Whether you approach him with love, hate or indifference, Colby Covington has entered a new competitive stratosphere in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The polarizing American Top Team standout executed repeated takedowns and captured the interim welterweight title with a five-round unanimous decision over Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC 225 co-headliner on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. All three cageside judges scored it for Covington, awarding him marks of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47.
Covington took down Dos Anjos seven times in the 25-minute battle: twice in the first round, twice in the second, once in the fourth and twice more in the fifth. It provided the difference in a fight that was otherwise closely contested. According to FightMetric figures, the top-shelf welterweights split the striking categories. Covington outlanded his counterpart 142-130 in total strikes, while dos Anjos held a narrow 105-99 margin in significant strikes.
In the aftermath of UFC 225 “Whittaker vs. Romero 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Related » UFC 225: By the Numbers
Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley: Covington rubs most reasonable people the wrong way, but no one can deny the results inside the cage. The 30-year-old has pieced together a six-fight winning streak since suffering his only professional defeat in December 2015, when he submitted to a Warlley Alves guillotine choke at UFC 194. That seems like a lifetime ago. Now in possession of an interim title, Covington has only one target in mind: a unification bout with Woodley for the undisputed championship. Woodley has not fought since he pocketed a unanimous decision against Demian Maia in an utterly forgettable fight at UFC 214 on July 29.
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum: In his first appearance in 11 months, Whittaker successfully defended the middleweight crown with a contentious split decision against an overweight Yoel Romero in the main event. All three judges struck 48-47 scorecards, two of them siding with Whittaker. The champion was in danger on more than one occasion but survived the best Romero had to offer in their rematch, walking away with his ninth consecutive victory and a 2-0 lead in his head-to-head series with the 2000 Olympic silver medalist. Gastelum last competed at UFC 224 on May 12, when he was awarded a split verdict over Ronaldo Souza.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov: Forgive the rest of the heavyweight division if it fails to line up for a fight with Blaydes. The Elevation Fight Team export systematically dismantled Alistair Overeem before stopping the former Dream and Strikeforce champion with a volley of third-round elbows on the undercard. Blaydes, 27, has gone 5-0 with one no-contest in six appearances since his ill-fated encounter with Francis Ngannou at UFC Fight Night 86 a little more than two years ago. His stock has never been higher. The same could be said for Volkovm who moved to 4-0 in the UFC with a fourth-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum on March 17. The onetime Bellator MMA titleholder has also beaten Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson and Timothy Johnson inside the Octagon.
Mirsad Bektic vs. Cub Swanson-Renato Carneiro winner: Bektic continued to distance himself from a 2017 upset loss to Darren Elkins, as he eked out a split decision over Ricardo Lamas at 145 pounds. Long viewed as a future champion in the featherweight division, the Tristar Gym standout has gone 6-1 since arriving in the UFC in April 2014. A win over a divisional stalwart like Lamas, no matter how narrow it might have been on the scorecards, can only bolster Bektic’s resume. Swanson and Carneiro will lock horns at UFC 227 on Aug. 4.
Sergio Pettis vs. Jussier da Silva: Pettis has begun to build a strong case as a potential No. 1 contender in the flyweight division. The Duke Roufus protégé put another significant feather in his cap with a split decision over the returning Joseph Benavidez, as the 24-year-old won for the fifth time in six appearances. At 17-3, Pettis could be closing in on a title shot against flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Da Silva has the wind of a two-fight winning streak in his sails, having submitted Yuta Sasaki and Ben Nguyen with rear-naked chokes in back-to-back outings.