UFC Fight Night Report: Colby Covington finishes Tyron Woodley in a heated grudge match
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night, the UFC returned to its APEX Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, for one of their biggest ESPN+ cards of the year. For over two years, welterweight contenders Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington have been engaged in a heated rivalry, which finally came to a head on this night. Covington’s last bout was his championship bout against Kamaru Usman last December, a fight he lost by TKO. Despite the loss, it was a great fight, and a win over Woodley would likely put him right back into title contention. Woodley was in a tougher spot going into this fight. He had decisively lost ten straight rounds to Usman and Gilbert Burns respectively, and people had begun to question whether Woodley could still compete at a championship level. Thus, this was an important fight for both men, and the rivalry between the two just increased the stakes. This card also featured Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, making his 36th UFC appearance against the always exciting Niko Price. Additionally, surging prospect Khamzat Chimaev, looked to continue his hot streak against UFC veteran, Gerald Meerschaert.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Paul Felder, and Dominick Cruz. Performance bonuses were awarded to Randy Costa, Damon Jackson, Mackenzie Dern, and Khamzat Chimaev.
*Tyson Nam def. Jerome Rivera by TKO at 0:34 of Round 2
*Andre Ewell def. Irwin Rivera by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Randy Costa def. Journey Newson by KO at 0:41 of Round 1
*Darrick Minner def. T.J. Laramie by guillotine at 0:52 of Round 1
*Jessica-Rose Clark def. Sarah Alpar by TKO at 4:21 of Round 3
*Mayra Bueno Silva def. Mara Romero Borella by armbar at 2:29 of Round 1
*Damon Jackson def. Mirsad Bektic by guillotine at 1:21 of Round 3
*David Dvorak def. Jordan Espinosa by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Kevin Holland def. Darren Stewart by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Mackenzie Dern def. Randa Markos by armbar at 3:44 of Round 1
*Johnny Walker def. Ryan Spann by KO at 2:43 of Round 1
*Khamzat Chimaev def. Gerald Meerschaert by KO at 0:17 of Round 1
*Donald Cerrone vs. Niko Price ended in a Majority Draw (28-28, 28-28, 29-27)
*Colby Covington def. Tyron Woodley by TKO at 1:19 of Round 5
TYSON NAM (19-11-1, 136) VS JEROME RIVERA (10-2, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Rivera’s offense was leg kick heavy in the first, and Nam was trying to load up with big right hands to punish him. Rivera was able to avoid the vast majority of these shots, and those leg kicks were beginning to add up as time progressed. Nam did his best work when Rivera would back against the cage, and those big right hands found a home in this position. Nam began to work the body in the final minute of the round, and I thought he stole this one late.
Seconds into the second round, Nam floored Rivera with that big right hand, and Nam swarmed him with vicious ground and pound until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Tyson Nam by TKO at 0:34 of Round 2
Nam was looking for that right hand all fight, and when he finally landed it, he finished the fight. Nam is a heavy hitter, and his last two fights have resulted in highlight finishes. Nam called out Joseph Benavidez in his post-fight interview and threw some shade at Matt Schnell for being unable to make weight on ten weeks notice
ANDRE EWELL (16-6, 134.5) VS IRWIN RIVERA (10-5, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Ewell was using his reach advantage beautifully to begin this fight. He was landing in combination at the range, and Rivera ate some huge shots in the first half of the round. Ewell mixed things up by going to the body to end his combinations, and it felt like those body shots were landing every time. Rivera went for a knee and attempted a takedown, but Ewell stuffed it and took his back. Rivera scrambled on top to end the round. 10-9 Ewell.
Ewell stuffed another takedown to begin the second round. Rivera responded with a strong leg kick, which was a weapon he wasn’t really going to earlier in the fight. The pace in this round was significantly slower, and both men were missing on their bigger strikes. Ewell chased Rivera down with a combination of strikes, which was probably the most significant sequence of the round. They both turned it up near the end of the round, but I gave the edge to Ewell once again.
Rivera appeared to have more gas left in the tank going into the final round, but Ewell continued to control the pace of the fight and countered strongly whenever Rivera engaged him in the pocket. Ewell continued to defend Rivera’s takedown attempts, and while Rivera did his best work of the fight in this round, Ewell outlanded him, and despite a late successful takedown from Rivera, I gave Ewell the third round as well. 30-27 Ewell.
WINNER: Andre Ewell by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
I was very surprised that a judge turned in a scorecard for Irwin Rivera, as I thought this was a pretty clear win for Ewell. He outstruck Rivera in every round, landed the better combinations, and defended almost all of Rivera’s attempts to get the fight to the ground. This was Ewell’s third split decision win in the UFC, and he is now 4-2 in the promotion.
