On Saturday night, Colby Covington dominated friend-turned-rival Jorge Masvidal in the main event of UFC 272.
Using a wrestling-heavy gameplan that saw Covington score six takedowns and over 16 minutes of control time, “Chaos” won a unanimous decision with scorecards of 49-46, 50-44, and 50-45. But though it was his wrestling that has been credited for the win, Covington earned high praise for his striking from Teddy Atlas, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and one of the most famous boxing trainers of all time.
In recent years, Atlas has worked with numerous high-profile MMA fighters as well and while discussing the fight on Saturday evening, Atlas actually credited Covington’s striking skills as being the difference in the UFC 272 main event.
“Listen, you guys are the experts and I bow to you guys in that way, but even I knew that the most rounded fighter here, the better all-around fighter was Covington,” Atlas said on ESPN. “There’s a reason why [he] was over a 3-to-1 favorite. That was the reason. He was the more dimensional guy. For the underdog to win, for Masvidal to win, he had to own the geography on the outside. He had to set traps and do really, really consistent, almost perfect with his striking. And he had to use — which he did! — use his defense from the takedowns, survive! Have that survivability with the takedowns and he did that too.
“The thing that I think in my humble opinion is that the big difference [was] how good Covington was in the striking. To me that was the difference. He held his own and even won — except that one spot where he got hurt — even won in the striking. To me that was the biggest difference because that took some of the mental part, the hope of the underdog away because that was his hope, that was his confidence. That was his chance to win striking and to land right hands against a southpaw who has been hit with right hands, who has been hurt with right hands. That was his chance. When that was taken away from him, to Chael [Sonnen]’s point, defensive, survival. That was the big difference.”
Though Covington’s most dominant moments of the fight were due to his wrestling and grappling, the former UFC interim welterweight champion found success on the feet, even hurting Masvidal a few times during the fight. That was proof, according to Atlas, that the general public — including Atlas himself — have been underrating Covington’s skills.
“He’s a better striker than we give him credit for,” Atlas said. ‘That’s the basic answer… He’s better than we gave him credit for and his jab, his jab was really good. Masvidal’s the taller guy, the longer guy, he was supposed to control that range, that jab, but the shorter guy did. He used the jab, he put punches together, and he was creative with the uppercut, with different punches he threw. He showed me the repertoire that, quite frankly, I didn’t know he had.”
“One other thing that I think was an intangible, that I think was very clever, maybe brilliant on Covington’s part: he switched from southpaw to orthodox,” Atlas continued. “That took away the right hands. Just in sports. I don’t know if anybody noticed that but just that little subtle thing of changing from southpaw to orthodox. Again, he’s a better striker, a more educated striker than we gave him credit for.”
Not everyone underrated Covington’s striking skills. After the bout, UFC President Dana White spoke about Covington’s success on the feet against Masvidal, saying that he thought this was a possibility from the former collegiate wrestler.
“I expected that actually,” White said in the post-fight press conference. “I expected that. That’s Colby’s style. He makes you worry about the takedown. He fought the exact fight that I thought he would fight tonight. You have to defend that takedown all night so it sets up the striking for him.”
With the win, Covington now moves to 12-3 inside the UFC and retains his spot as the top contender in the UFC welterweight division and the No. 2 welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.