chandler, a three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion, is coming off a title fight loss as well. He fought for the vacant UFC title in May, getting stopped in the second round by fellow veteran Charles Oliviera.

Chandler made his UFC debut earlier in the year, stopping Dan Hooker with strikes in just one round.

Bout 11: Shane Burgos (13-3) vs. Billy Quarantillo (16-3) (Featherweight)

Featherweights Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo will be paired up on Saturday night.

Quarantillo bounced back from his sole UFC loss in July, securing a late finish victory over Gabriel Benitez. He has won four of his five bouts since joining the promotion in 2019.

Burgos is currently on a two-fight losing streak, having lost to notable names Josh Emmett and Edson Barboza.

Bout 12: Frankie Edgar (24-9-1) vs. Marlon Vera (19-7-1) (Bantamweight)

Former UFC Featherweight Champion Frankie Edgar will continue his bantamweight campaign when facing Marlon Vera on Saturday.

Edgar has fought twice since moving down a weight class. The run started strong last year, defeating Pedro Munhoz in a five-round fight. However, he is coming off a loss this weekend, as his last fight saw him get stopped in 28 seconds with a flying knee from Cory Sandhagen.

Vera has switched between winning and losing in his last five bouts. After losing a decision to Jose Aldo late last year, Vera returned in June to take a decision victory over Davey Grant.

Bout 13: Rose Namajunas (10-4) vs. Zhang Weili (21-2) (UFC Strawweight Championship)

In a rematch for a fight that happened earlier this year, UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas will fight Zhang Weili in the co-main event.

Namajunas is a two-time champion. Her first title run was started in 2017 when she stopped Joanna Jedrzejczyk at the same venue as this card. After defending her belt once, Namajunas lost the belt to Jessica Andrade in 2019 due to a second-round head slam knockout.

While Andrade went on to lose her belt to Zhang, Namajunas later avenged her loss with a split decision victory against her in July 2020, putting herself at the front of the line for another title shot.

Namajunas scored a quick and flashy knockout when she met Zhang in April, catching her in the second minute with a head kick.

The fight was Zhang’s chance to defend her belt for the second time. After earning it in 2019 with a 42-second win against the aforementioned Andrade, she defended it in early 2020 with a split decision war against Jedrzejczyk.

Namajunas handed Zhang her second pro loss, snapping a 21-fight winning streak. On Friday, Zhang has the chance to bounce back and regain some gold.

Bout 14: Kamaru Usman (19-1) vs. Colby Covington (16-1) (UFC Welterweight Champion)

Nobody has been able to stop Kamaru Usman since he became UFC Welterweight Champion in 2019. That growing streak of wins will be put to the test again on Saturday night, as he fights in a rematch against Colby Covington in the main event of UFC 268.

The fight gives Covington the chance to erase his sole pro loss and gain a belt.

Covington got a title fight against Usman in 2019 after putting together a seven-fight winning streak. His first meeting against Usman was an all-out striking war, which came to a conclusion in the final minute when Usman dropped Covington and finished the fight.

Covington has fought once since then, putting on a grinding wrestling performance against former champ Tyron Woodley last year.

Usman’s win against Covington in 2019 was his first time defending the 170-pound belt. His run has remained dominant since then, having defeated Jorge Masvidal twice and stopped Gilbert Burns.

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