JOURNEY NEWSON (9-2, 1 NC, 135) VS RANDY COSTA (5-1, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Costa quickly caught Newson with a head kick as he slipped a straight left, and Newson was out cold.
WINNER: Randy Costa by KO at 0:41 of Round 1
Wow. This was a fantastic knockout from Randy Costa, who caught Newson during the first real exchange of the fight. This was pretty much a lock for a performance bonus, and after his last two performances, I doubt Costa will be overlooked going into his next bout.
DARRICK MINNER (24-11, 146) VS T.J. LARAMIE (12-3, 145) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Laramie was shooting for a takedown against the cage, and Minner jumped into a guillotine choke. Minner had the submission locked in tight, and Laramie had no choice but to tap out.
WINNER: Darrick Minner by guillotine at 0:52 of Round 1
Back-to-back sub-minute finishes are always welcome on a fourteen-fight card. Laramie clearly wanted to bring the fight to the ground, but in his haste, he walked right into the guillotine choke of a man who has won 22-fights by way of submission (with ten guillotines). After a disappointing UFC debut, this was exactly what Minner needed to turn things around.
JESSICA-ROSE CLARK (9-6, 1 NC, 135) VS SARAH ALPAR (9-4, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Alpar took Clark down about a minute into the fight, and the rest of the round was a battle against the cage, as Alpar tried to bring the fight back to the ground, while Clark defended her attempts. She eventually got Alpar to separate with a pair of elbows and a solid knee, and Clark took Alpar down with a minute remaining in the round. This wasn’t the most action-packed round, but Clark landed the biggest strikes and ended the round on top, which was enough to score the round for her.
Alpar came into the second round with the same strategy as the first, and the results were similar. She looked really uncomfortable on the feet with Clark, but Clark chose to bring the fight back to the cage. Alpar continued to search for a single leg and ate a series of elbows to her head for her trouble. Alpar shot for a desperation takedown as Clark was landing elbows and knees, which allowed Clark to easily stuff the attempt, and continue to beat Alpar down on the ground to end the round.
Clark defended Alpar’s first takedown attempt of the round, and Clark landed a series of strikes that caused Alpar to fall to the ground, and as she fell, she ate a huge knee to the face. The knee was legal, but referee Chris Tognoni paused the action. This fight should have been stopped and ruled a TKO win for Clark, but Tognoni was informed that the strike was legal and the fight was continued. Alpar took a ton of damage for the remainder of the round, and Paul Felder was extremely critical of Tognoni on commentary. Dana White made his way out to the cage-side area. With less than a minute remaining in the round, Clark landed three more knees to the face, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Jessica-Rose Clark by TKO at 4:21 of Round 3
This was probably the best Clark has looked thus far in the UFC. She completely shut down Alpar’s wrestling, and then by the end of the second round, she was just dominating the fight. The third round was all Clark, and this leads to the questionable decision making from Chris Tognoni. I find it hard to fault him for not knowing if that initial knee was legal, as it was a very close call without the benefit of replay, but after he was informed that the knee was in fact legal, the fight probably should have been stopped.
Alpar took a ton of unnecessary damage throughout the last three minutes of the fight, and she was no longer in a position where victory was a realistic outcome. The commentators were discussing the legality of the restart, but I took more issue with the fact that Alpar did not appear ready to continue the fight. After the Herman/Rodrigue fight last week, and this call tonight, Tognoni’s decision making will be under a microscope in the future. Unfortunately, this took attention away from what was a terrific performance from Clark, who improved to 3-2 in the UFC with this win.
MAYRA BUENO SILVA (6-1, 125.5) VS MARA ROMERO BORELLA (12-8, 2 NC, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Borella got Bueno Silva to the ground in the opening minute of this fight, and Bueno Silva spent the next two minutes alternating between armbar and triangle attempts. Borella was unable to advance to a better position, and she eventually got caught by an armbar. She quickly tapped out and Silva picked up her fifth career first-round submission.
WINNER: Mayra Bueno Silva by armbar at 2:29 of Round 1
Cruz and Felder were puzzled by Borella’s inactivity from top position, and I would have to echo their thoughts here. Silva just transitioned from submission to submission while Borella just kind of sat there and let her work from the bottom. Silva was very emotional following her win, and she is now 2-1 in the UFC. Borella on the other hand has lost her last four fights and is now 2-5 in the promotion. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was her last UFC outing for the time being.
