Leon Edwards picks apart Colby Covington to retain title at UFC 296

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Leon Edwards retained the UFC welterweight title with a clinical performance against Colby Covington on Saturday, easing to a points win in Las Vegas.

The Jamaican-born Britan showed off his superiority in the striking exchanges and even out-grappled the wrestling specialist for periods of the fight, which headlined UFC 296 at the T-Mobile Arena.

The controversial Covington, 35, is famed for his offensive wrestling and relentless pressure, but he was surprisingly inactive against Edwards, 32. The champion was able to pick off the American at range, while denying the majority of Covington’s sporadic takedown attempts.

In one of Edwards’s most impressive moments, he stuffed a takedown before nailing Covington with a head kick, before proceeding to take down his challenger – as if to make a point.

Covington, who had ex-US president Donald Trump supporting him from ringside, was able to employ his grappling more effectively in the fifth and final round, ending the fight on top. However, it was too little and too late for the American, who was beaten 49-46 on all three scorecards.

After the fight, an emotional Edwards hit out at Covington for insulting his late father at Thursday’s press conference. Edwards’s father was shot and killed when the welterweight champion was just 13.

“This was an emotional fight for me,” Edwards told Joe Rogan in the Octagon. “This guy used my dad’s death as entertainment, used my dad’s murder as entertainment. I tried to just shut it down. After the pres conference, I went backstage, I was crying. To this day, it still breaks my heart. [Covington] said [my dad] should burn in hell. He’s a great competitor but a dirty human being.”

Edwards (right) largely picked off Covington from range

Meanwhile, Covington remarkably claimed that he felt he had beaten Edwards. “I feel great, it was an easy fight. I barely have a scratch on me,” he said, though he did acknowledge that his more tentative performance might have been down to “a long lay-off”.

Covington, who last fought in March 2022, added: “I want to shout out all the first responders and Donald Trump, he’s gonna make America great again. Trump 2024!”

Edwards was making his second defence of the belt, having dethroned Kamaru Usman with a stunning knockout in 2022 before retaining the belt against his old rival this March. Usman previously outpointed Edwards in 2015, but the Briton returned the favour in London nine months ago. In fact, Edwards has now won 12 fights in a row since that loss, with the exception of a No Contest against Belal Muhammad in 2021.

Edwards leaves the T-Mobile Arena as welterweight champion

Meanwhile, former interim champion Covington was challenging for the undisputed title for the third time, having twice failed to dethrone Usman – in 2019 and 2021. His last fight was a dominant decision win over friend-turned-rival Jorge Masvidal.

Elsewhere at UFC 296, Brazil’s Alexandre Pantoja outpointed Brandon Royval to retain his flyweight title, two years after submitting the American. Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett was also in action, staying unbeaten in the UFC by dominating lightweight legend Tony Ferguson, who suffered his seventh straight loss.

Meanwhile, rising welterweight contender Shavkat Rakhmonov submitted fan favourite Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, and Josh Emmett knocked out fellow featherweight Bryce Mitchell in brutal fashion.

Irene Aldana was also victorious, beating Karol Rosa on points in one of the women’s fights of the year, and ex-bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt knocked out Brian Kelleher.

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