Five for Fighting – UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley

It’s back to the UFC Apex once more this Saturday night in a card that on paper, is pretty rock solid. Everybody loves some bad blood and we’ve got plenty of that in the main event. Let me take you through five fights that I’m most excited to see on this card.

Colby Covington vs. Tyron Woodley

The main event is a grudge match between Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington. I’m looking forward to seeing Colby and how he looks here. Put aside his out of cage antics for a moment. Colby Covington looked fantastic against Kamaru Usman. That was the last time we’ve seen Covington in action. Usman won that fight by KO but it was a fight that was very much in the balance until the finish.

For Woodley this fight is huge. He did not show up against Usman when he lost his title and against Gilbert Burns it was much the same for T-Wood. When he is on, he is explosive with his knockout power. Will this grudge match bring the dog back out in him? I hope so. It will be big trouble for Woodley if he doesn’t let his hands go this fight.

Woodley has been putting in some work in the gym with Jorge Masvidal. Covington is former training partners of both. It adds an interesting dynamic to this fight. Stylistically both fighters pretty much are similar. Colby’s striking looked great in his last fight where he held his own against Usman and showed good speed and footwork. Covington going into this fight will need to be a little more cautious as Woodley has fight ending knockout power – a lot more than Usman if he lets his hands go.

To win this fight, Woodley needs to bite down, come forward and throw bombs. I can’t see him out striking or wearing Covington out over five rounds. Colby’s wrestling credentials would suggest he’ll have the ability to keep it standing. He’ll fancy himself on the feet against Woodley. The longer the fight goes, the less likely that Woodley gets the job done. I expect Colby mostly to fight at range on the feet. I can see him picking Woodley apart as the fight goes on. Covington will certainly have a finish in mind.

Quick Pick: Colby Covington

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gerald Meerschaert

Is the hype real? We don’t know for sure just yet for Khamzat Chimaev. A victory here over Gerald Meerschaert will certainly turn heads. Meerschaert himself is coming off a loss, he was knocked out by Ian Heinisch in his last bout so he really has nothing to lose in this fight against Chimaev, and everything to gain. Chimaev has one eye set on Meerschaert and the other on Demian Maia. Will that become a distraction for the rising prospect?

You couldn’t but be impressed with the ease that Chimaev beat Rhys McKee. But Chimaev has a more experienced, very well-rounded, heavier opponent in front of him in this fight. At this stage of his career it’s clear Chimaev is going to be an upper-echelon fighter. He has a dominating, smothering style of fighting. Very similar to what you see with Khabib Nurmagomedov in his wrestling.

I have found it strange that you would announce your next two fights in public. If Chimaev gets the job done clean then the gamble pays off I guess. Meerschaert is a good test for Chimaev. It’s a test that I feel Khamzat Chimaev has the ability to overcome but I’m unsure we see a finish. Meerschaert will fancy his chances being the bigger guy and you couldn’t blame him for that.

Chiemaev will look to take this down and grid the fight out. He’ll be looking for a submission with any chance he gets. Meerschaert will likely try to keep it on the feet. We’ve not seen all too much of Khamzat’s striking in the UFC but he does have four knockout wins to match his four submission finishes. Meerschaert is riled up for this fight and feels disrespected by this whole situation. That adds fuel to the fire. If he comes in with too much emotion and leaves himself open that will mean big trouble for the middleweight veteran.

Donald Cerrone vs. Niko Price

The return of Cowboy! Cerrone will be looking to bounce back from his bitter defeat against Conor McGregor last January, followed by a close loss to Anthony Pettis in the summer. At this stage of his career it’s hard to know which Cowboy will show up Saturday night. Cowboy has had a long layoff (at least it is for Cerrone), which is a good thing. He has recently had another child so will we see ‘double dad’ Cerrone?

Niko Price who, like Cowboy, can be as violent as they come. Price has only been to a decision once. He likes to finish fights. That is exactly what he’s going to try to against Cowboy. A doctor’s stoppage due to an eye injury cost him his last fight against Vicente Luque. He will be chasing redemption for himself in this fight and a win over Cowboy will puts his name in the mix for future big fights.

I worry about the durability of Cowboy coming into this fight. He has seen and done it all in a very successful fighting career. He is stepping into the octagon simply for the love of it all. Just because his mind and heart want it, doesn’t mean his body does. Price, the younger and possibly the more hungrier fighter should have the ability to get the job done. I hope Cowboy shows up. I’m not certain he will.

Johnny Walker vs. Ryan Spann

Johnny Walker returns to light-heavyweight action against Ryan Spann. When Walker is involved you know you’re going to see some kind on madness. There’s a little more interest for me here with the Brazilian having spent his time in SBG for this camp. Finding a gym has been a problem for Walker but he has settled well in John Kavanagh’s stable. He looks to have been putting in some serious work over his fight camp.

Ryan Spann has been on a tear since his loss on the contenders series in 2017. He picked up a few wins, went back and won a contract on the second time of asking. After obtaining a contract from Dana White, Spann has gone on a four fight win streak in the UFC. Out of his 18 wins 11 of those have come by way of submission. That is something his opponent Walker must be very careful of.

This is a very important fight for Johnny Walker. He’s coming off the back of two losses. He can’t afford another one at this stage of his career. You would expect Walker to be more cautious in this fight. When fists start flying that strategy may go out the window. I wouldn’t expect Spann to want and stand and bang here. He’ll be looking for opening on the mat if the fight makes it there. For Walker, a methodical approach may be the best form of attack if he is to get the win.

Quick Pick: Johnny Walker

Mackenzie Dern vs. Randa Markos

It’s safe to say that Mackenzie Dern looked the best that she’s ever looked in her last fight. Her striking was much improved from previous outings. She was the first woman to win a fight by a leglock submission when she scored a kneebar in that very fight against Hannah Cifers. She will have improved further since then and she faces a stern test in fighting Randa Markos.

Markos has not picked up two wins on the bounce since 2013. She looks to buck that trend against Dern in this strawweight bout. To be fair most of her losses have been to top level fighters. Dern has had her fair share of weight cutting issues early in her career. She had a brief stint at flyweight for one fight before moving back to 115 pounds. Since then she has not came in overweight. Dern will have eyes on the top ten of the division with a win against Markos.

This is a very winnable fight for Dern. Markos is a worthy adversary. She has beaten the likes of Angela Hill, Tecia Torres Carla Esparza and Aisling Daly way back. Similar to her last fight you would expect to test her striking early days. Dern will always be looking a way to implement her world class levels of BJJ. Markos needs to keep this standing literally like it’s life or death. I expect wild exchanges on the feet here. Neither fighter has a KO victory in their career as of yet.

Quick Pick: Mackenzie Dern

Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.