MIRSAD BEKTIC (13-3, 144.5) VS DAMON JACKSON (17-3-1, 1 NC, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Bektic took Jackson down seconds into the fight. Jackson worked his way up but was promptly taken right back down. Bektic caught Jackson with a shot behind the head and they were stood up, while Bektic was given a stern warning. Nonetheless, Bektic wasted no time and took Jackson right back down to the ground. Jackson nearly caught Bektic with a kimura, but Bektic spun out of it and continued to pepper Jackson with strikes.
Bektic began the second round with another takedown, but he walked right into a guillotine attempt from Jackson. Much like the kimura in the first, this submission was so close to being finished, but Bektic got out of it and began to work. He did not land the quantity nor the quality of strikes he did in the first round, but controlled the vast majority of this round, and prevented Jackson from getting anything off throughout this period of the round aside from that early guillotine attempt. Jackson ended the round with some solid elbows when he scrambled on top following a guillotine attempt from Bektic.
Bektic shot for another takedown to begin the third round, and Jackson attempted another guillotine, but this time, he swept his way to top position and finished the guillotine from on top.
WINNER: Damon Jackson by guillotine at 1:21 of Round 3
Jackson was close to finishing submissions in the first two rounds and ultimately finished Bektic with the mounted guillotine in the third. Bektic looked like the better fighter throughout the majority of their exchanges, but he wasn’t doing enough to threaten a finish himself, and Jackson was hunting for the stoppage every opportunity that came his way. This was Jackson’s UFC debut.
JORDAN ESPINOSA (15-7, 1 NC, 126) VS DAVID DVORAK (18-3, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Dvorak threw a ton of leg kicks throughout the first minute of the round. Espinosa was looking to land his right hand, but Dvorak avoided his biggest shots. This was a very tight round, where neither fighter had a moment nor a sequence that really stood out from the rest of the round. I gave the edge to Dvorak, but you could really go either way.
Dvorak continued to attack Espinosa’s lead leg. He defended a takedown attempt from Espinosa. Again, this round was very similar to the last, but Dvorak’s leg kicks were really adding up, and that was the clear difference-maker in this round. Espinosa was really having difficulty finding opportunities to land big shots throughout this fight. 20-18 Dvorak.
Once again, Dvorak’s leg kicks were the difference maker throughout this round. Dvorak’s effective offense was more or less limited to those leg kicks, but Espinosa never really got anything of significance off. He did land a right hand towards the end of the round that cut Dvorak open, but I still gave the round to Dvorak. I scored this fight 30-27 for David Dvorak.
WINNER: David Dvorak by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Dvorak has looked good throughout his first two UFC appearances, although hasn’t been racking up the finishes he did before arriving in the UFC. He controlled this fight with leg kicks, and he was comfortably ahead for the majority of this fight. I wouldn’t mind seeing him against a top ten flyweight in his next outing.
KEVIN HOLLAND (18-5, 185) VS DARREN STEWART (12-5, 1 NC, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
This fight kicked off the main card.
They were fighting at quite the pace to begin this fight, exchanging right hands in the clinch. Stewart threw a knee that landed low, and the fighters were separated momentarily. When the action resumed, they quickly went back to trading hands, and Holland stumbled backward. As Stewart ran in to capitalize on the moment, Holland returned fire, and it appeared as though he stumbled Stewart momentarily, and then they both began trading wildly against the cage until Stewart closed what little distance there was, and pressed Holland against the cage. After a short break in the action, they returned to the center of the octagon, and Holland connected with some solid counter strikes as Stewart looked to move in. He defended a takedown attempt from Stewart, and the first round came to a close. This was a really entertaining round.
Stewart threw Holland to the ground to begin the second round and proceeded to throw some hammerfists to the bottom of Holland’s feet. Referee Mark Smith was unimpressed by this offense, and they were stood back up. Holland caught Stewart with an impactful 1-2 and threw a flying knee as Stewart shelled up. Holland shot for a takedown and Stewart attempted a guillotine in response. He didn’t get it, but the attempt allowed him to return to his feet. Holland landed a few more knees, and Stewart ended the round with a strong takedown. I had Holland up 20-18 going into the third, but these were very close rounds.
Stewart began the third round with another takedown, and they grappled for the first half of the round. Neither man was really able to pull ahead here, and they separated momentarily. Stewart caught Holland with a good elbow when they revisited the clinch, and he took Holland down with about ninety seconds to work. Stewart began to land some solid elbows right hands that had Mark Smith thinking about stopping the fight, but Holland survived to the end of the round. This was a very strong end to the round for Stewart, but I scored the fight 29-28 for Kevin Holland.
WINNER: Kevin Holland by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a very entertaining start to the main card. Holland has always been a fun fighter to watch, and no fighter had benefited from the empty arena atmosphere more than him, with his nonstop jokes and trash talk. Both fighters looked good here, and despite the loss, I don’t think Stewart’s stock was hurt in the slightest. Holland seemed intent on running the fight back in his post-fight interview, but also acknowledged his interest in fighting “The Rat” Khamzat Chimaev.
MACKENZIE DERN (8-1, 115) VS RANDA MARKOS (10-8-1, 115.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Dern slipped on an early kick and Markos made the mistake of jumping into her guard. Dern effectively crawled up her body and put herself in position for a triangle. Dern threatened an omoplata, and she used this to work her way into full mount. From here, she transitioned to an armbar, and she eventually got the finish.
WINNER: Mackenzie Dern by armbar at 3:44 of Round 1
Dern is at a different level of BJJ then the vast majority of fighters, and Markos made a huge mistake by engaging her in that area of the game. It’s the equivalent of jumping into the guard of Jacare Souza when he is completely fresh; it’s just not a great move. Dern was puzzled in her post-fight interview, regarding the number of fighters in the division who have chosen to grapple with her, and expressed her interest in fighting again this year. She is one of the best grapplers in all of MMA right now, and if she continues to improve her striking, she will be a legitimate contender at 155lbs. Dern is now 4-1 in the UFC.
JOHNNY WALKER (17-5, 205.5) VS RYAN SPANN (18-5, 205.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Both men connected with their initial strikes and Spann promptly took Walker down against the cage. Walker quickly got up and separated, but Spann caught him with a counter strike as Walker went for a kick, and the shot floored Walker. Spann followed him to the ground, and it looked like Walker was finished, but he somehow managed to recover and make it back to his feet. As the action resumed, both men landed hard shots almost simultaneously, but Spann’s dropped Walker, and he rushed in to finish him. He got to Walker as he was returning to his feet, and attempted to bring him down with a double leg against the cage. From here, Walker landed hammerfist after hammerfist, and Spann began to collapse. Walker incorporated some elbows into his attack and they finished the job.
WINNER: Johnny Walker by KO at 2:43 of Round 1
This was complete madness. Johnny Walker looked like he was seconds away from being finished, twice, and somehow rallied to win this fight with Travis Browne style elbows, defending a takedown against the cage. If you missed this one, I would suggest going back to check it out, because I’m not sure my words can do justice to the chaos. Spann and his corner appeared to be infuriated, and they were arguing that the strikes that finished the fight were illegal. They did not appear to be illegal shots to me, but those strikes are always close. Walker is now 4-2 in the UFC.
KHAMZAT CHIMAEV (8-0, 185.5) VS GERALD MEERSCHAERT (31-13, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Seconds into the fight, Chimaev caught Meerschaert with a right hand, and Meerschaert collapsed, unconscious.
WINNER: Khamzat Chimaev by KO at 0:17 of Round 1
With this win, Chimaev became the first UFC fighter outside of the tournament era to win three fights in the span of just 66 days. People were interested to see how Chimaev would match up with a strong grappler, but it seems apparent that he has the type of power that doesn’t necessitate taking the fight to the ground. Chimaev is expected to face Demian Maia in a few weeks, and despite that being a massive step up in competition, Maia is approaching 43 years old, and I expect Chimaev to be a sizeable favorite if that fight actually occurs.
DONALD CERRONE (36-15, 1 NC, 170.5) VS NIKO PRICE (14-4, 1 NC, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
This marked Cerrone’s 36th fight in the UFC.
They exchanged leg kicks early, and Price caught Cerrone with a right hand. Price swarmed him with strikes against the cage, looking to capitalize on Cowboy’s reputation as a slow starter. Price landed a trio of right hands that had Cerrone looking hurt, but Cowboy did a good job of slowing Price down with some knees to the body. They battled in the clinch, and Cerrone continued to land solid knees to the body. He connected with a head kick when they separated. Price poked Cerrone in the eye, and the fight was paused momentarily. They exchanged hard right hands as the fight resumed. A shot from Price left Cerrone bleeding beneath his right eye. Cerrone mixed some head kicks into his offense. Price caught Cerrone with another eye poke, and referee Jason Herzog took a point away from Price. I scored the round for Price, but with the point reduction taken into account, this would be a 9-9 round.
Price went back to the leg kicks early in the second round. They exchanged solid shots to the body. Cerrone connected with an uppercut, that was one of his better strikes of the early portion of this round. Cowboy continued to work the body, and his jab was beginning to control the pace of the fight. Price landed a combination of strikes that knocked Cerrone’s head back. Late in the round, Cowboy landed a lead elbow that caused swelling on Price, and Price threw a hard body kick to end the round. I had it 19-18 for Donald Cerrone going into the final round, but this round was incredibly close.
Cerrone shot for a takedown in the opening minute of the third that Price defended. Later in the round, he attempted another takedown and Cowboy jumped on his back as Price defended the attempt. Price shook him off, and let Cerrone stand back up. Cerrone caught Price with a pair of left hooks and shot for another takedown that Price defended. Cowboy connected with a head kick on the break of his last takedown attempt, and he defended a Price takedown to end the round. I scored the fight 29-27 for Donald Cerrone.
RESULT: Majority Draw (28-28, 28-28, 29-27)
Unsurprisingly, this was an entertaining fight. Price was overjoyed at the decision, and the difference between Cowboy and Price’s reaction to the decision was very funny. I thought this was a very even fight, and while I scored the fight for Cerrone, I had no problems with the judge’s decision. Cerrone has looked better in his last two fights, and while that may simply indicate the difference in the level of competition he has faced, it is a reassuring sign for anyone who thought this might be it for Cowboy. Price looked good as well, and despite fighting at a crazy pace for the first few minutes of the fight, he was able to keep up a healthy pace and avoid being overwhelmed for the rest of the bout. He is a fighter who seems incapable of being in a boring fight, and he definitely continued that streak of entertaining bouts here.
TYRON WOODLEY (19-5-1, 171) VS COLBY COVINGTON (15-2, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Covington refused to touch gloves with Woodley to begin the fight.
Covington took Woodley down in the opening minute of the first round and began to pepper him with strikes. Woodley worked his way up against the cage and separated. Woodley was going to the body early, and Covington responded with a solid body kick. He landed a right hand and closed the distance to press Woodley against the cage. Covington landed an elbow on the break, as well as a looping left hand. 10-9 Covington.
Covington was aggressive with his kicks to begin the second round. Covington’s pressure was really starting to take over the fight, and Woodley succeeded in slowing Covington down with a brief takedown. He wasn’t able to capitalize on the moment, however, and Covington continued to be the aggressor when they separated. Woodley landed a decent superman punch but ate a bigger right hand soon after. Covington landed a jumping knee to the body to end the second round. 20-18 Covington.
Woodley was poked in the eyes by Covington to begin the third round. Woodley was having difficulty seeing, and he took a significant amount of time to recover. Thankfully he was able to continue fighting, and he was more aggressive when the fight resumed. Covington eventually brought Woodley back to the cage. He was unable to take Woodley down, but he racked up the control time in this position. Despite the inactivity, they were not separated, and Covington won this round.
Covington succeeded in bringing Woodley to the ground in this round, and the control time continued to add up for him. Covington landed an elbow that opened Woodley up near his right eye, and the blood was leaking into both of Woodley’s eyes. This was another easy round for Covington, and this round was arguably 10-8 territory.
Covington took Woodley to the ground early in the fifth, and as Covington passed a guillotine attempt from Woodley, Tyron screamed out in pain. It appeared as though Woodley said that something was wrong with his rib, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Colby Covington by TKO at 1:19 of Round 5
Covington called out Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal immediately after finishing Woodley. He dedicated his win to the first responders as well as the military, expressed his disgust with LeBron James and Kamaru Usman for being “woke”, and predicted a victory for United States President Donald Trump in the upcoming election. That aside, this was a well-executed game plan from Covington, and he controlled almost every minute of this fight. The pace he fights with, as well as his pressure and wrestling ability, make him an elite level fighter, and it was clear that he was the better fighter on this night. I imagine he’ll have to pick up one more win before challenging for the title again, so Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal both make for sensible next steps for him.
For Tyron Woodley, this was the worst possible outcome for him. He has effectively lost fifteen straight rounds, and climbing back into title contention no longer seems likely. Woodley is 38 years old, and his last win was in September of 2018. There are still stylistically interesting fights for him, and it could be interesting to see if there are any changes to his game in a three-round setting, but he has racked up three straight losses, where he has lost in the same fashion every time. There is a realistic chance that this was the last time we will see Tyron Woodley in the octagon, but if he does resume his career, there are still interesting matchups against the fighters looking to break into the top ten, like Geoff Neal, Neil Magny, Vincent Luque, and Khamzat Chimaev.